Augustus boasted of finding Rome a city of brick and leaving it a city of marble. Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orban, seems to be trying for something similar.
With two huge building projects, Mr. Orban intends to change the face of Budapest — partly for economic reasons, to lure more tourists, and partly for political reasons, to restore key national edifices to their pre-World War II glory.
The idea, besides removing as many vestiges of Communist rule as possible, is to create a concrete expression of the nationalism his governing party espouses.
On the Buda side of the Danube River, the former royal palace squats grandly atop Castle Hill, blandly remade by the Communists after the destruction of World War II into the current home of the National Gallery of Art and the city’s history museum.
Mr. Orban intends to kick out the National Gallery, restore the palace to its earlier grandeur and install himself in new offices nearby.
On the Pest side, at the far end of Budapest’s grand but financially struggling Andrassy Avenue, the government intends to spend more than $780 million to transform the city’s 250-acre main park into a kind of Berlin-style Museum Island. […]