Twin towers in Hungary and Basque Country

November 26, 2019 0 By Viktor

What connects Miskolc, one of Hungary’s largest cities, and a port town in the Basque Country in the north-east of Spain? Well, both used to be much dirtier than they are today – Miskolc used to be (in)famous for its heavy industry while Pasaia’s main source of income was its sea port. Today both of them have pretty residential areas. But no, its neither of these similarities but the lookout towers that look confusingly similar.

Avas Lookout Tower in Miskolc

This characteristic building is one of the main landmarks of the city of Miskolc today. It replaced an old building of the same function after it burnt down in the 1950s. The new tower was built according to the plans by Miklós Hófer and György Vörös. At its time it was celebrated for its novel appearance and its virtuoso architectural solutions. It is a popular meeting place for young and old and there’s even a small bar on its second floor.

And its Basque clone…

The similarity is amazing, right?

It was the end of a long day during our summer cycling tour when we arrived in the small town of Pasaia, right next to the capital of the Basque Country (or Euskadi in the local language), San Sebastian/Donostia. All we could really think of was the warm shower and the hot dinner but I caught sight of a strangely familiar building on the other side of the small bay. I took just one photo and then forgot about it all and I only remembered the Basque tower a few days ago. I showed it to some friends and they encouraged me to find out more about it. Thanks to the helpful staff at the School of Navigation and Fishing now operating in the building, the secret unfolded… (

The school lies on the small hill by the bay and its most characteristic part is the colossal rock-like concrete wall with a folded structure on top, which used to be a planetarium. The building complex also includes a wing with the classrooms and a conference hall, as well as the lookout tower. Sadly, the foundations of the building moved due to the construction of other buildings a few years ago and part of the school had to be demolished. The tower and the planetarium cannot be used today but let’s hope this is temporary.

Basque brutalism and the architects

I don’t know how many people have heard of the architectural style called brutalism – except for the architects themselves of course. I admit it was new to me but now I’m a little cleverer.

Brutalism is an architectural style that emerged in England in the 1950s, primarily inspired by the works of the influential French architect, Le Corbusier. It is characterised by stark, geometric designs, often repetitive modular elements and the fact that the bare concrete surfaced are exposed. Also a typical feature that the building’s functions are also often placed in the exterior.

An example of brutalist architecture from Zurich – Photo by @drejsworld from Instagram.
I can also warmly recommend this other website if you are interested in these cold but powerful buildings:

The Basque twin sister of Avas Tower was built in 1966-68 based on the designs of Luis Laorga and José López Zanón. The two architects cooperated in the 1960s, when they won contracts for a number of major projects throughout Spain. They designed award-winning university buildings in A Coruña and Madrid, as well as Andalusian cities. As a result of their collaboration, secondary schools of navigation appeared in the Basque Country, Andalusia and the Canary Islands.

Whatever the chronological order of the two towers suggest, after all these decades I personally don’t think we should concentrate on who got their inspiration from whom. Instead, the pair of towers could serve as a connection point between the two cities and their communities… but that’s another story.

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