Landscapes

Budapest South Gate Masterplan: Ecological Concepts for a New City District

Snøhetta’s proposal for a new city district on a brownfield site in the Hungarian capital of Budapest centers on the deliberate use of water to define the site and drive its environmental approach. Designed for density, this urban vision creates a distinct identity for this new urban quarter next to the water.

Central to the identity of Budapest is the Danube, Europe’s second-longest river that runs through ten countries. Yet the city’s streets, public transport infrastructure, and ferry moorings impede access to the river in the center of the city, making direct contact with the water nearly impossible. 

Snøhetta’s masterplan for a new district, located only a few kilometers south of the city center, involves water as an element that shapes the city, and creates a vibrant space in direct relation to the river.  The new district of the city, which is being built on a 135-hectare urban wasteland, is given the character of a peninsula.

The site along the Ráckevei Soroksári Duna (RSD), a former tributary of the Danube, is independent of the dynamics of the current as a result of a lock, and additional new canals will facilitate direct contact with the water. 

In addition to the proximity to the river, the masterplan focuses on density and a mix of uses, on accessible public space and diversity of buildings, and on references to the existing city and integration of natural dynamics within the built structures. It is based on a strong concept with a focus on future users and current challenges, such as the effects of climate change. 

The district is structured by a new blue-green infrastructure. It creates recreational spaces and public squares as well as retention and drainage areas, and it processes rain and surface water. The purified water is then channeled into the tributary of the Danube and thereby released into the natural circulation of water. 

Green roofs and run-off channels, along with rain gardens and plant-based purification systems, are part of this blue-green infrastructure, which also ensures a comfortable microclimate, prevents heat islands from forming, and increases biodiversity in the city.

Upon completion, roughly 16,000 people, out of which around 12,000 are students, will live in the densely built district. Moreover, an additional 15,000 people will work there. The urban structure is shaped by both multifunctional open spaces like streets, boulevards, and squares as well as interpretations of the urban block. The building development varies in density, height, and use to facilitate a multifaceted and diverse urban character. 

In the construction and operation of the new buildings, particular attention is given to ecological concepts and the reduction of the embodied energy in the materials used. The mobility concepts focus on public transport, cyclists, and pedestrians.

The former market hall will be a highlight in the urban fabric as a historical relict and a cultural building for the future. In turn, a spacious public plaza connects to the river.

A new cultural building on the southern tip of the peninsula serves as an additional landmark. On the opposite riverbank, extensive park landscapes, sports facilities, and a natural riverbank come together.

The master plan for the 135-hectare South Gate site is based on innovative approaches to sustainable urban development and reinterprets well-known principles of European cities. The vision holds the structural and urban prerequisites for the new district to develop into a vibrant, accessible, and enjoyable part of the city for the citizens of Budapest and beyond.

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