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The most expensive is the line. András Borsos is interviewed by Dominika Drozdowska

23 of August '22

András Borsos talks about quality, education and... one's own single-family home is told by András Borsos, curator of the V4 Family Houses exhibition, which was presented at the Cracow branch of SARP in March this year.

Dominika Drozdowska: It all started in 2008.

András Borsos: Yes, the V4 Family Houses exhibition has been organized for fifteen years, and is the result of cooperation between architectural associations from Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland, i.e. the Visegrad Group countries, and the Faculty of Architecture at the Czech Technical University in Prague. Initially, each country was represented by ten projects, and now the jury selects the four best single-family houses from each country. The exhibition travels around Europe: we started in Budapest in December, then there was Prague, then Krakow, Bratislava and Kosice. Over the years we have also shown it in other cities outside the Visegrad Group area, such as Bucharest and Ljubljana. The leader of the project is the Association of Hungarian Architects, which provides the main source of funding, but we also raise funds from the International Visegrad Fund. Last year, due to the pandemic, the exhibition was presented virtually and can still be viewed today.

Dominica:Why did you decide to present specifically single-family houses?

András: The scope of the exhibition was decided even before I took charge of the event. I think it's a good comparative platform. Single-family houses are quite common, of similar scale or size, so it's easy to compare ideas and realizations in countries in our region.

Cut House | POZ_4

Cut House | POZ_4

© Bartłomiej Bajon, Katarzyna Cynka - Bajon | photo by Tom Kurek.

Dominica:That's right, the Visegrad Group countries are neighbors, so looking at the presented projects, you can find many similarities. Do you also see any differences?

András: Yes, first of all in terms of climate, because this is an aspect that is a differentiator despite the proximity of these countries. A house built on the Baltic Sea will be different, and another in southern Hungary. A dozen years ago, when we started cooperation in the exhibition between the Visegrad Four countries, an additional difference was quality. At the beginning of the history of our exhibition, you could see that houses designed and built in the Czech Republic were of a much higher standard. Nowadays, these differences have blurred and it can be said that there is a common Central European architectural language of equally good quality.

Drewniany dom na łące

Wooden house in a meadow

© Ultra Architects | photo by Przemyslaw Turlej

Dominica:What are the common features of this language?

András: Single-family houses in this region of Europe are built mainly of wood and brick. The styles vary: from high-tech, to modernist minimalism, to a vernacular approach. Context and setting in the landscape is always important, no matter whether urban or rural - Central European houses fit well into their found surroundings. In my opinion, the buildings we present are characteristic of our region and would not likely have been built in the UK or Spain, for example.

Dominika:I would add significant glazing, which makes the interiors bright and light. At the same time, the presented houses are so similar that without signatures it would be difficult to determine their exact origins.

András: This is an interesting idea. Indeed, we could be tempted to play with it in this way. When we started, in 2008, it was much easier to guess the location of a given building. Now that the architectural level has leveled off, it's much more difficult.

House V

House V

© Matej Hakár | photo by Martin Skoček

Dominica:Architects today also face very different challenges than they did fifteen years ago. Which of these are the most important for architects in our region of Europe?

András: In my opinion, it's sustainability and climate change. Anyway, some of the buildings presented in our exhibition respond to these problems through an appropriate layout that works with sunlight, the use of modern heating systems or the form of the building. More houses are also more compact now than they were fifteen years ago. After all, maintenance and heating costs are getting higher, and the source of that heating may prove problematic, as is now happening with Russian gas.

Dom jednorodziny utworzony ze stuletniej stodoły

A single-family house created from a century-old barn

© Eliška Turanská | photo by Eliška Turanská

Dominika:How can you make sure that more houses of such quality as those presented at the V4 Family Houses exhibition are built in our part of Europe?

András: Well, first of all it's a question of education. A single-family house says a lot about its owner. It should also be made clear: the houses selected for our exhibition do not represent the average architecture from our region - they exemplify the best in the V4 Group countries. And this is also our idea - we want to promote and educate about the best standards of single-family architecture. We are now working on the publication of a book that will present the best projects from the previous six years. The second important issue is cost. As an investor financing a project, you may see nothing but a spreadsheet. While it is of course possible to create a small house of great architectural quality, over the years we have presented houses ranging from 120 to even 600 square meters. It is not the size of your wallet that determines the elegance and solidity of the building. However, one should not forget about the budget, which is simply inherent in design. However, I believe that solutions and ideas are equally important, and the most expensive building material is line. A line that is the beginning of an idea and concept.

Dominica:What is your favorite house from the V4 Family Houses exhibition?

András: I particularly remember the single-family house from Hungary presented at this year's exhibition, the Klapka House in Dabas, designed by Ádám Balog. It was built in a small village near Budapest. It's a rather minimalist box that looks quite different from the rest of the houses in the area. I think this house changed the character of the street where it was built. This is something that appeals to me. By creating a building, you set an example for others, and this is also a form of education.

Dom rodzinny

Family house

© Ateliér Lina Bellovičová | photo Boysplaynice

Dominika:And you - do you live in a single-family home?

András: Yes, I live in a single-family house together with my wife and son. Our two children have already moved out of it. The garage is no longer used for us to store our cars, but as a bicycle workshop for my son, who deals professionally with unicycles. In the summer I like to sit on the terrace, in the sunshine, and enjoy a glass of cold beer. The house is brick, with a portal, finished with wood. We built it in the 1990s together with family, friends and acquaintances.
Dominica:You can say that it's a real single-family house with a soul and its own history! It's also interesting to see how the space can be adapted to the changing needs of the homeowners.

András: It's true. Family life is changing, so it's good to design a house in such a way that it keeps up with these changes or can easily hit the housing market. Looking at our example, for example - when our children moved out, we decided to separate the first floor and the attic of the house to create two independent units. My wife and I live downstairs, and the attic belongs to our son. But I also know of other stories. An elderly acquaintance sold a large apartment and moved to a smaller one that she was able to maintain and that better suited her current needs. Looking at it from yet another perspective - if you have built a house tailored to your individual needs, it can be difficult to put it on the housing market and sell it later. It's good to think about such challenges already at the design stage.

Dom rodzinny

Family home

© Tomáš Pilař, Ladislav Kuba, Norbert Walter

Dominika:The exhibition you curated is now in its fifteenth year. How do you see its future?

András: I think the cooperation within the framework of the Visegrad Four Architectural Partnership of architectural associations from the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland is a great success. It is a good tradition that I would like to continue. As I open exhibitions in more countries, I look forward immensely to meeting my friends from the Visegrad Group. A lot of things are changing, but what is most important is the opportunity to build common ties and cooperation across divides. This is probably the most valuable effect of our exhibition, which I hope will continue.

Dominica:Thank you for the interview.

Dom pływający Sneci

Sneci floating house

© Bene Tamás | photo by Máté Balázs

interviewed by Dominika Drozdowska

Illustrations provided courtesy of the organizers of the V4 Family Houses exhibition.

András Borsos - Hungarian architect. Curator of an exhibition presenting the best single-family houses from the V4 Family Houses of the Visegrad Group countries.

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