GRAU’S GARDENS

 

Careful revitalization of a neo-gothic palace from the turn of the 19th and 20th century, respecting the garden layout and harmoniously adding an intimate apartment part, restores the historical urban fabric of Wrocław. In the recultivated internal park (approx. 1650m2) with a playground, the priority of old trees (hawthorns, English oak) was preserved. Subdued colors and stylish illumination (ecological LED systems) emphasize the historical, modernist context. The dominant character of the historic palace was highlighted by stylistic economy of the new apartment part and elegant landscaping, organising the spontaneous self-seeding, designing unpaved surface in the form of light gravel and simple, high quality elements of small architecture: benches, waste bins, bicycle racks. On the one hand, the buildings constitute a frame for the park complex, on the other – they create the setting of Gdańska Street, combining the open character of the plot with the scale of the surrounding quarter plan, referring to its height and continuing the line of development. Around the buildings, on a part of the site, we designed gardens belonging to the apartments located on the first floor. The semi-public park serves the local community. The openwork fence does not isolate the area.

MŁYN MARIA – MARIA MILL

The Mill complex is located on the Odra river channel separating the Piasek and Mlynska Islands. It stood in this place already in 1267, although the current shape of the complex after the reconstruction caused by fire was created according to the design of Fredrich Wilhelm Brunnert in 1791-1792. Current form of the Maria Mills does not differ substantially from the Brunnert’s project. As a result of the destruction of World War II, the original higher volume was replaced with a 3-storey front connector, on which the characteristic logo of the complex appeared at the turn of the 1960s and 1970s. This image of the Mills (low connector, logo) is an image that Wroclaw citizens identify with the historic character of this place. The aim of the project was to preserve this image and to honor the collective memory. We enriched this image with an intimate, green square.

The sequence of Piasek and Mlynska Island is complemented by Bielarska and Slodowa Islands. Thanks to the reconstruction of the gate passage and the pier on the western side, Piasek and Mynska Island gained another pedestrian connection. Additionally, the north-western zone of the plot was shaped in the form of an escarpment levelling the ground level, hiding an underground garage and serving as an open public space for the inhabitants of Wrocław. Trees were planted on the upper platform of the slope, and the stairs were enriched with benches and low vegetation – so that the view of the river and the canal, which is an important element of the assumption, would not be obscured.

The building complex was a difficult engineering and conservation/preservation challenge. Apart from the buildings, the canals with the existing infrastructure (related to the previous function of the object), which was heavily damaged by time and the flood of 1997, also required renovation. The entire complex was under strict conservator’s protection. The existing window openings in the mill facility were enlarged leaving the original opening visible and varying the degree of transparency of the added glazing. As a result, the lighting conditions of the apartments were improved, and the original disposition of the façade was preserved.

The extension of the building, together with the extension of the infill and the western connector, was constructed in a different material – perforated corrugated sheet consisting of fixed elements and mechanically controlled window louvers. The difference between the new and the existing is clear, and depending on the amount of light, weather or temperature, the building takes on a different form through the number of open or closed elements.

3840 WITOLDA STREET

3840 Witolda Street is another example of a place reclaimed for the citizens of Wrocław and a dialogue with the pre-war, post-German urban fabric. The building was constructed in 1907 on Werderstrasse as the headquarters of the Main Customs Office (Hauptzollamt Breslau), on land adjacent to the former city port. The two-part project involved the renovation of the original building and the construction of a residential and service pavilion in the riverside area. The distinctive mass of the historic part dominates over Ksiecia Witolda Street with its height and façade, rhythmic rows of large windows, and eclectic style and hybrid construction. The characteristic wooden turrets on the river side were to refer to the earlier wooden port buildings. The body of the building has a U-shaped plan, with the main wing on the side of Księcia Witolda Street and two side wings, topped with a high gabled roof, marking out the inner courtyard. It performed economic functions, and the presence of the river was used purely utilitarian. However, as more and more urban life is developing along the Oder – restaurants, promenades, cycle lanes – we decided to change its character – from a pre-war backwater to a metropolitan boulevard in line with existing solutions in the area, revitalising and activating the Oder riverfront. The newly built pavilion with flats and premises intended for restaurants and cafés formally reduces the height of the second-plan development, creates a second, more accessible frontage on the Oder side, and the stylistic simplicity is intended to realise our intention of a discreet, light and elegant presence in this historic place. Dialogue does not mean imitation. The intimate scale and simplicity of the pavilion “disarms” the site from the hieratic dominance of the historic building. High-quality materials were used in the restoration of the original elements; also the front elevation, crowned with two gables finished with stone snails – was under strict conservation protection. The windows, stained-glass windows, tiles and polychrome were renovated and, if necessary, reconstructed. We tried to respect the style of the place, the historical context in Wrocław means German past and German architectural traditions and urban planning.

