Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Forgotten Architectural Styles I: Hungarian Art Nouveau

Here's a fascinating collection of photos of the now increasingly endangered synagogue of the Serbian (formerly Hungarian) town of Subotica, a stunning piece of Hungarian art nouveau definitely worth one's study. Art Nouveau is increasingly coming back into the limelight as a favorite historic style, as Gaudi and his more conventional contemporaries in the singularly misnamed Modernismo movement are given their moments of reappraisal in the sun. However, the Subotica synagogue shows such sophisticated and innovative reworkings of folk art and architecture were hardly an isolated western European phenomenon, nor is their significance confined to history--the simplified, curvilinear forms and humble brick and stucco construction of this particular house of worship could easily be adapted to modern construction processes to create a marvelous building in an unusual style that nonetheless has deep historic roots.

On a sadder note, Subotica's synagogue is now almost all but empty. Most of the city's 6,000 Jews were shipped to Auschwitz and never returned. While many are calling for its restoration as a work of cultural and artistic importance, nobody is quite sure what they should do with it if it is ever returned to its former glory.

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