ERA21 #06/2019 Poland: Between Yesterday and Tomorrow

kniha editorial

Polish Architecture for a Second Time

Vladimír Balda

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Czech Architecture Award 2019

kniha completed project

An Obvious School. Amos Elementary School for Psáry and Dolní Jirčany »

Ondřej Píhrt, Štefan Šulek, Ondřej Laciga / SOA architekti

As of today, the new elementary school fits in the existing development of the Psáry and Dolní Jirčany municipalities only loosely. The site is situated next to the main road to Prague, the west-facing windows offer views to the surrounding fields, the public space in front of the main entrance marks the end of an urban axis connecting it with the Dolní Jirčany square. The two main wings, inspired by village farmhouses, contain classrooms and offices; the central block-shaped volume clad with wooden slats houses the canteen and the gyms. Classrooms are organized in clusters of three or four; each cluster with its own color and direct access to an outdoor area. The energy efficient building also has its own rainwater collection system.

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Greed »

Jakub Certowicz

The original title of the photography project "Zachłonność" is a combination of two words in Polish – "chłonność", meaning absorbance, or in architectural terms the proportion of usable floor area to land area in given legal and technical context, and "zachłanność", meaning greed. The project is a testimony to and a commentary on the common practice of real-estate developers seeking maximum saturation of their land when choosing an architect. This project is realized in cooperation with the Warsaw Museum of Modern Art.


Ill-Born. The Link Between Cause and Effect »

Filip Springer

It’s the year 1960 and there is a new commission on Witold Lipiński’s desk for the meteorological observatory atop Sněžka mountain. The phenomenal Polish journalist focusing on architecture, Filip Springer, describes its construction in one of the chapters of Ill-Born, his 2012 book. We present to you the Czech translation of this chapter for the first time.


The Time of Commerce. The Architecture of the Polish Transformation 1989–2004 »

Grzegorz Piątek

The word “commercial” has negative connotations in contemporary Polish – it signifies cheap schlock and the effort to ingratiate with the masses. But thirty years ago it still had an air of something promising, while “non-commercial” – state-owned, communal, social, cooperative, public – seemed to be as doomed as the last of the dinosaurs.


Architecture of the EU Funds »

Hubert Trammer

Since its accession to the EU on May 1, 2004, up until September, 2019, Poland received almost €171 billion in funding (about CZK 4.38 trillion) while it contributed to the European budget with €56 billion, which is about CZK 1.43 trillion. In the media and in politicians’ statements, the degree of EU finances utilization is one of the basic criteria for evaluating the effectiveness of state administration, regional and local administrations and various institutions.

completed project

Behind the Curtain. Department of Radio and Television of Silesia University in Katowice »

BAAS Arquitectura, Grupa 5 Architekci, Małeccy Biuro Projektowe

The new building of the Department of Radio and Television of Silesia University – easily recognizable by its distinctive brick facade – fills a vacant plot just outside the center of Katowice. The building isn’t trying to attract unseemly attention. On the contrary, it simply replaces a missing piece of the urban tissue and stitches together the surrounding development by following the set height of the street elevation with a mansard-style slant at its top, by using traditional materials, and by preserving an older, existing apartment house on the site and incorporating it into the design. Behind the four-story front volume there is a series of lower buildings grouped around an inner courtyard. This was the winning project of the international architecture competition in 2011.

completed project

Between Heaven and Earth. Katyń Museum in Warsaw »

Jan Belina-Brzozowski, Konrad Grabowiecki / BBGK Architekci

The Museum presents the tragic events of the Katyń massacre that took place during World War II and commemorates the 22,000 Polish prisoners of war who were murdered by the Red Army. Located in the southern part of a 19th-century fortress – the Warsaw Citadel – the museum comprises three historical buildings. The complex was designed as a park with a symbolic Katyń forest in the centre of the main courtyard. Excerpts of letters and other personal belongings of the victims are imprinted on the stained concrete walls, which continue the exhibition outdoors. A narrow gap in the 12-meter-high bulwark of the Citadel leads visitors in two directions: either down towards the plaques with the victims’ names or up towards the sky and the light. An oaken cross placed among the trees concludes the dramatic story of Katyń.

completed project

Two-Faced School. Akademeia High School in Warsaw »

Przemo Łukasik, Łukasz Zagała / Medusa Group Architects

The changes in the public education system in Poland have not kept up with the modern lives of young people. The generation of the millenials forced a thorough reformulation of the approach to education. It also forced a review of the principles of designing school buildings. The private sector now strives to redeem the failures of the public sector. In Akademeia, the private high school in Warsaw, everyone works at an oval table, and the teachers don’t have a separate teacher’s room – they are a permanent part of a compact, educational ecosystem. South-facing stands in the central courtyard serve as a meeting place inspiring students and teachers alike to organize atypical classes of geography, biology or literature. The cafeteria looks more like a fashionable restaurant than a traditional school canteen. The entrance hall is nothing like a typical school corridor, it feels more like a wood-clad cavern. The building has two faces: the first is simple and urban – with the volume and elevation corresponding to the surroundings; the second is youthful and semi-private, where the colorful lives of students and teachers exist.

kniha interview

Warsaw on the Road. Marlena Happach Interviewed by Ivan Gogolák »

Capital cities both, Warsaw and Prague share a similar history interwoven with the effects of planned development. But their starting position was very different. Near total destruction of Warsaw during the Second World War left it struggling to find its identity almost to this day. Strong development pressures brought the capital development projects introducing office districts, entirely new neighborhoods and new problems and challenges. To deal with these is in part the responsibility of the Department of Architecture and Spatial Planning in Warsaw – BAiPP. We talked about the capital city with the city architect, Marlena Happach.

