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5 - Organicist Modern and Super-Natural Organicism

Fehérváry, Krisztina Indiana University Press ePub

THE IDEAL OF modern, urban apartment living was, almost from the start, complemented by ownership of a summer cottage (nyaraló) or weekend getaway (hétvégi ház), sometimes called a víkend ház.1 In the early 1960s, the state amended the “one-family, one-house” rule to allow additional ownership of a small, unheated cottage on a plot of land. Such cottages could not be used as a permanent home address and, unlike the primary residence, were subject to a small property tax. Members of Dunaújváros's professional class acquired tiny summer cottages by Lake Balaton or little weekend houses near the Danube, where Budapest's gentry used to have summer villas. Some had plumbing, others only an outhouse. Many working-class city dwellers bought vegetable plots further from the river as a source of extra cash or to supplement their household diets. These “hobby gardens” (hobbi kert) might have a tiny cottage on them, but just as often they had only a toolshed and some cooking utensils.

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7 - The New Family House and the New Middle Class

Fehérváry, Krisztina Indiana University Press ePub

In Dunaújváros, the old village sector of Pentele, once run down and neglected, quickly became one of the most prestigious places in town to live. With its newly paved or cobbled streets, renovated Catholic church and manor house, and recently opened private bakery, it was the only part of town that could be transformed into a piece of (presocialist) historic Hungary. The city's emerging elites had the connections and finances to buy scarce land here or in the gentrifying Garden City district on which to build their new, eye-catching houses. The breathtaking material difference of these houses from the gray, concrete buildings making up the socialist norm in town aligned them with illegitimate wealth rather than with respectable middle-class status (Plate 7a).

But there was another controversial transformation to the landscape around the new town, one that was emerging throughout the country: small but growing neighborhoods of new, detached family houses on the outskirts of nearby villages (Figures 7.1, 7.3, 7.5, and 7.6). Often painted bright white or in the “ice cream colors” (fagylalt színű) of lemon yellow, apricot, raspberry, pistachio green, and chocolate brown, they also stood out, but here against a rural backdrop of un-painted or soot-stained houses with faded gray and brown roofs. Newly available construction materials, technologies, and labor contributed to their distinctive appearance.1 Unsurprisingly, the eclectic architectural designs of new houses in Hungary in the 1990s, to varying degrees, were material condemnations of the straight-line and the rectilinear form. In subtle or dramatic fashion, these new houses incorporated organic, rounded, and often playful forms into their façades, including undulating roofs, convex mirrored glass, round columns, and arched windows. They also made prominent use of “natural” materials, such as wood, stone, and even reed thatch (Plates 8a and 8b). But these houses also marked their difference from their rural peasant or working-class neighbors through the material forms of the house and the new, leisure lifestyles they represented. Their cultivated lawns, gazebos, and rock gardens made them anathema to the rural peasantry, for whom the multiuse garage, productive garden, or livestock pen indexed a work ethic essential for respectability (Lampland 1995:316–23), but also to an older generation of city dwellers with weekend gardens, who were driven to tend, pick, and preserve whatever grew on their plots.

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6 - Unstable Landscapes of Property, Morality, and Status

Fehérváry, Krisztina Indiana University Press ePub

EARLY IN THIS book, I recounted an incident in which a university student from Dunaújváros nodded out the window of our bus at a silver car speeding by and remarked, “If everyone had a car like that, that would be normal!” In one breath, this young man summed up a complex mixture of expectation and disappointment. As with widespread invocations of a counterfactual “normal” in Hungary, he expressed the socialist middle strata's frustrated expectations for the kind of life they had assumed would be ushered in by democracy and a free market. Simultaneously, he delineated places and kinds of behavior in Hungary that conformed to such expectations. His insistence that “everyone” was entitled to a car like that also highlighted the fact that most people were still sitting on the bus. At the same time, these people could see that others—often inexplicably—enjoyed not only “normal” material goods and environments but far more lavish ones. Just as disturbing was the emergence of a visible homeless population as well as the regular sight of impoverished pensioners selling small, straggly bouquets of daisies on street corners.

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3 - Socialist Modern and the Production of Demanding Citizens

Fehérváry, Krisztina Indiana University Press ePub

IN 1963, THE Dunaújváros newspaper published a particularly strident article on home décor, part of a nationwide campaign to convince residents moving into new apartments to rid themselves of their old, heavy furniture and adopt more appropriate tastes for their new surroundings. The author begins with “What there should not be!” She denounces the complete bedroom set, the permanent dining room, the display cabinet, and the “monstrous wardrobe” (Bars 1963). In the “apartment of today,” she proclaims, “furnishings cannot be monofunctional display items but must be useful objects.” They cannot have “useless decorations, carved angels, and twirled columns…. The fashion is clean lines, low sizes…easy to use and clean.” To create the all-important open room plan, “furniture is placed against the wall so that the center is left free…allowing space for movement, work, comfort, hominess.” One multifunctional room, the writer insists, will “better suit the family's time together and the working person's needs,” as long as the residents “avoid all that is superficial.” She concludes by assuring readers that “lighter, brighter forms and colors will satisfy the modern person's demands (igény) for a home.”

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4 - Socialist Generic and the Branding of State Socialism

Fehérváry, Krisztina Indiana University Press ePub

IN THE 1960s, economic reforms injected color, diversity, and forms of abundance into a commercial sphere that had been relatively sparse in the 1950s. The Kádár regime placed new emphasis on quality of life, including the provision of more consumer goods, leisure activities, and forms of entertainment. The department store Luxus opened in Budapest and catered to the segment of the population that wanted and could afford the higher quality and more expensive clothing it offered. At the same time, a chain of new self-service stores appeared, playfully called “ABC” (standing for all the letters in the alphabet) that offered consumers a wide variety of things under one roof and allowed them to access goods without going through a salesclerk. The first state-run warehouse for new furniture opened in Budapest in 1974, called Domus after the Italian design academy (Vadas 1992:183) and in 1976 a new department store chain called Skála opened its glass-clad flagship store in Budapest to great fanfare. The Skála was different from existing department stores in that its wares were supplied by new and more independent cooperative workshops (szövetkezet), making for more diverse offerings than previously possible through central planning channels. The Dunaújváros branch of the Skála was housed in a large, windowless set of cubes in a sienna orange. State-sponsored commercial media expanded, including the use of neon signs and television advertising; so did apolitical print media, such as magazines for car aficionados, fisherman, and photographers, as well as for cooking and women's fashion.

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