KUNSZT!, Veszprém’s newest design store, opened its doors on 15 September. We could say that so far, it’s not a big deal. But actually, it is. As, besides being a design store, the shop also functions as a gallery, brunch-bistro-café and community space. We asked the shop’s founder, Andrei Tóth, about the preparatory work, the experiences so far and future plans.
Graphic designer and visual artist Andrej Tóth has been running his own, also Balaton-related ART HEKK brand since 2014, which started as a true love project. Starting out as a brand that focuses on creating unique design products, it has expanded over the years. It now organizes craft workshops for children and colorful, family-oriented programs are also part of its profile.
”The real breakthrough came when we completed Jonas, a unique wooden trailer in the shape of a wooden fish, our mobile creative community space. With this ’package’ we became a true Balaton brand, a popular and sought-after participant in national and international design fairs,” Andrej recalls. Recently they were invited to the Veszprém Street Music Festival. It was then that he discovered the undeservedly dilapidated Rosenberg House, and he immediately fell in love with the huge glass front portal and the Kós Károly-inspired art nouveau architectural features of the house.
”When the Street View Development Program was announced as part of the Veszprém-Balaton 2023 European Capital of Culture Program (VEB2023 ECOC), which aims to revitalize neglected old town shops and fill them with creative content, there was no question that I would aim to get the Rosenberg House.”
That almost answered the question we might have been wondering about: Why Veszprém? ”Veszprém will be the European Capital of Culture in 2023, and both the city itself and the organizers of the program are trying to earn this honor. Great cultural programs are being launched, the people of Veszprém are open to new ideas and are grateful if the cultural value, tradition and past of Veszprém are also respected. KUNSZT! is an excellent example of this endeavor. My family is mainly based in nearby Balatonalmádi, where we spend most of the year, where I create and seek creative opportunities for cooperation. The two have now come together in a fortunate encounter, for which I am very grateful.”
Kunszt! is a real paradise for customers committed to Hungarian design, as those who visit the store can choose from the products of designers with many ties to the Veszprém area and Lake Balaton.
”KUNSZT! is basically a showroom for local artists who have been invited through a competition. The contest was organized along with the ECC program, with the participation of renowned jury members. In addition to quality, the main criteria were the local character, the links with Veszprém, the Balaton uplands and the region, and the environmentally friendly, recycled nature of the products. We were also glad if the applicant was willing to hold a creative workshop, thus strengthening the community-building engagement of KUNSZT!”
From the entries received, sixteen designers and creative teams were selected. A careful series of decisions resulted in a highly varied and diverse range of products, offering a balance of genres.
”With its integrated, multifunctional space, KUNSZT! is an excellent place for community building. Its concept of presenting contemporary designers and craftsmen is unique in the region. And I can represent them authentically, because I am one of them. I am familiar with all the difficulties and creative expectations that can arise in such collaboration. Since we opened in September, we have given space and a chance to introduce themselves to more than a dozen cultural programs, be it book launches, round tables, creative workshops or even theatre productions. The concept of KUNSZT! is sustainable in the long term, diverse enough, family and child-friendly, and with all these qualities it has already become an integral part of the Veszprém-Balaton 2023 European Capital of Culture Progam.”
When creating KUNSZT!, it was important that the interior and the exterior façade fit in with the glamorous ”home” of the corner shop, the famous Rosenberg House, a very much alive piece of the city’s history, reflecting its identity in its own language. The building is a blend of traditional, vernacular architecture with modern and art nouveau forms. For Andrej Tóth, it was no question that the new facility should carry on and enhance the spirit of the place in an innovative way. This idea has been perfectly realized by 2sl_studio (lead designers Tamás Berecz DLA, Edit Katók, design architects Emese Tóth, Anna Rainer). With charming taste, the designers have combined respect for tradition with innovation.
Walking into the shop, it is obvious that people love the place, which is also a pleasant café and bistro, as well as a design shop. The primary target group is residents of Veszprém and the region, especially families and young people. The café, which has quickly become popular as a brunch café, is mainly attracting office workers and employees from the area, while the design shop is also targeting domestic and international tourists visiting Veszprém.
”In the ever-expanding cultural repertoire, we would like to include contemporary classical music programs and even attract international artists. I would like us to continue to be known as one of the most popular venues in Veszprém even after 2023, and to maintain the loving and inspiring atmosphere that has surrounded us since we opened. Let’s have fun, both the city and us, then it will work. This is what KUNSZT! is all about.”
Photos: Balázs Mohai