József Borsos, was Debrecen’s architect, responsible for many of the design masterpieces in Debrecen that we recognize today, he was also responsible for the restoration of the Great Forest, public buildings such as schools, and private villas, and yet much more besides.
Born in Hódmezővásárhely on 18th March 1875, he was the city architect of Debrecen from 1908, and head of the technical department of the mayor’s office from 1923. According to the architect Zoltán Rácz, József Borsos drew up the regulatory plan that would determine the development of Debrecen for several decades, and the concept and plans for the development of the Nagyerdő forest in 1929-30, effectively shaping the image of Debrecen we all appreciate today.
During this period, the university, the strand (which has famously been recently rebuilt to great acclaim reopening in the summer of 2020), the stadium, and the boathouse were all built. It was also the time when the architect eliminated the scattered denominational cemeteries and designated the new Public Cemetery next to the Park Forest. The architecture of the cemetery was complemented by the works of painters and craftsmen (some of whom were natives of Debrecen).
Following his experiences abroad, József Borsos called for the production of clinker bricks, and the town built a factory for this very purpose. In this way, he created the conditions for new architectural trends. The beautiful and durable building material quickly became popular here.
In 1914 the city gave him a major task: the design and construction of the police palace. During construction, during the outbreak of the Great War, he sent the plans home from the battlefield. After the war, the city spent a considerable amount of money on building new tenement houses for refugees from the breakaway regions to alleviate the housing shortages. This was when the three-story, low-rent, small apartment blocks on Hajnal, Dobozi Street, and Szoboszlói Street were completed.
These were designed by Gyula Zeleznik under the direction of József Borsos. Borsos’s characteristic stylistic features can be seen on the houses: the steep roof with Székely cut-backs, the brickwork, and the hayloft arch. Between the two world wars, the farmstead school network was established under the direction of Kunó Klebelsberg, Minister of Culture. The designs of Iván Kotsis of Budapest were redesigned to the taste of József Borsos, and they share the city coat of arms. The industrial school on the corner of Csapó and Burgundia streets was also designed in collaboration with Gyula Zeleznik. His last major design and construction in Debrecen was the building of the University Church.
His last major design and construction in Debrecen was the building of the University Church.
The palace of today’s chemical secondary school on the corner of Csapó and Burgundia streets
At the same time, József Borsos also designed private houses, which also bear his distinctive marks. These are the villas he designed on Simonyi Street and Sestakert Street. He also designed the French garden in the ornamental park on Egyetem Square with Ferenc Pohl, the chief gardener in Debrecen, and the sunken park at the foot of the Déri Museum.