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Hungarian university ‘forced’ to leave O’Donnell + Tuomey campus for Vienna

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Budapest’s Central European University (CEU) – which was being rebuilt by Dublin-based practice O’Donnell + Tuomey – has announced it will move most of its courses out of Hungary following pressure from the country’s right-wing government

The university said it would relocate its American-accredited programmes to a new satellite base in Vienna after an 18-month legal battle over recognition of the college with the Hungarian state which ended in stalemate.

Less than a fifth of CEU’s courses – those accredited in Hungary – will continue to be taught at the Budapest campus

Last year O’Donnell + Tuomey completed the first phase of its project for the university, a limestone-clad €34 million teaching building, which was part of a masterplan to consolidate the institution into a single 35,000m² campus.

The second phase of the project is understood to be on hold indefinitely.

The university’s announcement comes just weeks after the new building missed out on the RIBA’s International Prize, for which it was one of four shortlisted buildings. The prize was won by Aleph Zero + Rosenbaum’s boarding school on the edge of the Brazilian rainforest.

The move follows Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán’s outspoken criticism of the university’s founder, George Soros, who was one of several leading Americans targeted in October’s attempted mail bombings.

Orbán’s hard-line government also introduced a 25 per cent ‘immigration surtax’ this summer, which led to the university scrapping programmes on refugees and asylum seekers.

Architects Sheila O’Donnell and John Tuomey of O’Donnell + Tuomey described their university scheme as a ‘special project’ for the practice, and ‘an open campus for a liberal-minded university’.

They said: ‘The project took us on a journey of discovery into the architectural, cultural and urban morphology of Budapest, involving us in sometimes sympathetic, sometimes controversial discussions with the city authorities during the design process.

‘We wanted the building to fit into its context, but to fit in by standing out. Now that it’s built, the project seems to be widely accepted and well understood as belonging to its place; a new part of the old city.’

The practice has been asked to comment on the latest announcement.

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