100-Year-Old Interior Design Ambition Complete

peter kis atelier

If greatness were measured by the amount of time put into something, then an interior design project in Hungary would have to represent the very best this industry has to offer.

The concept for the ‘the metamorphosis of the great rock’ at Hungary’s Budapest Zoo first came into being over 100 years ago. Plans were made back in 1909 to extend the original zoo in order to create an animal museum and gallery space, but due to budgeting issues and onset of World War I, plans were shelved.

Now, over 100 years later, Hungarian design firm PLANT has brought an extravagant and complex plan to life in a way that promises to make the long wait worthwhile.

With the original works having already laid out the artificial rock’s structural form back in 1909, PLANT has drawn from the original plan as an inspirational foundation for the new interior design scheme of the space. Former zoo director Dr. Adolf Lendl made his design vision clear when questioned about the works over 100 years ago.

“The entire large hill will be made of cement concrete and will be empty inside. We will open the wall on one of the sides 
with a cave like gate entrance enclosing it with a light structure, and in the inside a huge hall, this could even be 30 m long,” said Lendl. “We will erect a stuffed whale here from the northern seas, perhaps together with the skeleton, and also several specimens of dolphins, 
as these are not expensive and are very characteristic animals that can rarely be seen.”

peter kis atelier

Bringing this vision into the modern world, designers reinforced the original structure with concrete ranging from six to 12 inches thick and set this concrete over a latticed structure. The structure covers 4,700 square metres, reaching heights of 37 metres and designed to imitate Transylvania’s Egyeskő peak.

In staying true to the original concept and its highly developed exterior form, the interiors are a testament to the cave concept, though they have an aesthetically modern, chic and clean sensibility.

Roughened concrete features throughout the interiors mimic the texture of cave walls, and angled, almost crystal-formed ceilings and walls add to the cave experience.

While lighting a cavernous space could stand as a challenge for designers, the PLANT team has instead opted to play up the overall organic theme. The designers have systematically inserted angled skylights to both optimise natural light intake and play with the natural light-and-shadow contrast this creates. In doing so, the interior atmosphere strongly mimics the play of light and shade experienced within a cave.

However, while the original development concept may be old, the technological aspects included in the new design represent some of the best in modern standards. Renewable energy from the nearby széchenyi Thermal Bath is used to power the site through the implementation of a heat exchange system.

peter kis atelier

Interactive games, animal models and microscopes also bring a very modern element into the space. Electric lighting is dotted throughout the spaces in the form of various different down lighting features, easily drawing the user’s eye to the various exhibitions.

The space is expected to stand as a cultural hub, creating new opportunities for both play and education.

This interior design feat as been a long time coming, but may would agree that the end result has been worth the wait.

By Jane Parkins
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