Karoly (Karl) Polónyi was born in 1928 in Gyula, Hungary. After his
studies at the University of Technology of Budapest he became involved in the
reconstruction of Buda. In 1959, three years after Soviet troops crushed the
Hungarian insurrection, he published, together with Pál Granasztói,
Budapest Holnap (Budapest Tomorrow). The book was decidedly critical and the
authors only managed to evade the authorities by getting a sympathetic journalist
to write a positive reaction in a party newspaper. In 1959 Polónyi was
sent by Josef Fischer, the ‘grand old man’ of Hungarian modernism,
to the Netherlands to attend the CIAM congress in Otterlo as a delegate. In
Otterlo he got acquainted with Team 10, especially Bakema, with whom he maintained
a life-long friendship.
Polónyi’s career was closely interwoven with the political fortunes of Hungary. During libertarian periods he worked in his homeland and when the dogmatic hardliners were in charge he moved abroad. From 1963 to 1969 he worked for the Ghana Construction Company, between 1977 and 1980 he advised the government of Ethiopia. In Africa he encountered fertile soil for Team 10’s ideas, and he viewed his involvement with the advancement of Ghana right after it had cast off the colonial yoke as one of the most fortunate and important tasks in his life. Yet he particularly left his mark on the transformation of Budapest. He was involved with planning the large belt of new residential neighbourhoods, the construction and extension of the metro network, the new Hilton Hotel. From 1980 he was in charge of the international courses at the TU Budapest. He kept in close touch with his friends from Team 10, most of whom held guest lectures in the Hungarian capital. Polónyi was more of a teacher, organizer and planner than a brilliant designer, and was accustomed to operating behind the scenes - a condition for survival in Hungary in the days of Communism, but also the reason why his vital role in disseminating Team 10 ideas has not received due attention.
Karoly Polónyi died in 2002.