|Front entrance to Raichle Palace, now the Modern Art Gallery, Likovni Susret|
I first became aware of this architectural treasure trove of a town about five years ago when I happened on a picture of its synagogue (more of which later) and I have wanted to visit since then. Well just last weekend I fulfilled that desire and saw not just the synagogue but many of Subotica's art nouveau buildings, the most striking of which is the Raichle Palace at Park Ferenca Rajhla 5. Built in 1904 to the designs of architect Ferenc Raichle as his home and architectural studio, he combined expensive materials and vibrant colours to produce an art nouveau masterpiece. The facade of the building stops visitors in their tracks as they gaze at the riot of colour and decorative detail, not least the external lobby and entrance portal. The rear of the building is also beautiful although comparatively sober with its blue decorations on a cream background and is easily viewed from the courtyard of the Boss Cafe at the rear of Raichle's former home.
Today the Palace is home to the Modern Art Gallery - Likovni Susret which means that its possible to see the interior of this wonderful building - and also to take photographs. Although many of the original features have been lost there are still glimpses of the past and the ceramics, Murano glass mosaics, wrought ironwork, woodcarving and stucco. When I visited there was an exhibition of contemporary art, but the Palace is the star of the show and a small exhibition on Raichle on the first floor helps visitors imagine the splendour of his work.
|Raichle Palace, Ferenc, Rajhla 5|
|Entrance to the former Sonnenburg Tenement Palace, now the Hungarian Legation|
The community may have been decimated but it has a proud legacy. This includes one of the largest and most beautiful synagogues in the world. The Subotica synagogue was built in 1902. It is one of very few surviving pieces of art nouveau religious architecture. The central dome is an imposing 40 metres high. There were once seats for 850 men with a further 550 seats in the women's gallery, demonstrating the former size and confidence of the community. The interior is decorated with highly stylised floral motifs including tulips and carnations as well as with peacock feather designs. These are typical Hungarian art nouveau features whilst the green and yellow dome is reminiscent of many buildings in Budapest, including the Decorative Arts Museum.
The architects of this unique building were Marcell Komor and Dezso Jakab, both Jewish and both pupils of Hungarian art nouveau master Odon Lechner. Not only were they able to combine the dual identities of Subotica's Jews in the synagogue design - Hungarian and Jewish, but they also made use of ground breaking modern steel structures and a self supporting dome. The stained glass windows, also in danger of being lost were the work of Miksa Roth whilst Zsolnay ceramics were used on the roof and the facade. Today the synagogue is rarely in use and the community holds services in another nearby building.
I began this post with a reference to the synagogue and my long held desire to visit. I was thrilled to be able to see not only the exterior, but also to go inside. But I was also filled with sadness at its poor condition and at the empty rows of seats still in place in the women's gallery (most of the men's seats are gone) and the appalling loss of this once vibrant community.
|Bimah and Ark, Subotica synagogue|
|Detail of the former Domotor Palace, with bird motifs of architects Josef and Laszlo Vago|
And then there's the City Hall. This massive structure was built between 1908 and 1912. and covers over 5,800 square metres with a highest point of 76 metres. Another Komor and Jakab design, it was built between 1908 and 1912. It combines art nouveau features with references to Hungarian folklore and includes ceramic floral motifs, wrought iron work and beautiful stained glass windows. The City Hall is at the very heart of Subotica and as well as fulfilling a civic purpose it is also host to cultural activity, the city archives, shops (including what may just be the only McDonalds in an art nouveau building!) and a bank. Komor and Jakab also designed several of the art nouveau structures at nearby Lake Palic, which unfortunately I did not have time to visit in addition to the former Subotica Commercial Bank Palace.
|Detail, City Hall|
|Side door, City Hall|
|Detail, former Subotica Commercial Bank Palace|
For more pictures of Subotica please click here. And thanks to Elinor in Budapest for some of the architect's details!