The new Transport Museum


Hardly any Budapesters know about the Northern Vehicle Repair Plant today, despite the fact that train engines were repaired here for 140 years, up until 2009. This industrial heritage, the atmosphere and unique spaces of Hungary’s once most important plant lend the place a unique character. Railway vehicles were first repaired here in the Hungarian – Swiss Machine Factory (est. 1867) but in 1870 the site was already owned by MÁV (Hungarian State Railway) and was connected with the Józsefváros railway station. Engines and carriages were soon being manufactured in the workshops. In the 1880s, the Eiffel Hall, designed by János Feketeházy, was added to the complex and was later renewed as a workshop building and rehearsal centre of the Hungarian State Opera. By the early 20th century, the site was not only MÁV’s most modern plant but Budapest’s largest industrial facility. The planning of the diesel hall (architectural design by István Gundel, Tibor Rochlitz and György Kővári) began in 1958 and the hall was opened on 8 June 1962. Vehicles operated by the Hungarian railways were repaired in the three vast halls – Eiffel, Diesel and Bogie Workshops – and the many buildings of the complex until 2009.

This site therefore represents indisputably extraordinary value in the history of Hungarian transport, industry and industrial architecture.

The protection and presentation of industrial heritage is a relatively new element in cultural tourism able to provide a novelty and address new target groups. Many international studies report an increased interest in visiting museums of history and natural sciences mounting exhibitions with relevant messages to today’s society. Special venues and interactive exhibitions suitable for telling fundamentally social stories, while facilitating an understanding of modern natural sciences and technological change abound in unexploited potential. Hence, the revitalisation of a significant part of the Northern Vehicle Repair Plant, an industrial heritage site, and its conversion into the new Transport Museum is a breakthrough.

Besides its historical importance as well as its contribution to museology, heritage management and cultural tourism, the renewal of the Transport Museum, looking back of a prestigious past, is outstanding as an architectural and urban studies project. In a certain sense, it is a kind of re-establishment and reorganisation of the old institution, while being an internationally recognised cultural development and a significant element of the capital’s urban landscape. As 40% of Hungary’s brownfield areas lie in Budapest, their rehabilitation combined with new cultural tourism opportunities exceeds the scope of museology.

The design tasks of the new museum are in full fling and this year’s international design competition will be followed by the implementation plans expected to be ready by 2020.