Pécs County Hall

Pécs, Hungary | C.1897

Photo Credit: Abdullah Çetinkaya

Zoom in on eclectic tile pattern in the center of the building’s roof. Though there are many ornate inlays and intricate decorations on this County Hall’s facade, the patterned roof easily takes the cake. While much of it was destroyed by a fire in 1954, the remaining original center pattern provides a clue to the genius of a local entrepreneur, and a tile invention that swept the nation.

In 1863, Vilmos Zsolnay joined his father’s porcelain factory in Pécs, and would soon become it’s director. Under Vimos’ lead, the company developed two techniques that would be a major influence of the Art Nouveau movement of Eastern Europe. Their patented eosin glaze created a palate of bright iridescent colors, and with Zsolnay’s pyrogranite technique, the porcelain became frost resistant and durable, making it the perfect material for roofs, fireplaces, or a Summer backyard project.

Vilmos Zsolnay’s ‘new technology’ wowed more than designers and decorators, it went on to win the Grand Prix prize at the 1878 World’s Fair in Paris. The once small Zsolnay factory grew quickly, as more Hungarian architects began to use Eosin and Pyrogranite in their designs. By 1914, the company was one of the largest ceramic manufacturers in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Along with Pécs’ County Hall, today many buildings in Hungary continue to exhibit Zsolnay’s work. From the Hungarian Parliament Building to the Gellert Baths and even the main post office in Pécs all shine thanks to the unique Zsolnay glaze.

Proud of their local star who put them on the map, the city of Péc erected a statue of Vilmos in 1907 – he remains standing tall, watching over the many tiled roofs of the city.

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