Zsolt Gunther, Co-Founder, 3h architects

  • 12 May 2021 6:46 PM
Zsolt Gunther, Co-Founder, 3h architects
3h architects is a group of architects working in Budapest. The practice’s activities include the design of office, residential, public and ecclesiastical buildings and the restoration of historic buildings. 

Numerous Hungarian and international prizes, invitations to competitions, publications and exhibitions testify to the quality of its output.

3h architects, which currently employs 18 people, was founded in 1994 by Katalin Csillag and Zsolt Gunther with the aim of interpreting their complex architectural ideas in the form of buildings that are forward-looking in time and space. The office takes pride in both its flair for imaginative concepts and its skill in finding cutting-edge technical solutions.

3h refers to the hardness of a pencil: just as the hard 3h pencil leaves an indelible mark, so the 3h group of architects strives to leave its mark on the world with its designs and buildings.

3h Architects Celebrate Birthday With Their Book’s Presentation

1. Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Győr, a city of dust and industry in those days. But it was a city of four rivers at the same time with marvellous leisure facilities. Furthermore, it had some nice pieces of modern and Baroque architecture. Perhaps it was a reason why I have chosen architecture as a lifelong hobby?

2. If you could be an expat anywhere in the world, where would you choose?

Portugal has always been magic for me, especially Lisbon and Porto. They have a very similar mentality as ours, similar size and superb historical and contemporary architecture.

3. What would you miss most if you moved away from Hungary?

The Hungarian language has music of its own. If I leave the country for a longer time, I am always looking for its sound in the crowd. Quite often, I have the impression, I can catch a few words, but I am always mistaken. 

I walk on a path around the Gellért Hill quite often, since it is quite close to our house. This walk offers wonderful views of the tourist places – with hardly any people around. This would be a heavy loss if I moved away from Hungary.

4. Friends are in Budapest for a weekend - what must they absolutely see and do?

Budapest has a few unparalleled features. The topography of the city is unique: the best place to experience it is from Gellért Hill. The historical baths refer to the cultural complexity of our history: Rudas and Gellért baths are worth visiting. 

I don’t want to punish my friends but the National Gallery is an absolute must. It is a kind of historical cartoon through which you can understand us, Hungarians better.
And to see some of the pulsing local life and to relax, here are two options: either Bartók boulevard or Pozsonyi street.

5. What is your favourite food?

I came across Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbook accidentally in a London bookshop. This was a kind of revelation for me since his cooking philosophy is very close to mine in architecture: create something essential out of simple, but refined ingredients. Two preferences of mine out of his assortment: marinated turkey breast with coriander etc., and french beans with hazelnut/orange as a side order. His restaurant in Islington is superb!

6. What is your favourite sport / form of exercise?

Swimming and cycling. I do the former with a lot of enthusiasm in a club.

7. What is your favourite place in Hungary?

My wife and I have discovered a lovely place in the remote southwestern corner of Hungary. Undulating tiny hills, fresh air, and distances without people. The village is called Szentgyörgyvölgy, we have even bought a piece of land and dream of building a small house on it ever since.

8. What career other than yours would you love to pursue?

As I was younger, I was a devoted reader. It meant reading and of course some writing, too. Ever since, I am interested in how to grab an idea – in writing. I love explaining our projects in short essays. I think writing could be an alternative career for me. But architecture is a kind of drug for me, so anything else is out of the question.

9. What’s a job you would definitely never want?

I don’t like to punish people, my whole life is about motivating my colleagues. I would definitely never want to be a tax inspector.

10. Where did you spend your last vacation?

We have a dilapidated summer cottage at Lake Balaton. Just before its renovation, we had a wonderful holiday with a cold shower, small wild animals around, and a lot of mosquitos. We were just lying, reading in blubs (in sofas), and cycling. It was great not to travel far away.

11. Where do you hope to spend your next one?

I would like to return to the Scottish islands or Ireland. It is cool and light rain when everybody is sweating in Hungary.

12. What was your favourite band, film, or hobby as a teen?

Pink Floyd was my favourite band. I had an uncle in the States and as I was sixteen, I could visit him. On the way back, my suitcase was heavily packed with their records. There was no chance to buy them in Hungary at that time... and exactly then, The Empire Strikes Back (Star Wars) was presented. I had the chance to watch it twice: there was a blackout during the first show, so we could get an extra ticket.

I did a lot of sports and there was not much time left for a hobby. But if I had some, it was devoted to reading.

13. Apart of temptation what can't you resist?

Sometimes chocolate or a cold glass of champagne.

14. Red wine or white?

Red wine! Since I have worked for the Benedictine monastery in Pannonhalma, I had plenty of time to taste their assortment. They have wonderful white wines, but nothing compares with Infusio.

15. Book or movie?

For me, architecture is about both images and verbality. Since I mostly deal with images and drawings in my profession, I prefer books to movies. If you read a novel, you have to imagine everything in your mind. It is an adventure...

16. Morning person or night person?

Definitely morning person. But sometimes it is difficult to get up...

17. Which social issue do you feel most strongly about?

If we take it seriously that we have borrowed planet Earth from our grandchildren, then we should preserve it in its present state. I interpret sustainability in a broader sense: 
we have to appreciate each twittering bird, the trees by providing as much green in our cities as possible – and as for architecture, smart renovation instead of demolishing and surrendering to the tyranny of the new.

18. Buda or Pest side?

Buda looking over the Danube with the view of Pest. This is a metropolitan situation. 

19. Which achievement in your life are you most pleased about?

My four kids and the book we released on our office recently: Spaces of Intensity. One thing is still missing: the reconstruction of Király Baths, a project won by competition, but due to pandemic situation, it is on hold.

20. What would you say is your personal motto? 

I often have the feeling that I have to fight too much in favour of my projects to change my clients’ minds. Buckminster Fuller, the famous designer has offered an alternative: “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

Photo: László Vincze

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