Marianne Sternberg was born in Szeged. Her father, Dezső Sternberg was the founding member of the Sternberg Ármin és Testvére factory of music instruments. She was amongst the first female students of the Budapest University of Technology, and graduated in 1924. In 1925, she became the first female member of the Association of Hungarian Engineers and Architects (Magyar Mérnök- és Építész Egylet, MMÉE). Her first important success was an award in the master plan competition of Győr in 1929. This year she started to use her mother, Ilona’s maiden name and sign her works as Marianne Várnay, as a sign of gratitude for her constant support.
In a rare 1929 interview Várnay describes how she tried to get a practicant position in Le Corbusier’s Paris office, but was rejected by the master himself for being a woman. Later she worked in the Prague offices of Josef Gočár and Kamil Roškot. She also mentions, that under a friends name she participated and won a competition for worker’s housing in Wiener Neustadt, Austria. According to another source, after returning to Budapest she had been a long-time co-worker of well-known architect József Vágó.
In Hungary, her only known works were built in her home city Szeged. In 1935 she won the competition for the local headquarters of the State Social Security Institute (Országos Társadalombiztosítási Intézet, OTI), and got the commission together with Budapest-based architect Lajos Gyenes. The impressive art deco building on the Tisza Lajos sugárút was finished in 1937. It’s facade is decorated with sculptures by another successful female artist of the time, Éva Lőte. Around this time Várnay had received a commission to design a new spring house for the Anna forrás – unfortunately, this was later demolished. In 1938, she won the competition for the new music center of Szeged.
As part of the modernist movement, she became active in public life, mostly in the topic of women’s roles and expectations in the contemporary living environment. In 1932, she held a lecture at the MMÉE conference about this topic and in 1937 she published an article in the Magyar Női Szemle (Hungarian Women’s Review) titled ‘Modern apartment building and the woman’. She knew and probably collaborated with members of the CIAM and CIRPAC in Hungary, among them Marcel Breuer, and she participated at least one show of the modernists.
She probably died in a concentration camp in 1944, as her name appears among the victims in the USHMM's Holocaust Survivors and Victims Database.
- Endre Prakfalvi – Pál Ritoók: „Építésznö van néhány” – Építésznök a két világháború közötti Magyarországon. In: Áron Tóth (ed.): „És az oszlopok tetején liliomok formáltattak vala”. Centrart Egyesület, Budapest, 2011. pp. 297-302.
- Bródy Dániel: Az elsö magyar nöépítész. Beszélgetés Várnay Mariannal. Ujság, 20 October 1929. pp. 4.
All our texts and many of our images appear under the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike License (CC BY-SA). All our content is written and edited by our community.