With a distinctive aesthetic, URBA has been associated with the interior design of many well-known places in Budapest. This weekend, we witnessed a significant milestone for the Hungarian studio, as they opened a multifunctional office in Vienna that perfectly reflects their vision. Intimate minimalism, a beautiful selection of objects and their latest furniture in a restored baroque castle. We also attended the opening, and here’s an intimate photo diary by Matti Varga to illustrate the atmosphere of the place.
Márton Lengyel and Rita Vízkelety—who are a couple in real life and work—founded URBA more than five years ago. We first interviewed Márton a year and a half ago, when he gave us a detailed presentation of their work and vision. Initially, they were mostly known for designing restaurants and shops in the capital: Nanushka and the stores of Tisza shoe, Börze and Ramenka restaurants are all part of their repertoire. Today, they are much more established and collaborate more and more with renowned architectural studios on large-scale projects such as the Ministry of Agriculture with Archikon, or an embassy building with Földes Architects. They also undertake private architectural commissions, one of their current projects is the design of new stations for the HÉV (Budapest railway) with Építész Stúdió and more recently they have been also engaged in furniture design. The team has now grown to eight people, including a graphic designer, a designer and four architects.
The company’s expansion to Vienna had been planned for some time, but it was thanks to a lucky coincidence and Anna Heinrich that it could be implemented so quickly. They got to know Anna, the owner and designer of the Beaulieu restaurant in Vienna, during the Budapest Börze. After quite a few years, Anna contacted Márton and the team asking to get more involved in URBA’s life and found the perfect premises in Vienna to house the Austrian branch of the firm. And so the studio’s new base was founded in the Palais Harrach, a baroque palace in the city center extensively renovated in the late 1990s and located next to the Beaulieu.
The new showroom is intended primarily as a base for networking in Vienna and later also as a design shop, but its most important function is to serve as a visual representation of the URBA essence. “I’m rarely satisfied, but this time, by designing for ourselves, I feel like we’ve really managed to prioritize what we think is important. With commissions, many aspects and needs determine the shape of the final space, but in the case of our showroom in Vienna, we could afford to make a more simple space inviting and warm for visitors, even in its early stages. It’s also a reflection of our current state: something that’s still trying to find itself in a new environment, where our new furniture and hopefully the other trends we’re working on will fit in,” Márton told us at the opening.
The space is a consistent base, into which new elements can later be organically inserted. But this workshop-like incompleteness does not feel half-finished, it is already a perfect, charming premise in its current state. The vaulted space is framed along the sides by shelves of carefully selected books, magazines and objects: The Monocle Guide to Drinking and Dining, The Cupola Sculpture by Kristina Dam, a studio lamp by Chiara Colombini, a teapot by Ábel Lakatos, and a piece from the cloud lamps family, designed by György Radnóti—to name a few of our favorites. The beautifully composed showroom has an informal and welcoming atmosphere that makes you feel relaxed and uninhibited. And the mix of old and new is the perfect embodiment of intimate minimalism.
The centerpiece of the space is a large wooden communal table, part of a furniture collection designed in collaboration with Komok. The table is not only an exhibit but also a multifunctional element: it can be used for work, meetings and themed dinners. “Our Budapest career has developed very organically. We were lucky because we achieved something and then the next thing came out of it, we didn’t have to actively promote ourselves. But now it’s a new situation and a new challenge here in Vienna. Talking around a dinner table when we invite local architectural firms is a much more personal and self-identical way for me to build relationships than, say, newsletters,” says Márton.
The space includes several pieces of their furniture, the most impressive of which is the chair designed for Onyx Budapest. “I think a chair is the most exciting object one can design because you have to create something new from a very limited situation: it has to be ergonomic, stable, comfortable and manufacturable. This limitation was inspiring for me,” said Márton about the URBA-designed Onyx workshop chair, also manufactured by Komok.
/Object photo: Norbert Juhász/
The URBA team is currently present in both Budapest and Vienna and is open to collaborations from both locations. Although they are not yet fully established in Vienna, relocating their business there permanently is also possible in the longer term.
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Photos: Matti Varga