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Domonkos Wettstein: BALATON ARCHITECTURE - Searching for strategy in the twentieth century



Wettstein Domonkos: Balatoni építészet – Stratégiakeresés a huszadik században (with English summary)

BME Department of Urban Planning and Design / Tarsoly Kiadó, Budapest, 2022


ISBN 978-615-5858-28-4


The book can be ordered in the BOOKLINE online store at this link >


Book design and graphics: Nóra Mészáros






"How should we build on the shores of Lake Balaton?" - the question appeared more and more frequently in the publications between the two world wars, and then the establishment of the Balaton Management Committee (BIB) in 1929 gave the first opportunity for unified management and development. From that time on, architecture developed decisive positions in the regional development institutions, which greatly contributed to the uniform management of landscape, settlement and architectural scale issues. The focus of the planning history is the first Balaton Regional Plan, which defined the architecture of the sixties, and in 1965 won the Sir Patrick Abercrombie Award of the International Union of Architects (UIA). However, in order to understand the antecedents of the first regional plan and the subsequent changes and distortions, it is necessary to analyze the historical process of planning in a broader time frame.


The book is about the history of the architecture of the Balaton shore in the twentieth century. It primarily examines the regional-level concepts with which contemporaneous specialists, including Iván Kotsis, Tibor Farkas or Károly Polónyi, sought solutions to the problems of lakeside architecture. In addition to the analysis of model and type plans, the characteristic functions of recreational architecture illustrate the period's developments. The experimental mentality of the designers is reflected in the easy design of seasonal waterside beaches, campsites, restaurants, and holiday and accommodation buildings. Their inventive structural design has become a trademark of modern architecture on the Lake Balaton. Although fewer and fewer memories of the heritage of the twentieth century remain, these seasonal waterfront buildings still live on in the public's mind as a defining image.










// RESEARCH PROJECT / Scales: Landscape Urbanism and Architectural Strategies in the Balaton Region


Introducing the research area


The surrounding of Lake Balaton is a culture region that was characterised by the sensitive symbiosis of the nature and the built environment during centuries. Through the building operations with recreation purposes, contiguous settlement-courses have developed within a short time, meanwhile, the expansion of the townish fields threatens with the exhausting of the natural, regional values that enable the relaxation. The ecological unit of the Balaton region needs a complex architectural solution that covers the entire region that is the reason why the target of my research is the analysis of the architectural connections of the urbanisation of the shore of Lake Balaton in respect of the transformation of the vernacular-natural area, the social modernisation and the change of the way of life.





History and context of the research


The concept of the settlement landscape is in the forefront of the modern architectural and urban way of thinking. The transforming, continuously changing sight, the even stronger landscape forming of people need the new approaches of the problem. The areas that were handled by the special literature as natural or vernacular areas have gone through even more spectacular transformations with the spreading of the human activities and this change also became irreversible for today. The concept of „urbanspacethat appears in the international special literature turns attention to the new quality dimensions of the region concept that try to follow the changes of the territories, borders and regional identities becoming flexible. The international research groups have already dealt with the examination of the different European lake areas but Lake Balaton has not fallen within their scope of interest, however, it is an important region in international aspect as well, as far as its size and problems are concerned.


No detailed architecture-historical urban analysis or summarizing work about the architecture of the region of Lake Balaton of the period and development of the region have been prepared yet. The Balaton monographs that were issued previously are dealing with the built environment in separate chapters but they do not analyse the processes of change in details. The records that analyses the national architecture of the period mention the planning duties of Lake Balaton from the viewpoint of the big designer companies and the outstanding designer personalities, however, they do not deal with the regional correlations of the developments.


The research goal, open questions


During my examination, I have the goal to reveal and analyse the processes of urbanisation in details that caused the change of the built environment of the region to great extent during the period of the recreation building operation boom. The period that influences the condition of the lake-shore to great extent has not been processed yet, however, it is needed to draw lessons when determining the future of the region; that is the reason why I am looking for the answer for the following questions during my examination:


What kind of changes happened in the examined period as far as the use, the structure of the region and the scale of the architectural elements are concerned?


What kind of answer did the profession of region engineering and architecture try to give for the challenges of the age? How did they try to handle the increase of the density, what kind of strategies, regulations and plans were made? The systematisation of these means and the critical assessment of their successfulness is needed.


How did the social, economical and administrative background that was typical of the period influence the transformation of the region? What kind of relations can be pointed out between the social modernisation, the change of the way of living and the transformation of the built environment?


It is necessary to place the period into international context and to make out what kind of divergent and parallel tendencies can be noted in the development of other European lakes with regional importance.




