Architectural ceramics

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The Zsolnay Porcelain Manufacture produced architectural ceramics from the very beginning of its activity, and the second half of the 1870s saw a huge upturn. The first important order of the factory was linked to the building of Várbazár (Castle Bazaar) designed by Miklós Ybl then a fruitful working relationship was established with Imre Steindl, one of the most important architects of this era. Imre Steindl designed amongst others the Parliament building where pyrogranite was first used.

Various colouring agents can be added to the pyrogranite material itself, or it can also be glazed to be used in versatile ways both on external façades and in building interiors. 

Pyrogranite was often used in the reconstruction of heritage buildings at the time, such as the building of Matthias Church, where the colourful roof tiles, the gargoyles, the façade ornaments, the flooring, and the candelabra decorating the interior of the building were all manufactured in the Pécs factory.

Ödön Lechner, the internationally acclaimed artist of Hungarian Secession, based his distinctive style on this material—and used it on landmark buildings like the Geological Institute of Hungary, the Museum of Applied Arts, and the Royal Postal Savings Bank (Postatakarék).


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Several landmark buildings, including the Parliament building and the Museum of Applied Arts, demonstrate the exceptional achievements of the Zsolnay factory in the production of architectural ceramics.

Zsolnay architectural ceramics were widely used and became dominant on public buildings in Budapest and several other cities, mostly at the turn of the century.

 

The number of buildings decorated with Zsolnay ceramics in the territory of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy exceeds 250. An important amount of Zsolnay external and internal architectural design elements can be found in Austria, Croatia, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Serbia, and Ukraine, but the creations of the factory reach as far as the church building of Johnstown in the United States.

They include some important and well-known buildings such as the townhall of Subotica and the Raichle-palace, the townhall of Targu Mures or other landmark buildings in the towns of Kecskemét, Debrecen, Pécs or Kiskunfélegyháza. Numerous buildings erected in the style of Historicism, the battlements of building façades, Secession style palaces, the eosin glaze and architectural ceramics all evoke the careful craftsmanship of the Zsolnay factory.

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For the aristocracy of the Monarchy, it was a matter of prestige to order tailor-made ornaments to decorate their castles, and they also ordered porcelain that was manufactured specifically for high society. Baron Rothschild ordered a whole set decorated with orchids, his favourite flowers.

Vienna was a particularly important scene of Zsolnay ceramics, given that the products of the manufacture can be found on every important building all over in the city. Just to name a few: the façade of the old building of the Polyclinic, the Portois and Fix Department Store, the special, orientalising façade of the Zacherl factory or the old headquarters of the Equitable Insurance Company.

A copy of the orientalising towers of the Zacherl factory and the architectural ceramics of the inner courtyard in the headquarters of the Equitable Insurance Company can also be found in the Zsolnay Cultural District of Pécs as well.

The house of the well-known Austrian architect of Secession Joseph Maria Olbrich at the artists’ colony of Darmstadt has also been decorated with Zsolnay ceramics. However, this information was hardly known until the design drawings with “whiplash motifs” have not been found in one of the Terracotta books of the Zsolnay factory in Pécs based on which the glazed ceramic tiles were made. It was also thanks to some other drawings found in the Terracotta book that the Zsolnay decorations of the water tower of District X in Vienna, designed in the manner of Historicism were identified. It has been revealed that it is surrounded by a band made of ceramics as specified by the design drawings of Pécs.

We can conclude that the architectural landscape of Hungary was significantly influenced by the activity of the Zsolnay manufacture given that ornaments manufactured by the factory can be found on all important buildings. A number of landmark buildings, including the Parliament building and the Museum of Applied Arts, demonstrate the exceptional achievements of the Zsolnay factory in the production of architectural ceramics.

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