Organically representing art in architecture and transforming the existence within residential buildings into a real experience. In this spirit, the Poet’s Garden project in Buda, which operates with numerous unique solutions not only in its visual appearance but also in its details, was created, and KAV was responsible for the window and door solutions. We had a conversation with Nikos Ziszidis, CEO of ETNA Kft., who executed the final construction of this globally unique architectural complex.
How did you become involved in the Poet’s Garden project?
The unconventional concept of Poet’s Garden villas was conceived many years ago by Gábor Városi, on the steep hillside between Költő and Hangya Streets. His vision was to build something that, at first glance, most people would say is impossible. So, the starting point was a kind of artistic provocation, as Gábor himself often says. Very interesting cubes were created, with a large portion made of glass and another part made of steel frame lattice. Therefore, even the plans were not based on traditional principles of houses but were sculptural artworks that stand out from the forested hillside, facing the panorama. The interior spaces are also bordered by huge glass surfaces, creating an impressive effect. Initially, an upper row of villas was organically connected to this project, inspired by villa parks in Los Angeles or Milan. We were already the construction team in 2018 for similar projects, including a neighboring house. Everyone could see that there was order and quality in our constructions on the site. Personally, I believe that as above, so below. You can draw authentic conclusions from how our desk looks, our shoes, or even our construction, as they reflect how we approach things. If there is no order around us, there is no order in our minds. Everyone needs to see the goal, what we are building, what the house will be capable of. Because even the best plans may require changes during construction. Returning to Poet’s Garden, one day Gábor Városi invited me for coffee and told me that we had come to this area the latest, and our houses were practically ready. However, the construction was stalling for him, so he asked if we were interested in taking over. Previous contractors had difficulty realizing the design and building concept, which Gábor truly appreciates. Initially, we only provided advice, but eventually, we took over the construction.
What makes this project unique?
The cubes are unique, and the environment is challenging because the buildings are on a hillside, making organization more complex. Poet’s Garden has details that are truly unlike any other buildings. I believe that many contractors would struggle to incorporate these into their operational mechanisms. We can do it because that’s what I’m looking for. I’m not an executor type; I’m not the type who says, “I received this much money, so this is what can be done.” When the right framework is in place, we stay until I feel the house is 100 percent complete. If something needs to be rethought, we handle it. I love projects where I sit in a team with the designer and the client, and together we define the goal, what we want to achieve. If I know what they want to accomplish, I can put more effort into the construction. After joining the project, in the first year, we only assisted, but there were many inherited contractors from the previous construction, so I felt like a bit of an orchestra conductor with one arm. We couldn’t work in the mindset we’re used to. Then there was a break, during which I said that I could only hand over this house if I have full control. A financier also joined the project, providing the framework necessary for us to finish Poet’s Garden while preserving the artistic imagination. In five months, we made as much progress as had previously been achieved in 2-3 years in this project. We obtained the occupancy permit very quickly, and the final details fell into place after that.
Were there any ideas that were realized with your involvement?
Yes, we were able to add many fine details. For example, the green strip above the buildings, where a landscaper designed a grove, and Gábor didn’t have serious plans for it before. When the lower terraces and the built environment were completed, I realized that this is practically a postcard that we see. The panorama, the cubes, the trees, and the blue sky, only a roof terrace was missing. Fortunately, there was a demand for rooftop terraces from the clients, so we jointly created a fabulous Sky terrace. The other idea was the lower pedestrian path. Poet’s Garden consists of six double apartments, with a large underground garage below. We are on the hillside, so people rarely walk here. However, at the parallel pedestrian entrance on Hangya Street, we placed artworks, and there are illuminated ledges where 50-year-old oak trees hang over the road, along with multicolored plants we planted. This walkway became one of the most beautiful parts of the building; people even gathered there at the opening. So, there are parts that reveal themselves during construction, and we must recognize them. This project involved cooperation where we had to understand the visionary and the artist, and then strategically place the processes accordingly. Our involvement provided a framework for the project.
KAV was already well into the process at that point.
Yes, KAV was already involved in the creative design of Poet’s Garden; they had already installed most of the windows and skylights when we joined the project. They were at about 80-90 percent completion. The project was missing someone overseeing the operations, and the contractors felt that someone was missing who could explain the specifics alongside the vision. When we joined the process, KAV welcomed our approach to explore topics that no one had ventured into in this project before, such as primary and secondary insulation.
Where do you place this project in your professional life with ETNA?
What I didn’t like about this project is that someone had already started it before us. It’s better if the same construction company does the work from the beginning, because if a project goes through many hands, important information can be lost or left without a leader. However, when I first entered the garage and then the building and saw the small details that Gábor Városi and Szabolcs Nagy-Miticzky had worked out, I knew we had to get involved. I also liked Gábor’s vision a lot: when someone lives here, from the moment they leave their apartment until they reach their car, they experience small emotional moments in the house that make them feel better. This kind of goal is rare in the construction industry, and I don’t understand why others don’t do it this way. In Poet’s Garden, even the supposedly more boring functional spaces turn into experiences. That’s why I said I definitely want to be part of this. With all its handicaps and difficulties, I really love this project.