The Yellow-Star Houses Of Budapest – Nigel Swann

Architectural Association / Zelda Cheatle, 14 November – 12 December 2015

In 1944 new laws in occupied Hungary forced all Budapest’s Jewish citizens to wear a yellow star and to live under curfew in a designated house also marked with a yellow star. Across the city there were almost 2,000 such houses, accommodating around 220,000 people. These houses were unique to Budapest, and although around 1,600 former yellow-star properties are still in residential use today, their history was largely unknown. Photographer Nigel Swann documented Budapest’s inner city districts over a recent ten year period, with many of his images – unbeknownst to him – being former yellowstar houses. When an official list of these houses was finally published in 2014 on, Swann returned and rephotographed these significant locations.

‘Budapest is home today to around 1,735,000 people. One of them is the Irish photographer Nigel Swann, who has been living in this fine city, on and off, for over ten years. On his daily walks around the inner districts, Nigel has photographed the entrances to hundreds of apartment blocks, their doors together with the letterboxes, doorbells, metal grating, advertisements, vitrines, graffiti, and façades in various states of disrepair. Many of these houses were built during the patriotic, optimistic construction boom of the 1880s and 1890s, others are early Art Deco masterpieces, while later buildings were the pioneering works of interwar Bauhaus disciples.

Nigel’s photographs of the entrances to these houses present us with openings in the hectic cityscape, inscribed with accumulated evidence of human inhabitation, but where individual lives are noticeable only in their absence: there are no people. Unbeknown to him at the time he took the images, many of the houses were, seventy years ago, yellow-star houses , discovering lists of said houses on www. he revisited and photographed the locations.’ – Words from Dr Gwen Jones.

A.Bliss mounted all Swanns’s works onto 3mm Dibond with 12mm birch ply split battens to ‘float’ away from the wall. The pieces were hung in a grid formation at the AA.


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