The River Keeps The Score

Religiously Relinking to Budapest’s Danube River

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For millennia, humans have lived, constructed, and cultivated along the banks of rivers. Rivers are the genius loci of these riverside cities, embodying the spirit of the place and its people. Rivers have been the source of life upon which civilization was built: providing water, power, and transport, but are also spiritually deeply meaningful for many cultures and religions around the world. It is within this context that my graduation project focuses on the urban landscape of the Danube River in Budapest, Hungary, exploring its spiritual significance.

Despite being a daily presence for the city's inhabitants, the connection between the people and the river has been lost over time due to infrastructure and urbanization. This project aims to relink the people of Budapest to the river, fostering a deeper spiritual awareness, and appreciation for the river as a living, breathing embodiment of Budapest's past, present, and future.

Just as human bodies embody the imprints of traumatic experiences, so does the river retain the memory of the place. By viewing the river as a body of water, like the human body, the river keeps the score of the city, as a repository of collective history.

Religion is understood not only as the institutionalized systems of beliefs that operate in the world today, but also with the origin of the word. Its etymology, derived from the Latin "religare," meaning "to put together what has previously been separated," captures the essence of this project's objective, throughout all scales.

The program consists of a museum and a chapel: the first being a place for the muses, a place of revelation and (re)discovery; the latter as a sanctuary of contemplation. Their purpose is to reveal, to show again, the river's significance from different perspectives.

The museum is situated perpendicular on the riverbank of Óbudai Island, revealing the river flowing alongside the city against a backdrop of the mountains. The chapel, located on the tip of Margaret Island, reveals the diverging river as part of the horizon and the sky. The route from one to the other acts as a filter of the river, alternating between moments of covering and revealing, sharp and subtle contrasts. From the flowing river to the majestic mountains, from the vibrant cityscape to the expansive horizon and vast skies, the journey offers a series of panoramic scenes.

This design proposal aims to be meaningful for the collective of Budapest in re-evaluating our relationship with the nature from which our city originated. Its essence is religious, in the linking of the islands, of two buildings, of materials, and of the humans with the landscape. The project reveals the outward landscape of the city, abstracting it in the architecture; allowing the human to empathize with it, and with our inner selves and place on this earth.