Image courtesy of WhiteBox Visual

It’s official: Dreschler Palace a hotel in 2022

Worth the wait for a W hotel

Exciting plans to revive the abandoned Dreschler Palace have come and gone over the two decades that the splendid building has stood empty opposite the State Opera House on the city’s most upscale avenue. Finally, the most recent announcement this March 2021 that the landmark will be fully converted to a five-star hotel by 2022 has been confirmed by Marriott International to The Budapest Times: the global hotel group is authoritatively “set to debut W Hotels in Budapest in 2022 with the opening of W Budapest”.

No indication was given as to whether it might be early, mid or late 2022 but it hardly matters considering that the edifice has sat unused and boarded up since the tail end of the past century, left to decay while its only guests have been pigeons and who knows who or what else?  If Marriott says 2022, that’s good enough, hopefully.

One of those earlier plans came in 2017 and was almost identical, namely that “W Hotels Worldwide, part of Marriott International, Inc., had agreed with QPR Properties Kft, part of Constellation Hotels Holding Ltd., “to debut the iconic W Hotels brand in Hungary with the opening of W Budapest” in 2020. It may be a further two-year wait, then, but what is that for a building dating from 1883?

The district council sold the six-storey Dreschler Palace into private ownership in 1997. QPR Properties Kft., a Hungarian company formed that year and whose main activity it describes as buying and selling of own real estate, is the owner and is working with Marriott to redevelop the first W hotel in Hungary. W is a Marriot five-star luxury lifestyle brand targetting the younger generation. Renovation work began in January this year and the hotel will have some 154 guest rooms.

Building services group DVM, of Budapest, has begun the reconstruction of the Neo-Gothic, French Renaissance-style building designed by Ödön Lechner and Gyula Pártos. DVM’s references include the Eiffel Palace on Bajcsy-Zsilinszky út, the Ybl Villa in District XII, the US Embassy on Szabadság tér and the Bank of China building, József Nádor tér, District V.

The company will work to restore the 16,000-square-metre palace under cultural heritage protection to its original form with what are said to be ground-breaking engineering and electrical features. Andrassy út is a UNESCO world heritage site.

Marriott’s W brand has 55 hotels in more than 25 countries and territories.  This is how W describes itself: “Born from the bold attitude and 24/7 culture of New York City, W Hotels has disrupted and redefined the hospitality scene for nearly two decades. Trailblazing its way around the globe, W is on track to reach 100 hotels by 2025, defying expectations and breaking the norms of traditional luxury wherever the iconic W sign lands.

Image courtesy of Bánáti and Hartvig Architects, creators of the reconstruction plans of Drechsler Palace

“With a mission to fuel guests’ lust for life, W ignites an obsessive desire to soak it in, live it up and hit repeat. The brand’s provocative design, iconic Whatever/Whenever service and buzzing Living Rooms create an experience that is often copied but never matched. Innovative, inspiring and infectious, W Hotels’ super-charged energy celebrates guests’ endless appetite to discover what’s new/next in each destination, to see more, feel more, go longer, stay later.”

Special features of a W hotel include an AWAY Spa, a FIT fitness centre and a WET pool.

The Dreschler Palace listed building at 25 Andrássy út is an early work of the noted architect Ödön Lechner in a historic revival, neo-Renaissance style. Due to the construction of the millennium underground railway, it is set back from the building line on a free-standing block bordered by four streets.

The building with a basement has six storeys (ground floor, intermediate floor, mezzanine and four floors) around a courtyard and there is an unusually large attic. Originally it was built for the Hungarian State Railways Pension Institute and functioned as a luxury tenement building with apartments, a café, a beer hall and a skittle alley.

Over the years the functions of the building changed continually: the café became a restaurant and some of the apartments were converted for use as dance studios for the National Ballet Institute, while the remaining apartments were subdivided. Then the restaurant was closed, and the beer hall and skittle alley in the basement were turned into storerooms.

Before it was vacated, the building was home to the studios and restaurant of the Ballet Institute, 37 apartments, offices, storerooms and, in the basement and part of the ground floor, the rooms of the Tütü Tangó catering establishment.

In the wake of the continual conversions over 100-plus years, the building has best retained its structure and exterior appearance although there have been changes to that as well. These included replacement windows and air-raid shelter emergency exits on the façade as well as a simplified roof reconstructed after a fire in the early 1900s.

The building had two major renovations, mainly concerning the roof. The first was in the 1910s after the roof burnt down and the second in 1945 after the end of World War II. The first renovation was necessitated by the use of poor quality 19th-century materials, while the second was due to wartime conversions involving functional change.

The internal structure, with the exception of a partial infill in the courtyard, has remained unaltered. The building has two equal status entrances, one from Hajós utca and the other from Dalszínház utca. The two listed imperial stairways reach an interconnecting corridor, each opposite a light well. The two stairwells are in the wing aligned with Andrássy út and are interconnected by an arcade open towards the courtyard.

Surviving valuable features in the building are two vaulted sections in the basement parallel with Andrássy út, the stairwells with stained-glass windows, the passages interconnecting the two stairwells, and the original painting and decoration visible in some rooms.

In the course of the renovation and reconstruction, the hotel chain will create 154 rooms on the upper floors; catering and services functions (spa, bar, main kitchen, laundry, storerooms, electrical and mechanical rooms) will be housed in the basement, while communal functions and functions necessary for the daily operation of the hotel (lobby, bar, catering space, conference room, office, supplies room, finishing kitchen) will be accommodated on the ground floor.

The requirements of the operating hotel chain coincide with the open nature of the former ground-floor cafés facing the street, and the ground-floor spaces will remain clear and transparent. In designing the interiors, as many elements as possible will be preserved, renovated and reconstructed.

During the external reconstruction, the façades, and the doors and windows will be restored to their original form, while the roof will be rebuilt incorporating replicas of the original roof ornaments, which were not replaced when the roof was repaired after the fire at the start of the 20th century. Guest rooms and mechanical spaces will be developed in the attic. The guest and service lifts will be housed in the light wells, and the courtyard will be given a glazed roof.

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