Délegyháza

A. History and urban position in relation to the city

History

The area of the village was probably populated in early medieval periods, later it was used as farming and agricultural area by Hungarian landed gentry until 1945. The village was formed in 1949 and its development was boosted by the opening pebble quarries and an agricultural cooperative. The old quarry sites were gradually turned into a network of lakes spanning over 300 hectares, hosting various recreational activities, fishing and also the first naturist camp in the country. There are 600 houses and 1100 holiday cottages with various uses, as well as a cultural center, a kindergarten, an elementary school, a library and two churches.

Relation to the city

Délegyháza is located 27 kms from Budapest and 6 kms from the Danube with direct (commuter) railway and bus connections to the capital. The loose layout shows its young age where traditional blue collar agricultural communities coexisted with the urban middle class who developed weekend and recreational zones among the lakes. Land use was divided among collectivized and household agriculture and private land was often subdivided and sold as weekend allotments. After the 1990s several holiday cottages became permanent residences for the impoverished who do household farming and work day-to-day jobs to sustain themselves. Middle class privatopias, camping grounds and communities still exist though and recently more commercial facilities were introduced for affluent visitors such as a water amusement park.

Surroundings/environment/nature

The surrounding landscape is the eponymous example of Zwischenstadt: a former agricultural area mixing with leisure zones, post industrial recultivation areas (12 old and several new lakes) with varying ownership and access, sparse industrial activities, reforested zones (subsidized by EU programs), suburban housing compounds stuck in the mortgage crisis and a neighboring network of metropolitan area villages. Some of these developed peculiar cultures of their own (e.g. the Dabas Art and Architecture festival) and there are also noteworthy projects on a national scale (e.g. the currently planned controversial self sustaining housing compound for failed mortgage owners in Ócsa).

B. Contemporary Situation And Main Problems

Urban space

The distinction between the ?old? and the ?new? parts of Délegyháza is visible in densities and street grids versus looser structures. The village was built around a former mansion and its surrounding buildings, now housing the cultural center with several neighboring public buildings and the main park. The railway station is a hub with a large semi-developed public area (formerly a pebble plant) currently turning into a site of several cultural and sports programs as well as the entry point to the lakes. The latter are a loose mixture of recultivated, abandoned or freshly open water surfaces with cottages, campings and allotments as well as parks, agricultural land and still operating quarries in between.

The main land use strategies for subdivided agricultural areas are 1. collecting land for agricultural use such as cultivation, reforestation or fish farming; 2. collecting land for rezoning and selling as industrial or housing area with current obligations for infrastructural investment on each purchase versus the free-for-all informal market periods of the 1980?s; 3. opening new quarries, either to profit from the pebbles, currently on hold due to the collapse of the construction industry, or to subsequently use the site for new developments. As the village struggles to fund the recultivation of former mines and the surrounding environment, housing developments seemed a model project to manage such processes. The Robinson ecological housing compound is such a project outside of the village boundaries where a new lake was formed to provide waterside plots for development.

Traditional post war housing with household gardens is typical in the old village whereas the lake area features small plots with holiday cottages (typically blue collar owners) and recently significantly larger plots with larger buildings for the more affluent middle class owners. Campings are also popular, and the naturist compound is mentioned as an important local reference and link to the outside world. Due to the privatization of the quarries and several agricultural areas the ownership, accessibility and maintenance of several public zones and natural areas is mixed or difficult to assign. The same question applies to infrastructure and transportation developments which in some cases serve communities in the neighboring villages while being financed by the municipality of Délegyháza.

Sports and festivals play an important part of local cultural life, from seasonal and annual themed events (e.g. pumpkin festival) to local clubs who compete on a national level (e.g. kyokushin karate). There is a sand football field where annual national tournaments are held, and the municipality intends to develop cycling and running tracks around some of the lakes. Several playgrounds and public parks have been founded, built or improved by local clubs and associations.

People

Traditional farming communities were largely replaced by workers in the post-war development period who still form the core of the old village. The recreational zones attracted both blue collar and middle class groups who form the second, mixed social group that lives uniquely close to the first settlers, whether permanently or seasonally. The lake zone is also becoming a permanently inhabited area, partly by middle class families moving out from the capital as a lifestyle choice, partly by the retiring older cottage owners and more recently by those losing their financial background and being forced to leave the city. These communities are active in agriculture, both on a self-sustaining household and on a day-job level.

Employment opportunities have dwindled with the decline of the quarries after the construction bubble of the 2000?s from more than 1000 locally employed to a few hundred workplaces altogether. Most active inhabitants work in temporary construction and lower skill jobs in the region while only few commute to Budapest for work. The number of inhabitants is however still increasing, largely to the recreational zones, often to housing built for seasonal stay. Lifestyle-based developments such as the Robinson eco-village also attract more eccentric owners besides environmentally conscious middle class urbanites.

Holiday communities are important and generally positively mentioned in the village, though the communication and negotiation of resource allocation or contributions to developments with temporary settlers is more difficult. At the highest point of tourism, largely related to the naturist resort, 10-15,000 visitors were present in the lake areas – this number is significantly lower now but the area is considered to have high potential.

C. Potential And Future Plans

Public space

The lakes are obviously the greatest asset and also the greatest concern for Délegyháza. These include the surrounding natural environment and the remaining forests as well, and the municipality?s main goal is to find sustainable strategies for planning and funding the recultivation of several abandoned lakes and for channeling further developments into controllable scenarios. Existing lakes pose the question of access and ownership, as well as infrastructure development. The oldest, informally developed cottage areas have roads which are too narrow for such constructions and it is becoming increasingly difficult to upgrade semi-developed networks. On the other hand, there are several smaller public zones which have been built and maintained by neighboring owners and inhabitants without blocking access for others.

Lakes vary in their use, fishing, rowing and swimming do not mix, and some activities are only possible through a flexible legal approach which also presents some dilemmas (swimming in former mining lakes is theoretically illegal – attempts to rent lakes to businesses which built regular beaches with control and entrance fees were unsuccessful as there are always free choices). Recent, privately owned and developed areas have been fenced off which poses problems of mobility and access.

The old village center concentrates almost all public functions, and it is a question how the new developments relate to the functional monotony of the lake district where the only exception from residential areas are the still operational industrial zones and other scarce businesses. However, the symbiosis of sports, recreation, holiday, agriculture and living is a remarkable pattern which the municipality also recognizes and intends to develop as a local quality of space and environment.

Public life

The region is in a position which is far enough from the capital to be less dependent on its cultural and social life. Local clubs and associations of various interests are highly active in the area, developing subcultures which are independent and often surprisingly dynamic. Dabas, a neighboring village has initiated an annual arts and architecture festival in an unused modernist pavilion, Ócsa has summer events in its railway underpass and Délegyháza has its own annual village days and autumn pumpkin festival.

Water sports and waterside activities are developing towards more affluent visitors, too, but leisure and recreation here are often combined with daily activities of vernacular living. Nature is a highly important element in the local identity both as a source of living but as environment and an object of contemplation.