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Warsaw Central Square. Architecture Competition »

To be able to understand the present situation of the Warsaw city centre one has to appreciate the scale of its destruction, not just during World War II, but also later in the 1950s. More and more old houses had to make way for the first Warsaw skyscraper, the Palace of Culture and Science, and the Defilad Square in front of it. To make matters worse, after 1989 the square almost completely lost its function. The neglected space was soon overgrown with bus stops, car parks, stalls and carousels, while the city representatives argued whether they should tear the Palace down, or add more tall buildings around it and realize their dream of a Warsaw-style Manhattan.  Only recently did things start to move forward. According to current planning documents there are going to be two new cultural buildings erected next to the Palace of Culture and Science with a new Central Square in the middle. The winner of the international architecture competition for the design of the new square was A-A Collective from Warsaw and Basel.


Archadventures »

Iza Rutkowska, Edyta Skiba

In most cases, architectural participatory projects don’t last very long, and they balance on the thin line between real action and a temporary spatial experiment. Few manage to bring together citizens, professionals, and local government representatives to create long lasting, coherent teams that would work towards a common goal – improving the local environment. No officially recognized format exists for such projects, therefore it’s very difficult to finance them. Still there are many initiatives in Poland trying to engage all citizens, including children, in the design and planning process.

completed project

Puzzle. Activity Area in Chorzów »

Aleksander Bednarski, Mariusz Komraus / SLAS architekci

A new activity area was built on the site of a former military building next to the University of Silesia campus in Chorzów near Katowice. It is the first step in the revitalization and integration of the campus into the urban tissue of Chorzów. The design used the idea of a children’s puzzle – a platform with geometrically shaped openings filled with play equipment, fitness elements, recreational street furniture and greenery. Variety and proximity of attractions should enhance interactions between users of all age groups and help integrate the academic community with local habitants.


Amplifying Nature »

Anna Ptak, Jacek Damięcki, Iza Tarasewicz; Małgorzata Kuciewicz, Simone De Iacobis / CENTRALA

At the 16th Venice Biennale, the Polish Pavilion presented the results of a six-year research project that focused on architecture as an inextricable part of global natural processes: gravity, water circulation, and light oscillation in different times of day. The idea of amplifying nature was explained through the analysis of two modernist projects created in socialist Poland that follow the same principles; the design of the pavilion itself was inspired by the visionary architect Jacek Damiecki’s project, where water buoyancy instead of gravity forms the architectural space. Two new designs for specific locations in Warsaw set the philosophy in contemporary context.

kniha essay

Villas and Other Delusions »

Łukasz Wojciechowski

Twelve years ago, an article about Polish architecture that I had written with Roman Rutkowski was first published in ERA21. I was an optimist then; an emerging and committed architect. Today, having built several projects, I am slowly abandoning the profession and I prefer writing sad books set in modernist times when architects used to really take the fate of the world in their hands. I regard the contemporary architectural scene around our small Polish pond with disgust and embarrassment. One reason for that is my dissatisfaction with the buildings being put up here, but another reason is the media, social media in particular, where architects are losing the last of their dignity.

» entire article

Big Small Initiatives »

Aleksandra Czupkiewicz

Sad news hit us recently: the struggle to preserve the shopping center Sudeten, in Wroclaw, was unsuccessful. November 12, 2019 was the first day of demolition at the site we, the pawilony_pavilions initiative in cooperation with other subjects, fought to save. Every year there are several disputes like this happening in Poland, and in response to that a new social role has been emerging – the role of an urban activist.


Architectural Transplantations »

Aleksandra Kędziorek, Małgorzata Kuciewicz, Simone De Iacobis

The continuous disappearance of post-war modernist architecture from Polish cities everywhere creates an illusion that there are only two options: keep it or raze it. The desire to preserve high-quality architecture unfortunately often loses against the reality of the market economy. Developers now realize that tearing down such buildings causes public backlash, and they have started to offer a third, alternative, option: preserving and incorporating some of the original elements into a new design. But the recent restorations of the Katowice Main Station or the Warsaw Hala Koszyky market hall show us how misguided this compromise is. With our proposal we aim to broaden the scope of available solutions and to buildings facing inevitable demolition we offer a new deal: architectural transplantation.


Stanisław Niemczyk – A Timeless Architect »

Anna Cymer

The singular nature of the recently deceased Stanisław Niemczyk’s work (September 19, 1943 – May 13, 2019) is not just the result of his focus on church architecture. Niemczyk stood opposed to the style commonly applied in the rest of the country and considered himself a “pre-modernist”.


Day-VII Architecture »

Izabela Cichońska, Karolina Popera, Kuba Snopek

Over 3,000 churches were built in Poland between 1945 and 1989, despite the socialist state’s hostility towards religion. We call this Day-VII Architecture, as it was built secretly on Sundays and holidays, while the wheels of the national economy had to keep turning for the remaining six working days, erecting bland prefabricated housing estates. Young inexperienced architects designed the churches, the parishioners themselves built them from scavenged or pinched materials without the use of machinery, while the local community financing system very much resembled what we might call crowdfunding today. Emerging postmodernism, and perhaps even the isolation of the country behind the Iron Curtain, influenced the singular designs. But, in the wider context we can see it as a unique expression of the collective spiritual need and a form of protest against the regime, which might not have allowed the construction of the churches, but didn’t prohibit it either.



Design & Architecture as For-Profit Business

Iva Bastlová


Designing Passive Houses

Libor Hrubý


The Life of a Building in a Cloud or Common Data Space

Petr Vaněk

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