MTA competition


ArchitectsZoltán Páricsy
Teréz Zwickl
Győző Wittinger
Petra Ohmacht
Noémi Zsáry
Vivien Németh
VisualizationBence N. Krajnyák

The Hungarian Academy of Sciences was founded “for the education of all the sciences and arts” (Count István Széchenyi, 1825). It has always been and will continue to be a pillar and cradle of Hungary’s intellectual and cultural life. The 200th anniversary of the founding of the Academy is not only a celebration of the milestone but also an uplifting moment of the Academy as an intellectual condensation. The fact that it exists is in itself a cause for celebration.

Although the Academy is sometimes the scene of severe and noisy intellectual battles, the life and work of its esteemed Members and the essence of the Academy’s academic community is not to be found on the surface but within. It comes from within. It takes deep roots, matures, then spills out like lava, flooding and fertilizing the world. Sometimes it covers the layers beneath it for a long time; sometimes it cracks and gives way to new magma. Fallible men become giants. Their knowledge, talent, and vision sweep mortal man to unimaginable distances. Like a true pearl, their intellectual greatness becomes the essence of science and culture, of art.

Our project is intended to symbolize the above. With simple means, with the perfect shape of the “sphere”, with the beauty of the genuine pearl within its thin shell, it aims to show what is essential. The pearl is a single “space”. It has the solitude of the creator. Small as it is, the essence is hidden there. There, the heat of lava is exalted into a sparkle. Walking on the glass floor, we can look down on the now solidified lava flow; we can lean on the past to cast our gaze on the cracks and tiny vents of the sphere of the universe that envelops us like a protective shell.

We spy on the sky, the world, the stars, and curiously aspire upwards, but always towards the unknown. The noisy surroundings disappear in this envelope, where the inner voices, the inner silence, take over. This silence breaks through the shell, struggles and soars into the unknown. The inner one glows, like the mind of the thinker. It seeks, it searches, it shows, it questions, it expresses, and it works incessantly. It never wavers. It wants to know. It wants everything. Everything that is intellectual. It knows where to look. He knows who to look for. He’s reaching out and there’s a moment when they meet. They become the same.

On the inner surface of the shell appear the greats of our country: scientists, artists, members of the Academy. In gold letters, along the rings, in chronological order from bottom to top. Along the junction of the shell and the glass floor, a light source embedded in the floor gently shines a piercing light across the inner wall surface. The outer surface of the shell is a colourful enamel cladding of needle enamel, symbolising fragmented knowledge. A noble, handcrafted, timeless, sparkling material. An inviting colourful spherical surface from a distance, a technical feat of art up close, part of our culture.

Our piece is placed at a point in the planned square where it seems most appropriate in terms of the polygonal nature of the urban space, the facade of the Academy building and the movement of people through the space. It does not obscure the main entrance to the building but rather is placed at the center of gravity of a dynamic movement. It is circular, permeable and opens onto the Academy. Those arriving from the lower quay by stairs, and walking around the square, can interpret the monument together with its immediate surroundings. The paving slopes gently and fragmentarily towards the ‘sphere’, as if it had been crushed by an impacting planet. Its fracture lines are shown in the evenings by luminous strips. Benches have been placed along the edges of the indented paving. The benches are not just for relaxation, but are “smart benches”, i.e. with the right device you can automatically connect (Bluetooth, Wifi) to text, picture and – for accessibility – sound information screens presenting the data and stories of the Academy’s members and the great figures of Hungarian science and art.

Stepping into the memorial, we can quieten down. Excluding the outside world, we enter the mysterious core of science and art, where we can look upwards through the glass floored core described in the introduction, reading the names of our greats, to reach the real pearl. We can even enter it. Here, the monument’s interpretability from all external directions becomes one-way. The world becomes a space with one perspective, one point of view. In the pearl is my own smallness and the direction in which I look. The goal. There is no other. No need for anything else. I look out to infinity.