It’s not often that architects are commissioned to build mobile homes, much less so houseboats, so when a young couple approached Budapest-based architect Tamás Bene with a plan to build a houseboat so they could spend their summers on Lake Tisza, the largest artificial lake in Hungary, he embraced the opportunity. Having to contend with a compact configuration, Bene channelled the couple’s love of the region into an intimate retreat that blurs the boundaries between private space and nature.
Developed in the 1970s as part of a regional irrigation system, Lake Tisza has since evolved into holiday destination thanks to its natural beauty. Water-chestnut fields, white water lilies pads, winding water channels, small islands and streams surrounded by lush flora constitute a pristine natural reserve, home to a diverse range of birds and fish, including colonies of herons and cormorants, and more than 50 species of fish. Part of Hortobágy National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1999, the region is ideal for activities like boating, fishing, sunbathing, bird-watching, cycling, hiking and horse riding, attracting nature lovers from all over the country, including Bene’s clients, Réka and Balázs. As Lake Tisza devotees, the couple wanted a summer house that would allow them to experience its natural wonders and connect with nature on a deeper level.
Living in a small apartment in Budapest, the couple had no qualms about spending time in the compact living quarters that a small houseboat offers. With that being said, living in such a small space comes with a set of challenges so functionality was a prime concern for Bene. Featuring a short galley, the space is centred on a sitting/dining area that can easily be turned into a bed. A large window facing the bow offers generous views of the lake while several portholes provide additional lighting. The predominant use of timber in conjunction with the minimalist design aesthetic - a product of practical considerations rather than point of view - imbue the houseboat with Scandinavian elegance, while the stripped-down sensibility allows the surrounding nature to take centre stage.
While the primal simplicity of the houseboat offers a true refuge from the hustle and bustle of city life and enables the couple to get closer to nature, it also reflects the folksy, unspoilt character of the region. Featuring a colourful assortment of waterside huts, dinghies and boats, the region thankfully hasn’t been overrun with holiday villas and splashy resorts, but has instead remained a place where people spontaneously congregate to experience the natural landscape and rich wildlife. And what better way to do so than languorously navigating around the lake in the privacy of your own houseboat.