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CEUʼs Budapest campus vies for RIBA International Prize

New buildings of the Budapest campus of the Central European University (CEU) at Nádor utca 13 and 15 have been named among four finalists for the International Prize of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), an award honoring the world’s best new buildings, according to the universityʼs official website.

The campus was completed in 2016. Located within a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the EUR 21 million project is a good example of contextual architecture, a mixture of new and refurbished structures that matches the city’s past, according to CEU.

RIBA praised the universityʼs buildings for having "architectural éclat but great modesty." A combination of local and international forms reflects the school’s global outlook; the visibility between floors – set around a soaring light-filled atrium – promotes transparency; and the interconnected glass-roofed courtyards are designed to encourage cross-disciplinary collaboration and debate.

"This is an exceptionally fine urban campus with few compromises providing a wonderful stage for the university and the city. The building has become the architectural platform for the preservation of the values that the university espouses - transparency, community, higher education and democracy. Spaces like the auditorium have assumed a public symbolic role in the fight for the university’s preservation," RIBA writes, referring to CEUʼs ongoing battle for survival in the face of much-publicized attacks from the current Hungarian government, which have drawn international condemnation and triggered an infringement procedure launched by the European Commission.

The architects, Sheila O’Donnell and John Tuomey of O’Donnell and Tuomey, are professors at University College Dublin. Since the university and its academic future are under threat arising from the dispute with the government, the designers’ next stage, which would create a pathway from the entrance building to the street behind, is now on hold indefinitely, reports. 

According to a citation on the RIBA website, the main contractor for the project was a consortium of Market Építő Zrt. and Strabag-MML Kft., with KENESE Mérnöki Iroda Kft. serving as structural engineers.