CEU building receives architecture prize; university might be forced to move

The highly regarded Central European University (CEU) recently completed a new building in downtown Budapest which was named among the four finalists in the Royal Institute of British Architects International Prize, an award honoring the world’s best new buildings.

The new structure is considered “a triumph of contextual architecture — a mixture of new and refurbished structures that delicately nod to the city’s past.” CEU hired clever architects, Sheila O’Donnell and John Tuomey and the team created something special.

The university is under siege by the Orbán government and might have to move to Vienna, Austria and leave their new headquarters. The institution was founded by Hungarian American billionaire, George Soros who became the personal target of Prime Minister Orbán who claims that he seeks to undermine Hungary’s national ethos. According to the Anti-Defamation League the vehemence of the anti-Soros campaigns is “chilling” and the Soros posters that appeared in Budapest last summer reminded many observers of Nazi-era propaganda. (Read more)

CEU also became the subject of a vicious media and legislative attack. “We’re being forced out of a country that’s been our home for 26 years,” said CEU president, Michael Ignatieff. If the Orbán government does not revoke its legislation the university’s decision to move to Austria will come into effect on December 1 of this year. CEU’s board already voted to open a satellite campus in Vienna that could be ready by 2019. The university’s legal status currently is uncertain and the situation for students and staff is becoming untenable. A report today in The New York Times co-written by Budapest-based journalist Benjamin Novak and Warsaw-based Marc Santora noted: “university officials said they would stop admitting new students in Budapest after failing to resolve a dispute with the government over a new law that appeared to require it to open a branch in the United States. Central European University is accredited in Hungary and the United States…For 18 months, we have defended our right to remain as a U.S. degree-granting institution in Budapest, but we are unable to secure the guarantees we need from the Hungarian government to preserve our academic freedom,” the university’s president, Michael Ignatieff, said at a news conference in the Hungarian capital. Mr. Ignatieff said that the university’s central operations would be moved to Vienna.”

US Ambassador David Cornstein expressed displeasure with the Hungarian actions. We urge him to put the Orbán government on notice and make it clear that forcing the closure of CEU, a US accredited institution will seriously damage Hungarian-US relations. I can assure Amb. Cornstein that the vast majority of Hungarian Americans support CEU and are appalled by the actions of the Orbán government.

Here are some photos of the award winning building.

György Lázár

CEU Budapest

CEU Budapest

CEU Budapest

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