Towards towers

Towers are like exclamation marks at the end of sentences: they close down but also emphasize. A tower is a functional element in architecture; in sacral meaning: a form that links the sky and the earth. A tower is always a direction indicator, drawing attention, whether it is the ornament of a church, a reservoir or a transmission tower forwarding radio waves. Towers play the lead this week. Have a nice browsing!

The tower as a symbol

Magd_02.jpgA high building with small floorspace provides connection between the sky and the earth like a ladder. A tower is also an evident symbol of proudness, power and elevation above the average. Besides a church and a sanctuary, a tower indicates the degrees of elevating from the worldly towards the divine as well. Church towers have little practical importance probably, but they are very typical, because a tower almost rules a landscape. The oldest examples of tower building were all sacral from the Mesopotamian culture to the Italian cathedrals.

There is no church without a tower – or is there?

Joseph II of Austria’s grace regulation issued in 1781 shows well how cardinal question it was. The emperor ensured not only freer practice of religion to his protestant and orthodox catholic subjects, but also allowed them to build churches for themselves on settlements with more than a hundred families. Thus, they could practice their religion freely. In the meantime, he did not allow building towers on these churches or putting bells in them; but after five years, he permitted it anyway. A tower as a tool of drawing attention tells a lot about the subsequent church-building customs and rivalry of churches. You can observe that even protestant churches were often inspired by catholic forms. If the rumour is true, the tower of the catholic Cathedral of Kecskemét was designed to be higher than that of the nearby reformed church intentionally.

Tower blocks or high buildings

ttea_19xxxxxx_xx_152.jpgProbably, the High Building of Pécs was the most famous one among the Hungarian high buildings. It was called this way, despite its height of 84 metres, and belonged to the tower block category. High buildings are between 30 and 60 metres, while tower blocks are between 60 and 95 metres. The house could fulfil its function for only 13 years: the first dwellers moved in in 1977 and the last ones moved out in 1990. Its story is well known perhaps; the iron structure of the 25-storey building made by Yugoslavian technology started corroding. It is unknown what went wrong when constructors used the technology, but after a long wrangling, they demolished the building by October 2016.

Obviously, constructing high buildings in Hungary was not generated by high property prices, but rather by the flat misery and communist party secretaries’ show-off according to talemongers. If that had not happen, there would not be iconic high buildings in Salgótarján, Gyöngyös, Debrecen, Miskolc or Szolnok. The high building and tower block plans are still regarded as prestige investments just like in the seventies. According to architects, almost all big cities fight their battles in this case. Budapest has done it recently. The new headquarters of the MOL group will be built in the Lágymányos Bay of the Danube. Investors say that an 83-metre-high building will not disturb the world heritage view and the city will gain an office complex that it has never seen before. One thing is certain, if it is constructed, it will be the symbol of the new district.

In the spirit of functionality

The functional utilization of towers does not need introduction: there are transmission towers, reservoirs and TV towers.






Mojzer Miklós, Torony, kupola, kolonnád, In: Művészettörténeti füzetek, Akadémiai Kiadó, Bp., 1971.

Translated by Zita Aknai


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