Construct and Ilse Crawford work on Hungarian arts venue

Construct and Ilse Crawford’s consultancy Studio Ilse are branding and creating interiors respectively for a new arts venue in Budapest, Hungary. Sitting in the Buda Hills above the city, Villa Budapest will feature a theatre, an art gallery, a bar and a ‘salon’, as well as a restaurant run by British restaurateur Mark Mosimann.

Hungarian entrepreneur and Villa Budapest owner Botond Bognár appointed Construct a year ago, without a pitch, after meeting the group at a luxury industry event. He tasked the consultancy with branding the venue, advising on its content and helping to run a pitch to find an interior designer.

Construct and Bognár appointed Studio Ilse in December last year. Crawford’s group beat fellow shortlisted consultancies Tom Dixon, Universal Design Studio and David Collins Studio in a paid creative pitch, winning the brief to design two floors of the four-level venue.

‘Crawford understood the role that this place could potentially have for the city,’ says Construct founder Georgia Fendley. ‘This project is not purely commercial, it has a cultural agenda as well, and will be a place where international culture will meet local culture.’

Fendley claims that there is ‘every possibility’ that other interior designers, including those that lost out to Studio Ilse on the shortlist, might return to do ‘other aspects of the project – possibly more buildings [and] more product – as it expands’.

Japanese architect Tadao Ando is designing ‘all the interior structures’, according to Fendley, including all linking spaces and the back-of-house area. He is also designing the fourth floor, which houses the bar, and the basement level, where the theatre will be. Crawford is creating the two middle floors of the building, which contain the restaurant and the salon.

The new building occupies the site of a 19th-century villa, which the local planning department stipulated should be faithfully reconstructed, limiting Ando and Crawford in terms of space.

However, the basement is new, and incorporates the remains of a 500-year-old Turkish fortress, a section of which will form part of the theatre’s auditorium.

The restaurant consists of a 140m2 room divided into three spaces, while the salon will be approximately the same size, and will host events and be available for hire.

Crawford says, ‘We are going to translate Hungary’s roots in a contemporary way in the interiors. On the outside, the building is a stripped-back version of the traditional original, but on the inside we want to make it more brutal’.

However, the colour palette, says Crawford, will reflect the ‘psychedelic colours’ of Hungary. ‘We have a fantastic purple-and-green chair on the wall, and the palette will be very intense,’ she says.

Studio Ilse is also designing bespoke furniture pieces ‘that will support conversation’, says Crawford. ‘Sofas are rubbish for conversation because you sit next to each other, so our furniture will be light and easily moved around, just as it was in the salons of 18th- and 19th-century Budapest,’ she says.

Villa Budapest will open in phases over the next two years.


  • Budapest Design Week takes place from 2-11 October
  • ‘Ruin bars’ are popping up in derelict and empty buildings across the capital, featuring music, art shows and films
  • Local architect Jozsef Kerény rebuilt Villa Budapest
  • Hungarian architect Péter Bordás is the villa’s executive architect

Latest articles