Topology and typology

The morphological approach in research concerning Hungarian peasant dwellings

One of the most striking bearers of the culture of a given people, region or landscape is represented by built heritage. At the end of the 19th century ethnographers devoted increasing attention to examining the traditional (vernacular) architecture of the Carpathian Basin. This interest, which appeared at the same time as in western Europe, is confirmed by, inter alia, the construction of an open-air village for the 1896 Millennium Celebrations in Budapest, which played an important role in the commencement of professional, scholarly ethnographic and architectural research, although it did not result in the start of  serious folk monument protection. In the long run, however, the delay proved to be advantageous, since at the time Hungarian ‘open-air museology’, the establishment of the first Hungarian open-air ethnographic museum and the then scholarly results already made it possible to achieve historical and regional authenticity. Thus was avoided the dead end in which many west European first and second generation open-air museums found themselves.

When research got underway at the end of the 19th century, the general incidence of room+kitchen+larder was essentially the typical formula for Hungarian peasant dwellings, although considering the arrangement and function of the spaces there were numerous local variations.  However, the newly forming interest in ethnography was not directed at contemporary types, rather in line with the then aims of scholarship and motivation archaisms and ancient approaches were sought. Thus research into vernacular architecture almost immediately – without anything in quantity with which comparisons could be made – concentrated on the genesis of the Hungarian (!) dwelling and over time sought out, on the one hand, the farthest possible and, on the other, specifically the ancient Hungarian examples, though these criteria didn’t match the three-part peasant dwelling. However, this form of research into the most ancient led to the discovery of the regional variations in folk and peasant culture. The recognition of the heterogeneity of such Hungarian culture resulted in the nascent regional research in the second half of the 19th century, and at the same time in the case of vernacular architecture the aim of that research was also the discovery of ancient forms. From then on research into Hungarian dwellings had two strands – examining the origins and correctly identifying the regional types.

Research into Hungarian vernacular buildings received a new impetus in 1960s and 1970s. Undoubtedly, the question of regional subdivisions came into prominence, in which a major role was played by the ethnographic museology developing from the 1950s.

The body of information accumulated by the 1980s facilitated the creation of a broad synthesis on both the historical and regional level, as well as the current array of scholarship.