A brief history of Irányi utca 17

Publicis Groupe Hungary

From a political society’s headquarters to a wartime brothel, and then abandoned, discover the history behind our home at Publicis House.

If you had walked down Irányi utca a few years back, you might have stopped outside a once beautiful but dilapidated palace. Broken windows, boarded up doors, and a crumbling façade etched with details left behind from an opulent yet bygone era. Fortunately, Irányi utca 17 didn’t fall victim to the wrecking ball (and we don’t mean the Miley Cyrus one, but fortunately, it escaped that one too), with Pyxis Nautica, an architectural firm, coming to the rescue and restored the building to its glory with a modern twist. We all know the rest. But what about the beginnings? Let’s go back in time to the “Eagle Circle” and when our office was once a 1940s brothel!

The Eagle House

Saskör, which translates into the enigmatic name “Eagle Circle”, was a political secret opposition society that had roots in the pre-1870s War of Independence. They became an influential group that was active in urban politics following the unification of Buda, Pest, and Óbuda into the city of Budapest today. They bought the land in 1895, and architects Antal Steinhardt and Adolf Láng designed the building that would be constructed two years later.

The building earned the nickname “Sasház,” meaning “Eagle House,” partly because it became the group’s headquarters and the large eagle statue on the top of the building. If you look at pictures at the time, you’ll also notice it was the largest building in the street, towering above the single-story houses surrounding it.

The building served various functions, where the cellar and ground floor was a restaurant, and the Saskör used the mezzanine and first floors, while the upper floors were rental flats.

The war-time brothel

In the 1940s, our ballroom was a cinema. But it was no ordinary cinema: While the lights were down, lascivious activities took place in the audience, who were given a warning with a bell five minutes before the end of the film and the lights coming on for them to get decent. Those who were still hot and heavy could go upstairs to private rooms they could rent by the hour. The former “Eagle House” received a “Brothel House” status in the city council ledgers. If the walls of our office could talk, what stories would they share!

Under Communism

The building’s function as a brothel ended in the 1950s when state-owned construction company, 22. sz. ÁÉV, took possession of the building. The ballroom was still in action. The film equipment was sold off, and the company ran dance events in the late 1950s, mostly for students in nearby schools. Eventually 22. sz. ÁÉV also struggled financially, so they rented the offices on the upper floors, but the whole building was eventually abandoned.

Abandoned and renewed

The building at Irányi utca 17 was left abandoned for some twenty years. In the 1990s, an Italian firm had plans to turn it into a hotel, but trouble with the neighbours who objected to the development plan (like a pool in the basement). The situation got messy, complete with a lawsuit and an investor who pulled out, meaning that our building was left to crumble into abandonment for decades.

Fortunately, the façade had been renovated in 1987, but the rest of the building fell into a slow decline. In 2017, a new investor, Optinvest Zrt, discovered the building was in terrible condition. The once beautiful ballroom was soaked and damaged by damp over the past ten years. Plans for the hotel had half renovated the building but incomplete.

This gave the new architectural firm, Pyxis Nautica, the challenge to restore the building while retaining the historical accents of the street front, foyer, staircase, and ballroom while taking a fresh, modern approach to the rest. In 2020, the work was completed successfully, and in 2021, we moved in and could finally call this office our home!