Building in building: Bálna Budapest
Posted by Katalin Török · Jul 7, 2014

Non-standard architecture – a trend we are not too familiar yet. Bálna is a great example: it’s not only a building combining different eras’ architecture, but also a remarkable spectacle on the Pest side of the Danube, that can be interpreted as a sculpture of the 21st Century.

Staring at the modern building of Bálna, with the shape of a whale (that’s where the name comes from), it looks like one of the most modern places in its area. Nehru-coast was always an important hub of the city – back in the 19th century, a lot of mills were built in Budapest, and the need of a facility that serves the increased demand of delivery of goods became urgent. In 1881, four warehouses were built, and a few years later, the Elevator House – one that managed loading and reloading of boats. In World War II, this building was bombed, and only three of the warehouses remained – two of which represents the base of Bálna today.


The visually unique building was built between 2009-2013, and it opened its gates last November. The 27.000 squaremeter investment used the old buildings as a base and the building that undoubtedly defines the cityscape was designed by Kas Oosterhuis. The historical brick buildings and the concrete structures typical of the last century are embraced in a computer designed metal-glass shell, giving the place a modern twist.

photo: Mihály Majtényi /

The custom-designed glass shell stretches across the old warehouse buildings and forms a gallery that unites the old and new structures. The use of the building is versatile: it’s a leisure center – culturally, commercially, and entertainment-wise as well. With cafés and restaurants, it makes a real connection between the Danube and the city. It connects downtown and inner Ferencváros, the tourist zone and the gastro-zone. Various shops and markets are in Bálna, and on the first floor, there’s a huge conference hall, which is capable of accepting diverse cultural programmes, such as concerts or performances.

The building gives home to New Budapest Gallery, one of the largest non-profit galleries in Budapest. It focuses on contemporary art, both Hungarian and international, but it also hosts exhibitions that present works of art from the classical avant-garde period, the interwar years, and the forties and the sixties.


The building itself looks fascinating, but the view from it to the city is breathtaking. There’s a secret viewpoint in Bálna that gives you an unforgettable sight of Budapest – if you go there, ask for it, it can’t be seen from outside.

For mor details, visit Bálna Budapest.

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