The Italian Cultural Institute of Budapest (Istituto Italiano di Cultura di Budapest - IIC) was founded in 1937 to develop cultural relations between Italy and Hungary. Its area of responsibility includes the entire territory of Hungary, it is an official body of the Italian state and has as its objective the promotion and dissemination of the Italian language and culture through the organization of cultural events to foster the circulation of ideas, arts and sciences.
The current director of the Institute, Gabriele La Posta, took up his post in the Hungarian capital in August last year. He tells Diplomacy&Trade that his main vision upon his arrival was to build on what had been constructed in the previous years and “re-launch Italian Cultural Institute’s live activity that had slowed down in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic – as it happened in the whole world, in all societies.”
Coping with the difficulties presented by the pandemic
He stresses that “since the summer of 2021, we have never stopped organizing events and language courses. We respected all the necessary safety measures (face mask, temperature check, sanitizer gel, social-physical distancing, etc.). However, our goal was not to stop nor affect our activities and we can say that we coped with the challenge quite well and managed to carry on with our undertakings.”
Promoting the Italian way of life
Italian classical culture is very well-known in Hungary. Therefore, there has been a tendency for Italian culture in Hungary to present the less known or up and coming new artists, intellectuals, specialists and main protagonists of the Italian cultural scene. As the Director highlights, they “want to build on tradition (humanist culture and values) and, at the same time, present innovation. In fact, in our country, tradition and innovation go hand in hand. The BeIT nation branding campaign of the Italian State, launched a few months ago, is based, and mainly focusing on, promoting the Italian way of life and the Italian way of making – in many different fields such as design, contemporary art, gastronomy, wine culture, etc. In summary, our policy is to underline the Italian unique, deeply rooted and cutting-edge creativity.”
The Institute plays an important role in the teaching of the Italian language in Hungary. As Director La Posta explains, they have hundreds of students and dozens of courses every semester. “We have cooperation with the Department of Italian Studies at five universities throughout Hungary – Eötvös Lóránd University (ELTE), Pázmány Péter Catholic University, University of Pécs, University of Szeged and University of Debrecen – and with several Hungarian primary and secondary schools. We are the only Italian State institution teaching our language in Hungary.”
Cooperation and partnership
Being the Cultural Office of the Italian Embassy, the Italian Cultural Institute of Budapest is directly part of the Italian Diplomatic Mission to Hungary. “As a consequence, we cooperate, of course, with every single member of the Italian network in this country, a network, which is naturally open to initiatives coming from Italian institutions and entities,” the Director points out.
The Institute is strongly encouraged to co-operate with local cultural institutions worldwide. Regarding this sort of cooperation and the partners the IIC works together with in Hungary, Director La Posta says that “we have built – and continue building – strong partnerships with various organizations and institutions in Hungary. Here is a – non-exhaustive – list of organizations we cooperate with: Hungarian National Museum, Budapest Photo Festival, Hungarian National Theatre, National Dance Theater, Design without borders, Budapest Design Week, Budapest History Museum, Uránia Nemzeti Filmszínház, Budapest Film, National Film Institute, Kertész Imre Institute, Budapest Short Film Festival, Sziget Festival, Budapest Architecture Film Festival, Budapest Documentary Film Festival, CINEMIRA International Children’s and Youth Film Festival, University of Fine Arts, Károlyi József Foundation, Kecskemét Jazz Festival, Szeged International Guitar Festival, Ultrahang Festival, Bondoró Festival in Kapolcs and, of course, all the EUNIC – European Union National Institutes for Culture Group – members in multilateral or bilateral activities.”
Nurturing bilateral ties
When asked about his plans as Director here for the next few years, Gabriele La Posta concludes that “being aware of the continuous attention that Hungarian people reserve to our cultural presence, we will continue nurturing Italian-Hungarian relations in a field which is rooted in a profound and historic friendship connecting the two nations.”
After the defeat of the Hungarian Revolution and War of Independence in 1848-49 by the Austrians, more than ten years of military rule and despotism followed. The changing international political situation forced the House of Habsburg to call a Diet in Hungary in 1861. The deputies held their first session in the Great Hall of the National Museum. Authoritarianism was soon reintroduced but then, it ended in 1865, when the upper house met in the National Museum and the lower house was to be designed by renowned architects, and it was the project by Miklós Ybl that won the approval of the royal court in Vienna. Next to the National Museum, in the then Sándor Street (now Bródy Sándor Street), the barracks were demolished and the new House of Representatives was built on its site.
In 1902, when the Parliament building designed by Imre Steindl was completed on the Danube bank, the function of the ‘Old House’ ceased. After various uses, the Hungarian government donated the former House of Representatives to the Italian State by a deed of gift dated February 3, 1942. The inauguration ceremony of the Italian Cultural Institute (which was operating in Budapest since 1937) in Ybl’s building took place on June 21st 1943 in the presence of the Regent of Hungary.
During the Second World War the building was hit by mines and bombs. The Hungarian government provided funds for the most urgent restoration. In 1967, the walls and false ceiling of the Great Hall began to be demolished, thus restoring the hall to its original size. The restoration of the external façade was completed in 1987.
With a façade 40 meters long and 16 meters high, the building is a harmonious structure thanks to its proportions and ingenious articulation. The building's style blends antique, Baroque and Renaissance elements, as in Miklós Ybl's palaces of the period. However, in its clear articulation and proportions, the Renaissance clearly triumphs. This is, of course, also reflected in the interior. The centerpiece is the meeting room, which is entered through the gate and through the foyer. Ascending the stairs, people enter the hall, which is divided into five aisles by two rows of columns. From here the way leads to the notaries' offices on the right and the Speaker's on the left. Going straight on, you reach the Great Hall. The arches on two sides of this hall, which spans two floors, are supported by columns on the upper floor, and by columns with plain trunks similar to those of the hall. Between the pedestals, balustrades close the side of the gallery facing the seating area. Above the great hall, there was originally a coffered ceiling, which was converted into skylights. The hall originally received its natural lighting from the windows in the gallery.
No comment yet. Be the first!
Top 5 Articles
Articles by Date
- ►2023 (1114)
- ►2022 (1249)
- ►2021 (941)
- ►2020 (899)
- ►2019 (237)
- ►2018 (161)
- ►2017 (310)
- ►2016 (279)
- ►2015 (324)
- ►2014 (229)
- ►2013 (233)
- ►2012 (250)
- ►2011 (303)
- ►2010 (167)
- ►2009 (43)
- ►2008 (3)