BMe Research Grant


Wettstein Domonkos

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Pál Csonka Doctoral School of Architecture  

Department of Urban Planning and Design 

Supervisor: Dr. Meggyesi Tamás

Scales: Connection between architecture and the urbanization of the shore of Lake Balaton 

Introducing the research area

The surrounding of Lake Balaton is a culture region having been characterized by the sensitive symbiosis of the nature and the environment for centuries. Through the building operations with recreation purposes, contiguous settlement-courses developed within a short time, meanwhile, the expansion of the townish fields threatened with the exhaustion of the natural, regional values that earlier made relaxation possible. As the ecological unit of the Balaton region requires a complex architectural solution covering the entire region, my research addresses the analysis of the architectural aspects of the urbanization of the Balaton shore in terms of the transformation of the vernacular-natural area, the social modernization and the changing way of life.


Brief introduction of the research place

I perform my research at the Department of Urban Planning and Design of the BME (Budapest Technical University) that gained broad experience in the field of settlement and regional complex researches since the predecessor was founded in 1930. In harmony with the education of planning, the Department lays a big emphasis on the development of the methodologies both of Urban Planning and Urban Design at the Architect Faculty; it has been playing a dominant role in researches named "Sustainable Energetics" and "Intelligent Environments and E-technologies" since 2010.


History and context of the research

The concept of the settlement landscape is in the forefront of modern architectural and urban way of thinking. The transforming, continuously changing scene, the ever stronger landscape-forming of people require new approaches to the problem. The areas that once were handled by the literature as natural or vernacular areas has gone through even more spectacular transformation with the advancement of the human activities and this change has become irreversible for today. [1] [2] The concept of "urbanspace" that can be encountered with in the international literature, directs attention to the new region concept dimensions that try to follow the changes in the territories, borders and regional identities that are getting more and more plastic. [3] [4] Various European lake districts have already been examined by international research groups [5], but Lake Balaton – however important it may be at the international level, considering its size and problems – is still out of their scope of interest.


No detailed architecture-historical urban analysis or summarizing work about the architecture and development in the region of Lake Balaton for the period has been prepared as yet. The Balaton monographs published previously dealt with the built environment in separate chapters and did not analyze the change processes in detail. [6] [7] Publications about the national architecture of the period only describe the planning requirements of Lake Balaton from the viewpoint of the big designer offices and outstanding designers, however, they do not deal with the regional interrelations of developments.



The research goal, open questions 

During my examination, my goal is to reveal and analyze in detail the processes of urbanization that could largely be accounted for the change in the built environment of the region during the period of the recreation building operation boom. The period that had the biggest influence on the present condition of the lake-shore has not been processed as yet, however much the morals and experiences should be considered when determining the future of the region; that is why I am looking for answers to the following questions during my examinations:


What kind of changes happened in the examined period in terms of use of land, the structure of region and the scale of the architectural elements?


What were the answers of the professionals in region engineering and architecture to the challenges of the era? How did they try to handle the increase in population density, what kind of strategies, regulations and plans were made? The systematization of these tools and the critical assessment of their efficiency is needed.


How did the social, economical and administrative background typical of the period influence the transformation of the region? What kind of relations can be pointed out between the social modernization, the change of the way of living and the transformation of built environment?


It is necessary to place the period into international context and to discover the divergent and parallel tendencies that are present in the development of other European lakes of regional importance.



During the research,based on contemporary documents and data currently available I'll reconstruct the urban processes that have taken place in the region. I will systematically review applied professional strategies, regulations and plans that influenced the transformation. It is worth examining the processes in the region in relation to the results of the historical, sociological and regional geography researches in several dimensions and it is necessary to reveal the relations between the specific levels. To collect and systematize the data I use the following methods:


Bibliographical researches


When processing the theme, I mostly rely on the contemporary architectural trade papers and trade books topic that represent the interest of the architecture community. Additionally to reviewing the trade papers, processing of the contemporary professional literature and other source materials (regulations, rules, orders, reports about researches and developments) will also be included. It is necessary to review the autobiographical memories of the architects and city designers and to use the interviews made with the previous partakers and with persons still alive with whom an interview was made during the research work. The publications written by the city architects and architect-historians only touched the area in details, the coherent scientific processing also needs the confronting these statements, too. In the past ten years, the processing of the national culture, society and politics of the 60s and 70s has progressed well, and exploring them as well as the special literature research of the period was also a prerequisite.


