I started my countdown of the top ten reasons why I love living in Budapest back in 2010 and never made it quite past No. 4. That’s not to say that the last year or so hasn’t given me reason to change my mind – but I’ve hardly been here. I’ve been back a month now, without any trips, and am finally rediscovering what’s so great about. So different. So unique.There is an abbreviation that is bandied about by some in Budapest – OIH – used to describe certain things about life in the city that could happen only in Hungary. Other than the language, methinks that everything that happens here, happens somewhere else as well. I’ve had crap customer service here; I’ve had crap customer service in Ireland. I’ve had to deal with bureauracy here; I’ve had to deal with bureauracy in the States. I’ve heard tales of crooked politicians and dubious deals that could have happened the world over – just with a cast of different actors speaking a different language. I’m under no illusions about this city, or this country; I have my moments of doubt and worry and concern about its future.
But I live here by choice. And one of the many reasons I find it so engaging is that so often it simply doesn’t make sense. Just when you think you have a handle on it, it literally defies all reason. Quintus Horatius Flaccus, a Roman poet from about 65 BC suggested we ‘mix a little foolishness with [our] serious plans; it’s lovely to be silly at the right moment.’ The National Theatre is one fine example of how Flaccus was taken literally, by someone. When I first saw it back in 2007, I was pretty impressed at the audacity of it; the brazenness. But as the giant corporates have pitched their offices right next door and are gradually encroaching on the garden-cum-statue park, it simply begs the question: where are the planners?
We architects and urban planners aren’t the visible symbols of oppression, like the military or the police. We’re more sophisticated, more educated, and more socially conscious. We’re the soft cops.
– Robert Goodman, After the Planners