Walking down the streets of Budapest is very different from walking down the streets of Texas. The baroque and neoclassical buildings and have withstood the test of time. If the buildings could talk, they would tell you stories of World Wars and Communist reign. This is very different from America where many old buildings are torn down to put new ones up, preserving little of the past.
“You can’t understand the present if you don’t understand the past,” said Jozsef Sisa, a professor at the Academy of Science in Hungary and author of “Motherland and Progress.”
Building in Hungary takes many more steps than in America. Hungary is particular about what kind of buildings go up and want them to match the aesthetic standard of the area. In America as long as the contractor has permits and the area is zoned for the type of business that is being built then the building can go up.
Building in Texas is fairly easy compared to Budapest where there are six steps. First you obtain a building permit then permits for electricity, plumbing, and mechanics. Then you submit proof of insurance to the city and submit the plans for the building to the city. The final step is inspections. The state of Texas does not require contractors to have a license to build but they require all the sub-contractors such as electricians and plumbers to have a licensed.
“Some cities are very picky, like the city of Plano, but those little Podunk towns will accept almost anything,” said Lynda Hubble, President of I.S. Construction Group, a commercial construction company based in Fort Worth, Texas.
Hungary has 15 steps contractors and businesses must go through to build. The first step is to request and obtain a certificate of ownership to prove the builder owns the plot for the building. The next step is to get approval from the Municipal Planning Board, they will decide if the building complies with the aesthetic standard of the area. Then a slew of authorizations and permits for water, sewer, fire, and construction are obtained. The Land Registry Office requires four inspections once building has begun and then the building is registered with the Land Registry Office.
“Hungarians are obsessed with history and we dwell in it,” said Maria Santha, professor at Eotvos Collegium..
Hungary is rich in history and has passed many laws to preserve its historic buildings. Act IV of 1931 protects historic buildings. Santha said the U.S. has the mentality to tear it down and build something new while Hungarians reuse the old and cherish their history. After World War II many Hungarians didn’t accept or want modern architecture because it reminded them of the communist regime they endured.
Sisa said by building so many new modern buildings the city of Budapest would lose its face. It would become a faceless city that is found anywhere in Europe. It would not have a uniqueness.
“By destroying or tearing down historic buildings you lose Budapest,” said Sisa.
By destroying and tearing down historic buildings America builds itself and feeds it’s obsession with the new.