The circumstance where he was brought up can inevitably leave a strong mark on an artist’s creation. Therefore, when Mr. and Mrs. Hajba, the general consul and the cultural consul of Hungary in Shanghai invited us to visit Hudec’s motherland in this summer, we were very pleased to accept because it would lend us an opportunity to find out the root and inspiration for Hudec’s architecture. Why and how can he conceive so many different architectural styles and most important of all complete them all in high quality? Why can he deal with so many complicated situations and big challenges in both his professional work and personal life, moreover, coordinate with the surroundings positively and creatively? Why was he so interested in the newest styles and technologies, always willing to experiment them in his projects and finally implement them successfully? Where did his strong faith to the religion come from and how did it influence his work? In brief, we are so interested in discovering the connection between the cultural background of Hudec and his family in Hungary, or the former Austro-Hungarian Empire and his architectural achievements in Shanghai.
A trip of one week is of course too short to learn a country, but visiting the place where the architect was born, grew up and got educated is definitely helpful in understanding his thought and work. Among all these journeys, visiting the architect’s hometown, Beszercebánya, proved to be the most important and impressive one, although rather tough and rush, because it is in there that we feel so close to Hudec’s life.
After a 6-hour long drive, with the guide of Hudec’s grandnephew, Mr. Jánossy, his wife and friend, we arrived at Beszercebánya, a Slovakian border city which once belonged to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. We were accompanied by the famous Chinese photographer Mr. Er Dongqiang and his partner Tess Johnston. A local friend first brought us to the city hall, where an officer introduced to us that an exhibition memorializing Hudec’s life and achievements was held in this May, only one month before the one for the same purpose holding in Shanghai. This time, Hudec acted as a media between two totally different cultures again, just as nearly one century ago. Then we moved on to Hudec’s first house where he was born and lived with the families till his going to the university in Budapest in 1910. The yellowish house is sitting on a considerably high basement which formed a generous portico with two pairs of Tuscan columns in the front, overlooking the quite street. The façade is symmetrical and classical, being dotted with framed slim rectangular windows. It’s really surprising and exciting to notice that thanks to its huge size, solid square volume, strict composition and fine details, the building stands out from its relatively plain neighborhood even now, more than one hundred years after its completion. Since it is now occupied by the Police Station, our request for visiting inside was unfortunately refused for security reasons. Therefore, we had to take as more pictures as possible around it.
Compared with this grand house, the site struck me even more is the Tomb of Hudec’s family, not only because it’s far beyond my expectation that Hudec could return home after his death instead of being buried in the US where he had spent his last time, but also because the tomb itself, which was said to be designed by Hudec’s father, György Hugyecz, a master Hungarian builder, is simple and fascinating. In that afternoon, the cemetery was flooded with sun. Being located at a distinguish position close to the entrance, the rectangular grave measures about 3.5mX5m and is among the two largest graves in this cemetery which indicates the statue of Hudec’s family in their hometown. According to the inscriptions on the gravestone, Hudec’s grandparents, parents, the couples of his three elder sisters, his young brother Géza and Hudec László Edvard（in Hungarian）himself were all buried here. Being enclosed with travertine blocks, the grave area was about half meter higher than the grass. In the center of the enclosure is a thick stone cover. The 3-metre high gravestone standing at the west side of the grave is of triple-division both vertically, including two vases attached to semi-circle niches at each side and an inscription wall with two straight Doric columns in front and horizontally, including the supporting columns and walls, the beams they carry and the delicately carved moulding at the top. All these were constructed by travertine blocks and the vases were engraved in the same style as the Doric columns. It was about 4 o’clock in the afternoon, the gold sun rendered the tomb with beautiful shadows, while the yellowish travertine contrasted strikingly with the green leaves of trees around it. What a peaceful and appealing scene! We can all be contented with Hudec’s last decision of being buried with his own family in the place he was brought up. Although Hudec had spent most of his life far away from here and won his honors almost all in Shanghai, but his soul was always eager to go back to his motherland, to his hometown. In Chinese saying, that is falling leaves return to their roots.
After leaving the cemetery, we went around the city center. It is a charming and vivid irregular square with bell-tower, fountains, various architectural styles and materials and happy people enjoying their afternoon coffees. If not being hurry to return Hungary in the evening, we would all like to spend the whole night here.
On the way back, we stopped by one unknown city, where stands the grand Cathedral both donated and reconstructed by Hudec’s father. It is honored as the largest and highest church in this region. This building could also be regarded as evidence for the religious devotion tradition from Hudec’s family. Although we felt a little bit sorry that it was too late to go inside. Nevertheless, we would find other chance to inspect the architectural achievements of Hudec’s father when being back Hungary. One of the most notable endeavors he once made must be the first Metro in Budapest, which is also the first one on the European continent. It’s exciting to see that this oldest Metro is still running smoothly. Digging in such a depth below the ground must be a big challenge for the designers and constructors. But those great Hungarian master builders including Hudec’s father succeeded more than one hundred years ago. The Metro stations are characterized as being structured with iron columns and beams. All of them are well preserved today as an important cultural heritage in Budapest. From this project, we could find the technical support and inspiration for Hudec’s innovation in the design and construction of Park hotel in Shanghai, especially the foundation and steel framework which kept its advancement for several decades after completion.
Our visiting in Hungary might be rather short and rush, but we will certainly be benefited from it. It is obvious that the great architectural achievements obtained by Hudec in Shanghai are all deeply rooted in the crafts of his father, the religious tradition of his family and the history and culture development of his motherland.
People from Eastern countries and western countries can all notice the uniqueness of Hungarian. Although sharing the same alphabet system with Latin language, the pronunciation of Hungarian is totally different from any kind of the latter, instead, sometimes it sounds just like Chinese Pinying. Another similarity between Chinese and Hungarian is the tradition to put family name before one’s first name. Undoubtedly, this is a nation bearing both western and eastern origins. Learning foreign languages becomes the base for a Hungarian to go out and communicate with the outside world. Therefore, they may also feel easy to coordinate with different situations and keep their mind open to all possibilities. That could also be an acceptable explanation for Hudec’s success in Shanghai, a place far away from his home both geographically and culturally.