Processing of records and the materials of the design-archives


The transformation of settlements and landscape can be identified from contemporary maps very well which explains why the transformation process of lake-shore can be reconstructed best by using the sources of the archives, first of all the maps of the settlements and region.


To interpret professional ideas and strategies, archive materials of the former designer companies have to be processed. As for the regional and settlement-structural plans, most of them have already been destroyed, however, I could find some contemporary documents in the archives about the most important investments. To analyze further available documents in detail, I will look up and the archives of responsible authorities and request the documents for scientific researches.



Analysis of contemporary statistics


Contemporary statistical data can also give assistance if we want to interpret the transformation of the way the regions were used and the change in the settlement structures. Sociological and economic surveys recorded by the KSH (Hungarian Central Statistical Office) and its scientific partner organizations will be processed as well. Besides, I will also analyze the results of contemporary researches that based the development plans to be found in the VÁTI Information Centre.


Preparation of local examinations and surveys


During the examination, sample areas have to be chosen that still reflect the characteristics of the period, even today, survey their condition through field trips and publish them as case studies (detailed photo documentation, aerial photographs, surveys, settlement structure drafts).


Table format processing of data encountered with in the course of bibliographical, statistical researches and arranging the structural drafts of settlements next to each other in a typological and chronological system allow answering the questions of the research and completing queries quickly. Based on the typological examinations, I could also create groups which enabled harmonization of chronological order and settlement development.


During the historical reconstruction, I examined the transformation of built environment at various scale levels, on regional, settlement and building scales.


1. Regional scale




Through systematizing the source materials available, the periodization of recreational architecture on the shore of Lake Balaton was prepared based on the methodology of regional concepts. Urbanization in the Balaton region can be categorized into well-definable periods. This periodization characteristic of the transformation of built environment is in close connection with the economical and social changes that took place in the background.


2. Settlement scale


Settlement structure typology


One can identify morphological relationships between the change in the composition of residents and holidaymakers on the one hand and the temporal transformation of the spatial structures on the other. I summarized this typological development in tabular format. For each typology, a functional rearrangement is clearly observable within the given settlement structure, that mirrors the change in the population and area.


3. Building scale  


Architectural designing methodology


Quality improvement of private building operations is still a challenge for the architect trade even today. In the building operations history of the Balaton shore people tried to enhance quality more efficient regulation of building operations (public administration) requiring proper qualification for design and the implementation and through offering standard designs. During the research I completed the critical review of the designing methodologies of specific periods on the basis of the regional identity, landscape and settlement view, functional and constructional establishment and architectural character. I summarized the holiday house architecture of specific periods in a typological table. The results of the examination may assist in preserving the architectural heritage of the region and in setting up the framework of new building operations.



International context


The only similarity in the urbanization processes between those taking place simultaneously on the Balaton shore and in various European lakes districts is in the proportion of inhabited areas, however, their use of landscape, the type of functional and settlement structures are basically different.


Through the comparative examination of seven lake districts of European importance (the Lake of Geneva (Switzerland), Boden Lake ( Switzerland), Lake Garda (Italy), Lake Como (Italy), Lake Müritz (Switzerland), Lake Vierwaldstadt (Switzerland), Lake Zürich (Switzerland), one could prove that the territory proportion of built-up density and the quota of population on the lake-shore, furthermore and the temporality of the changes are in good agreement with those observed at the shore of Lake Balaton but the structure of changes are significantly different.



Expected impact and further research

On the basis of historical reconstruction, the further purpose of the research is to define the urbanization processes and the landscape qualities and also to characterize the environmental conditions of the Balaton region. I publish my results in national and international scholarly journals ongoing, and would like to share this knowledge with the wider architect trade and the public; therefore I publish the results of my research on a website introducing the architecture of Lake Balaton region. Furthermore, I would like to write a book about the architecture of the lake-shore, thus contributing to the protection of built heritage and the development of the region, and to promote the high quality architecture.


