The Bustle of Budapest
October 17, 2017
Written by: Laura Jaye
Photographed by: Laura Jaye
The silent subway train rolls into the station, creating a buzz of shuffling people as they make their way to the exit. As the station empties, a calm lull follows, and the outbound train moves on. That efficiency to move people quickly throughout the space is one of many remarkable features I notice while exploring Budapest’s newest subway line.
Opened in March 2014, the line M4 is comprised of 10 new subway stations designed by 5 different Hungarian architecture studios. Because of the many studios involved, each station represents a unique design and atmosphere that enhances the overall experience of riding the M4. Every stop feels like a new place to explore.
While at the Kálvin tér station, I can’t help but look up to the lofty ceiling, which boasts soaring angular escalators that stretch out of sight. But just one station away, I travel into a completely different environment, with a low barrel ceiling and bright electric lights that remind me of a dark, underground cave.
While photographing, I notice that even as several trains pass through the station, people move quickly from the platform to the exit. One minute after the train arrives, everyone is gone. Remarkably, it seems to be the same case at each station along the M4 line. I soon realize it must be the alluring form of the dramatic escalators.
Móricz Zsigmond körtér station, for example, uses neon blue uplighting to invite the passengers toward the lit areas, which just happens to lead directly to the exit.
Bikás park station, on the other hand, is dimly lit except for the geometric glass dome over the escalators that draws riders forward using only natural light. Even with elaborately detailed stations, the wayfinding remains a consistent focus on all the designs.
While new subway stations can be disruptive to the surrounding communities, these Hungarian architects took care to integrate street-level entrances into the local environment. Many of the stations sit within community parks, so it was only natural to incorporate certain environmental elements to the entrances--ponds, low-lying structures, and light wells were widely used throughout.
Both Rákóczi tér and II. János Pál pápa tér stations sit within local parks and because the entrances incorporate small shallow ponds, it’s easy to find locals hanging out to enjoy the peacefulness.
Considering that Budapest was the first city to build an underground subway system in continental Europe, their progress towards efficiency, advanced architectural achievements and environmental consciousness has given the Hungarians new recognition in the field. I hope many other cities around the world will be inspired by the stunning and unique nature of Budapest’s latest subway line.