During the examination, on the basis of the contemporary documents to be found I reconstruct the urban processes that take place in the region. I systematize the professional strategies, regulations and plans that influence the transformation. It is worth examining the processes in the region in relation to the results of the historical, sociological and regional geography researches in several dimensions and it is necessary to reveal the relations between the specific levels. To collect and systematize the data I use the following methods:


Bibliographical researches


When processing the theme, I mostly lean on the contemporary architectural trade papers and trade books topic that represent the interest of the profession of architecture. Besides studying the trade papers, it also comes to the processing of the contemporary professional literature and other source materials (regulations, rules, orders, reports about researches and developments). It is necessary to overview the autobiographical memories of the architects and city designers and to use the interviews made with the previous partakers and with the persons who are still alive with whom an interview was made during the research work. The publications that were written by the city architects and architect-historians touched upon the area only in parts, the coherent scientific processing also needs the crosschecking of these statements too. In the past ten years, the processing of the national culture of the 60s and 70s years got on very much, the research also needs the knowledge of them and the special literature too that processes the period.


Processing of records and the materials of the design-archives


The transformation of the settlements and the landscape can be read off from the contemporary maps very well that is the reason why the transformation process of the lake-shore can be reconstructed with using the sources of the archives, first of all the maps of the settlements and the region.


Because of the professional ideas and the interpretation of the strategies, it is needed to process the archive materials of the former designer companies. In case of the regional and settlement-structural plans, the most of them have already been destroyed, however, I could find some contemporary documents about the most important investments in the archives. To analyse further documents in details that I can find I will look up in the archives of the authorities responsible and ask them out for the use of scientific researches.



Analysis of contemporary statistics


To explain the transformation of the use of the region and the settlement structures, the contemporary statistical data can provide some assistance. The sociological surveys and those of economical type that were recorded by the KSH (Hungarian Central Statistical Office) and its scientific partner organisations will be processed. Besides, I will also analyse the results of the contemporary researches that establish the development plans to be found in the VÁTI Information Centre.


Preparation of local examinations and surveys


During the examination, it is necessary to choose the sample fields that show the characters of the period even today, to make a condition survey during field trips and to publish them in the form of case studies. (detailed photo documentation, air photographs, surveys, settlement structure drafts)


The processing of the data in tables that turned up during the bibliographical, statistical researches and the ordering of the settlement structural drafts in a typological and chronological system next to each other enables to give answers for the questions of the research and to check up quickly. On the basis of the typological examinations, I made groupings with which the chronological order and settlement development could be harmonized.




During the historical reconstruction, I examined the transformation of the built environment on different scale levels, on regional, settlement and building scales.


1. Periodisation


Through ordering the source materials to be found, the periodisation of the shore of Lake Balaton of the architecture with recreation purposes was prepared on the basis of the methodologies of the regional concepts. The processes of urbanisation running in the Balaton region can be divided in well-definable periods. The periodisation that is characteristic of the transformation of the built environment is in close connection with the economical and social changes that happen in the background.


2. Settlement structure typology


One can make out morphological relationship between the change of the composition of the residents and the holidaymakers and the temporal transformation of the spatial structures that I summarized in a table that shows the typological development. By the specific typologies one can fairly determine a functional reorganisation process within the given settlement structure that follows the change of the population and the area. 




3. Architectural designing methodology


The improvement of the quality of the private building operations means a challenge for the architect trade even today, in building operations history of the shore of Lake people tried to solve this problem with making the law and order for building operations (public administration) more effective, binding the designing and the implementation to qualification and with standard designs. During the research, the assessment of the designing methodologies of the specific periods was prepared on the basis of the regional identity, the landscape and settlement view, the functional and constructional establishment and the architectural character. I summarized the holiday house architecture of the specific periods in a typological table. The result of the examination may assist to preserve the architectural heritage of the region and to set up the frames of the new building operations.




4. International context


The urbanization that happens on the shore of Lake Balaton shows similarity with the urbanization processes of the European lakes district passing at the same time only on the field of the proportion of the inhabited areas, at the same time, the use of the landscape, the type of the functional and settlement structures are basically different.


With the comparative examination of seven lake districts with European importance (the Lake Geneva [Switzerland], Lake Constance [Switzerland], Lake Garda [Italy], Lake Como [Italy], Lake Müritz [Germany], Lake Lucerne [Switzerland], Lake Zurich [Switzerland]), one could proved that the territory proportion of the built-up density and the quota of the population of the lake-shore and the time of the change equal to the processes revealed at the shore of Lake Balaton but the structure of the changes are significantly different.




Expected impact and further research


On the basis of the historical reconstruction, the further purpose of the research is to define the urbanization processes, the landscape qualities, to characterize the environmental status of the Balaton region. I continuously publish the present results of the research in national and international scholarly journals, beside this, I have the goal to share knowledge with the wider architect trade and the public too; that is the reason why I publish the results of the research on the website that presents the architecture of the region Lake Balaton and I would like to publish in a professional book about the architecture of the lake-shore supporting the protection of the built heritage and the development of the region, the improvement of the quality of the architecture.




Publications:  official list of publications >







publicatoins in English

academia.edu >


official list of publications

vm.mtmt.hu >


gta ethz

gta.arch.ethz.ch >


bute urban planning and design

urb.bme.hu >


research grant

doktori.bme.hu >













© Wettstein Domonkos 2013

mail: wettstein.domonkos@gmail.com    

web: http://www.wettstein.hu/en