In the late 90s in Hungary, couple of years after the end of the communist era, culture has changed in every aspect. A new type of culture was born and it needed its scene. This time László Váncza's intention was to realise a professional alternative cultural center. A symbol of freedom, adventure, life and liberty of arts.
First of all Vancza together with Bahia publisher were thinking of a place in the historical part of Budapest, where there are enormous, unused spaces on the basement level under the eclectic residental buildings. This option was failed. The ultimate solution seemed completely irrational. A dream to build a cultural center on the Danube.
They were thinking of restoring an existent ship. It was a big deal to find the right ship. It had to host big events, give a place to a concert hall with backstage, to a restaurant, bars, panramic terraces etc. The West-European ships' structure was too narrow to design-in a well-proportioned concert hall regarding acoustic aspects. In the East not only the railway tracks are wider, but the flood-gates also. Hence there are wider hulls. Together with Endre Szabo, who was finally the contractor and the naval specialist of A38, they found an unused, stone- and tank-carrier ship in Ukraine, signed Artemovszk 38. The ship was built in 1968, was tugged through international waters in order to receive a complete makeover and an infusion of new life which would enable it to set off on a voyage to the future.
Organising the spaces symmetrical to the axis is one of the main rule in ship design. Due to the new program and functional arrangement the architects had to differ from this rule. The local symmetry is balanced by the different floors' different space-distributions. The concert hall was build in a new, steel-structure in a floated way to fullfil the acoustic requirements.
Known as the design process is a restoration and renovation process in this case, the respect of the aesthetic values and the very special attributes of the old ship was always in focus of the new design. They were aware of the fact, that the ship is an industrial heritage, and at the same time they had to create a high-tech, modern and user friendly community space. Following the soviet ship building technologies and using traditional materials, the architects designed their additions as a cargo.
By reconstructing the ship and harbouring it on the Danube, the A38 team intends to play an initiative role in bringing life and living culture to the bank of the Danube in Budapest. The ship, as the utmost poetic symbol of freedom, life, travel, adventure and discovery; and the Danube, as one of the strongest symbol of Central European history and culture provide the A38 team with inspiration and serve as a compass for the whole project.
About the extension
The original A38 proved too small when it was chosen to host famous events, a second vessel was required. A38 2.0, a Bauhaus-style cube 11 metres wide and 46 metres long, is officially registered as a 'pinnace'. But the 300 tonne metal box is only a boat below the water level.
One of the main point of the new vessel's design was to get closer to the water. To create spaces where urban people can feel the water, hear its sounds, smell its odour. As a start-up they analyse the 'dereglye', the ideal model of Danubian traditional cargo ship. It is a flat-bottomed, low-structured ship-type. In order to have a traditional ship-spirit, only the permanent-used spaces are isolated. The size suits to the A38's hull. The entire homogeneity and the laconic design makes a vigorous contrast between the A38 and the new extension.
Its 200 square metre exhibition space and huge panoramic windows facing the river resemble the traditional Bauhaus villas in Budapest's posh second district.