Publications, references, links:

Wettstein D.: How to build at Lake Balaton? Periodisation of the architecture with recreation purposes at Lake Balaton on the basis of regional concepts. (in Hungarian), Valóság (2012/7)


Wettstein D.: The architectural concerns of the urbanization of the Balaton Region (in Hungarian) (1945-89), Tavaszi Szél Conference 2012 p. 499-504. (ISBN: 978-963-89560-0-2)


Wettstein D.: Regional architectural strategies in the Balaton Region (in Hungarian), I. Conference of BME Doctoral Students, June 25, 2011


Wettstein D.: Scales: Regional Planning on the Lake Balaton, Abstracts of the Seventh International PhD&DLA Symposium (edited: Iványi P.), Pécs, 2011.10.24-25. University of Pécs, p. 149, Paper C149, (ISBN: 978-963-7298-46-2)


Wettstein D.: A Critical Overview of the Architectural Strategies of the Balaton Region, submitted: Pollack Periodica


Wettstein D.: Balaton aktuálně! (in Czech), ERA21 1:(12) p.12-13, (2012)


Wettstein D.: Value added. Reconstruction of a holiday house (in Hungarian), METSZET 3:(4) p.24-25, (2012)


Wettstein D.: The crisis makes clean: The lessons of the Levendula-house of József Koller in Tihany (in Hungarian), METSZET 3:(3) p. 24-25, (2012)


Wettstein D.: Today opinion: Tátika restaurant, Badacsony (in Hungarian), METSZET 2:(6) p. 9,. (2011)


Wettstein D.: The house woven into its context, Bazaltbor Winery, Badacsony (in Hungarian), METSZET 1:(6) pp. 60-63,. (2010)


Wettstein D.: Mimicry at the lake-shore: apartment houses at the port in Balatonszemes (in Hungarian), METSZET 1(4) pp. 50-53, (2010)


Szabó A.: Wettstein D., Architecture of local railways in Hungary (in Hungarian), ARCHITECTURA HUNGARIAE 7:(3) (2005)


Wettstein D.: Land and people, contemporary architecture of Graubünden. TDK Competition, BME-EPK 2008, II. Prize, OTDK 2009, I. Prize


Wettstein D.: Urbanized land on blue field. Practice of the Ijburg landscape architecture of Amsterdam and the Dutch landscape architecture (in Hungarian), Yearbook of the BUTE DLA Doctoral School 2012








[1] Girot, C.; Bucher, A.: Landscape Architecture in Mutation –Essays on Urban Landscape. Fraunhofer GTA Verlag, Zürich, 2003


[2] Waldheim, C.: The Landscape Urbanism Reader. Princeton Architectural Press, New York, 2006


[3] Olmsted, F. L..: Landscape into Cityscape. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, 1996


[4] Meekes, H.: Rural Landscapes – Options for the Future. Elsevier Sc., Amsterdam, 1999


[5] Herzog, J.; Mueron, P.; Mieli, M.; Diener R.: Switzerland An Urban Portrait. Birkhäuser Verlag, Basel, 2005


[6] Illés, I.: Tavunk, a Balaton, (in Hungarian), Natura Kiadó, 1981


[7] Tóth, K.: Balaton monográfia (in Hungarian), Panoráma Kiadó, Budapest, 1974


[8] Virág, Á.: A Balaton múltja és jelene (in Hungarian), Egri Nyomda, Eger, 1998


[9] Buday-Sántha, A.: Balaton régió. Tér és Társadalom (in Hungarian), XXII./4., pp. 43-62 (2008)


[10] Simon, M.: Modernity and Context. Hungarian Architecture at the Beginning of the Kádár-era. Periodica Polytechnica Architecture XXXVIII./1. pp. 25-32 (2007)


[11] Simon, M.: Minták és módszerek. A hetvenes évek hazai építészete és a karakter (in Hungarian). Építés-Építészettudomány, XXIX./3-4. pp. 347-360., (2001)


[12] Kotsis Iván: Életrajzom. (edited: Prakfalvi Endre, in Hungarian) HAP Tervezőiroda Kft. és a Magyar Építészeti Múzeum közös kiadása, Budapest, 2010.


[13] Szendrői, J.; Arnóth, L.; Finta, J.; Merényi F.; Nagy, E.: A magyar építészet 1945-70 (in Hungarian), Műszaki Könyvkiadó, Budapest, 1972


[14] Polónyi, K.; Építész-településtervező a perifériákon (in Hungarian), Műszaki Könyvkiadó, Budapest, 1972