The building of Hungary's law-making body, the House of Parliament, is rightly considered among the most beautiful parliaments buildings in the world. Selected as a World Heritage site as a central element in the Danube panorama in 2011, the edifice is not only an invaluable treasure, but also the pride of the nation. It provides a home for the legislature, a place of safekeeping for the Hungarian Holy Crown, and a workplace both for the 199 Members of Parliament and for the nearly 600 people who assist them. Currently, the building also houses the offices of the Prime Minister and his support staff.
Construction of the House of Parliament
The impressive building that was erected over a period of seventeen years, primarily in the late nineteenth century (1885–1902), has come to be the symbol of Hungary and the capital. It was built in a period of truly dynamic economic growth in the country. The era saw the simultaneous construction of Heroes' Square, Andrássy Road, the Western Railway Station and a number of bridges over the Danube as well as the opening of the first underground railway on the continent. Amid all these achievements, the erection of the House of Parliament can still be considered the greatest domestic undertaking of the period, which, in and of itself, had an impact on economic development. During its construction, it was the express intention to make the building out of Hungarian materials with the work of domestic craftsmen and manufacturers, while reflecting the vegetation of the surrounding Carpathian Basin in its ornamentation. No expense was spared when it was erected; indeed, a total of some 40 kilogrammes of exclusively 22- to 23-carat gold was used for decoration. Architect Imre Steindl, the visionary designer of the building, and numerous artists and master craftsmen of his age, gave expression to the strength and self-confidence of the Hungarians at the time with this unique edifice.
The symbolism of the architectural solutions
The shaping of the House of Parliament grew out of conscious choices of symbolism and carries important historical and political messages. Viewing it from the side of the Danube, we see the halls of the lower and upper houses rise on both sides of the dome surrounded by turrets, which evoke the memory of the bicameral parliament that was in operation when the building was being constructed. The two halls are completely identical in size and shape, thus expressing the equality between the representative lower house and the historical upper house. The dome rising between them signifies the unity of the legislature as well as serving as the venue for joint sittings of the two chambers.
The external appearance and style of the building
The scale of the House of Parliament is commanding. The wing that runs parallel to the Danube is 268 metres long – making it longer than the Houses of Parliament in London – with the greatest width at 123 metres. The dome with its turret leaps into the sky at a height of 96 metres.
The building blends elements and motifs of various architectural styles: its floor plan is Baroque, the façade ornamentation evokes the world of Gothic, and the decoration of the ceiling shows stylistic elements of the Renaissance.
The House of Parliament in figures
The total floor space is nearly 18,000 sq m and is divided into four storeys. The building's total volume of 473,000 cu m can fit fifty six-storey residential buildings. Almost 40 million bricks were used to construct it and 30,000 cu m of carved stone to decorate it. The façade is ornamented with 90 stone sculptures representing great figures from Hungarian history with another 162 statues adorning the building's interior.
The House of Parliament has a total of 27 points of entry. Its layout is symmetrical with the main spaces forming a cross shape and the dome rising at their intersection. Inside the building, there are ten courtyards of various sizes, 13 lifts and hundreds of offices. The rooms are linked through a system of endless corridors. The red carpet that runs throughout the building is nearly 3 kilometres long.
Heating and air conditioning
The heating and ventilation system in the building – which was quite a sensation in its day as one of the most modern such systems in Europe – works perfectly even today after some updating. The hot steam from the furnace room located in a nearby facility reaches the various rooms through a distribution chamber and radiators. Originally, the air was cooled with cold air that entered the building through the fountain with two pools on the square. With the removal of these pools between the 1930s and 1994, the building was cooled with many tonnes of ice piled up in two huge shafts.