Faultless Kemenes Volcanopark Visitor Center completed by Foldes Architects
Plumes of choking ash, creeping fingers of blisteringly hot lava and the often unexpected bolt of white lightening. Despite their ferocious power, there is something about volcanic eruptions that has mesmerised the human population for many thousands of years.
Scores of communities and religions hold volcanoes sacred or draw elements of these unpredictable peaks into their belief systems. In Bali, people often sleep with their heads towards neighbouring volcanoes, residents of Flores are usually buried with their heads towards Mouth Ebulobo and the Aztecs considered Popocatepetl and the mountains of the Sierra Nevada sacred as rain clouds converged on them.
The majesty of a former Hungarian volcano has now been captured by design practice Foldes Architects for the enjoyment and education of the general public. Kemenes Volcanopark Visitor Center is a 932 sq m facility in Vas County, western Hungary near the former Sag Hill volcano. Having opened earlier this year, the €1.2m scheme shies away from the cliché of direct inspiration towards a more subtle representation of the subject material.
Laszlo Foldes, Chief Designer at Foldes Architects explains: “Instead of the straight translation of the brief, such as creating a volcano shaped museum building, we wanted to capture the true substance of the location. According to our concept, the raw materials, the homogenous grey of the concrete, the lava inspiration colour of the corten steel, and the flue-like arrangement of the space, deliver the spirit and essence of a volcano.”
200km west of Budapest, the recently-opened Visitor Park is spread over five storeys. When the public enters the building they can gaze skywards up the stairwell to a small skylight at the top which provides an ‘eruption point’. Rather than letting energy out as in the natural world, Foldes Architects’ eruption point allows energy in in the form of natural light, casting beams down onto the lower floors.
Both inside and out, the Visitor Centre is toned in a specially selected palette designed around volcanic hues. Untreated concrete walls, deep grey flooring, and steel stairs and corridors complete the interior while the grey façade outside is punctuated by corten steel boxes which protrude from the otherwise largely uninterrupted walls.
Once inside, visitors are greeted by a number of different exhibitions. They can learn about the creation and function of earthquakes, volcanoes and geysers, try on the protective suits of volcanologists, study a model of Mount Etna and learn about numerous volcanoes both on Earth and elsewhere in our solar system. Tours are also available for the actual Sag Hill crater, where it is possible to stand within the basin itself and study the many layers of rock created when the former basalt volcano erupted many years ago.