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Dr. Peter Magyar: A Journey to Amsterdam

By Bianca Labrador

In December, architects and design professionals gathered in Amsterdam to celebrate the world’s top building designs and interiors at the World Architecture Festival. The festival hosts a very competitive awards program, and this year one of its competitors and lecturers was Dr. Peter Magyar. Dr. Magyar’s submission Windblown Icon, an auditorium and exhibition building in Riga,was one of the finalists from around the world.

His design completely reimagined the program, which prescribed having four equal size auditoria, but recalling his own teaching experience, he felt that it would be appropriate to vary the sizes of the auditoriums. The auditoriums varied in 50 seat increments that came from the shape of the pyramid itself, “I found a geometry, which, with little intrinsic modification of the form, effortlessly suited the purpose.” To complete the five-sided pyramid he included wind turbines at the top of the structure. The day of the jury review, Dr. Magyar was unfortunately stuck in a snowstorm in Chicago and was unable to speak with the jury regarding his project. However, he was able to explain the design during his lecture at the festival a few days later.

Dr. Magyar is currently one of K-State’s professors of architecture. But his expertise goes beyond the realm of Stateside academia. In fact, Dr. Magyar is something of an architect great himself. Born in Hungary just before World War II, he grew up in Soviet-controlled Hungary, learning how to create under a regime that worked to thwart true creative expression. Eventually, he and his wife made their way to the United States, where he made his mark in American academia, while still creating and staying active in the European architecture community. His continued activity is what got him elected to be a Fellow in the Royal Institute of British Architects, as well as being elected as a member of the Hungarian Academy of Arts and Letters.

In the early ‘90s while at Penn State, Dr. Magyar and his friend in Budapest entered a competition to create a pedestrian bridge crossing the Danube River. They won third place and were invited to participate in another competition, where they won first place. One of the designs was set to be built in Budapest, and the foundation was laid. It took nearly 20 years for the construction to be completed due to budget reasons. However, even after the almost 20-year gap, the original design was still honored due to its timeless aspect. “My intent is always to do something which is timeless,” he said of the project still being built.

The creative process is fundamental to Dr. Magyar. It’s not just about the final product, but about the entire process of creating. He has made sure in his over 50 years of teaching that his students leave his classroom knowing The Three P’s, “The three P’s I tell my students are: Passion, Patience, and Precision. You have to have these three qualities; if any of them is missing you miss the boat…That’s how I’ve amassed around 10,000 drawings.”

When asked about what other advice he would give to architecture students or new architects he said, “Just sit there and draw . . . With a drawing, you actually have an active reading. You imagine the whole thing and kind of add to the whole thing what is missing from the drawing. To conceive a project, you can’t conceive it all at once . . . architecture gradually happens, it’s an additive process. The details and the macro and the micro scale is really exchanging and developing. They influence each other very much. So, draw and be patient, and be precise, and have a passion for architecture.”

Actually, drawing is a skill and tool that Dr. Magyar can’t emphasize the importance of enough. With the invention of computer-led drawing, there’s been the debate of drawing with the computer versus traditional drawing. “Architecture is a multisensory art. By drawing you add not just the visual but the tactile aspect of it.” When he teaches drawing to his students, he says to them, “The reason when you draw something and put down the lines it’s like making music, you feel what is off a little bit.”

This upcoming year has a lot in store for Dr. Magyar. This spring will be his final semester teaching at K-State before he retires. His latest book will be released in March from ORO Editions and is titled Linear Thought-Condensation. Starting in April and going through August 20 he will have an exhibit on the Salon of Hungarian Architects in the Kunsthalle in Budapest.

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