Neighbourhood terrace, Podwale Street, Wrocław

We made this small project with intention to organize and revitalize the space of a typical courtyard between 19th century townhouses. We also wanted, perhaps manifesting a bit, to decontaminate a piece of the city. Summer in the city without greenery is gradually more and more difficult to endure. Hence the idea to create a comfortable space, giving shelter from the sun, being both an extension of our office and a meeting place for residents of the tenement. The form of the terrace was designed for easy accessibility for all users – a low platform, equipped with fixed furniture, arranges the space using simple forms.
This is one of our smallest projects ever done. To realize it we removed from soil 30m2 of concrete. First of all we arrangeded an arboristic care for magnificent glandular aylanthus (aka ‘Mietek’), which was placed in the central part of our terrace. Among others, sanitary and care cuts of the crown as well as loosening and aeration of the soil structure were carried out. The existing tree provides natural protection from the sun on hot summer days.
The terrace is made of narrow 5.5 cm x 2.65 cm boards, spaced at 1 cm intervals, which creates an openwork structure that does not block the natural absorption of rainwater by the soil. To make a terrace, we used certified softwood, which came from forests where sustainable forest management is carried out. We consciously decided not to use chemical wood preservatives – thanks to that we did not introduce about 10 liters of oils, which are based on solvent, into the environment. The wood species we have chosen (Siberian larch) has natural resistance to weather conditions and even without any chemical maintenance it will serve us for at least 10-15 years. Over time, its natural color will be covered with a gray patina.
After freeing another 40m2, we designed a garden. Filling this small area with numerous shrubs and perennials will ensure lush, dense, understory greenery in the future. We also planted two beech trees, which will create a natural protection from the sun for the southern, strongly sunny elevation of the building. The entire 70m2 has become a biologically active area and helps us to better manage rainwater within the courtyard.
We invited all residents of the tenement house to the first phase of the project (cleaning the courtyard). We did something like a neighbourhood co-op, bought tools, plants and ordered transport. The terrace itself was made by a professional company. After all of this we had a barbecue, which lasted until the early morning hours.

History Center ZAJEZDNIA

It is fascinating that over a century before the appearance of hybrid objects in architectural typologies, structures were built which can change their functions so easily. This was the case here: an electric tramway depot first turned into a bus garage, and then into a museum. But one thing at a time.

In the 1870s, when a building boom started in the south-western part of the city, apart from tenements new industrial plants were built, together with the accompanying infrastructure. In 1892, on the initiative of merchant M. Wehlau, the company Elektrische Straβenbahn Breslau in partnership with Allgemeine Elektricitäts-Gesellschaft launched a modern electric tramway line and constructed the necessary depot. Unfortunately, the complex of depot halls was dramatically destroyed during the war activities. Its remains were adapted for providing services to buses.

Before preparing the concept we came to the conclusion that retaining the composition of the detached objects, reflecting the spatial arrangement of the historical halls, will endow the project with a spatial quality. The designed complex will ultimately comprise a research and training centre, which will also be the venue for conferences and lectures. For this reason the entire functional structure of the adapted halls was subordinated to the ultimate plan, in which two independent objects will act as one complex, with the main entrance situated in the axis of a multifunctional square and leading to the underground level. This enabled us to preserve the intact shape of the hall and restore its exteriors to its heyday, with only minor modifications signalling the new function. In the future, the underground entrance zone will smoothly lead to a multifunctional square that will serve as an extension to the exhibition areas and offer an opportunity of conducting a wide range of activities facilitating the educational purpose. This gesture does not introduce disharmony in the urban plan of the oblong bodies of the buildings, which is so typical for the industrial areas along this section of Grabiszyńska Street.

A modern museum gives a chance to the entire district by providing a new public space in the so far industrial part of the city.

BALLESTREMS’ PALACE 4 WŁODKOWICA STREET WROCŁAW

The urban palace located at ul. Włodkowica 4 was built for Franz Karl von Ballestrem, a politician of the Catholic Party and President of the Reichstag. The building was designed in 1898 by Albert Grau, a well-known architect from Wrocław, who used the remains of earlier constructions, including 18th-century fortifications. During WWI, the palace interiors were partly converted into flats made available to people in a difficult situation. After WWII, the building first housed the Security Office, and then council flats, which resulted in partial destruction of the original arrangement of rooms and devastation of the interior design. In 1997 the edifice was inscribed in the Register of Historic Monuments. In 2014, the current owner of the palace began its renovation and expansion, which restored the building’s former splendour. The richly-ornamented façades from the side of ul. Włodkowica and the garden, including the historic sculpture of St. Hedwig and the stone coat of arms of the Ballestrems, were renovated. Inside, the original door frames and part of the floors were kept while the moulding and period tiles in the bathrooms were reconstructed. In the magnificent stairwell, the wrought iron stair balustrade and red terrazzo steps were restored to their original state. The charm and prestige of the historic architecture of the former Ballestrems’ palace combined with modern furnishings make the building an ideal place for the seat of a club and a restaurant. The original ceiling in the basement and the old brick walls create a unique atmosphere in the interiors of the club, while the space on the ground floor, full of light and opening up to the terrace and garden, is the perfect spot for a gourmet restaurant. These spaces are accompanied by high-standard offices located on the higher floors. Coupled with over 110-year long history of the meticulously restored former Ballestrems’ Palace, the resulting venue becomes an exceptional place where tradition overlaps modernity. Its additional asset is the location near the Old Town Promenade – a green belt near the moat around the Old Town. It is one of the favourite walking areas of Wrocław dwellers. The restaurant with its 19th-century ceiling boasts a terrace with a view of the garden. The club with auxiliary spaces in the basement has a separate entrance and independent access to the garden. Its ceiling, just like the restaurant’s, is also original.
In 2014, the current owner of the palace began its renovation and expansion, which restored the building’s former splendour. The richly-ornamented façades from the side of ul. Włodkowica and the garden, including the historic sculpture of St. Hedwig and the stone coat of arms of the Ballestrems, were renovated. Inside, the original door frames and part of the floors were kept while the moulding and period tiles in the bathrooms were reconstructed. In the magnificent stairwell, the wrought iron stair balustrade and red terrazzo steps were restored to their original state.

DSOIA – Headquarters of the Lower Silesian Chamber of Architects

If someone had ever told me that we were going to reconstruct a building, I probably wouldn’t have believed. But, obviously, in architecture as in politics – never say nerver. Sometimes you have to solve a complicated puzzle in which the missing piece is the whole building. And that was the case.

The story of this reconstruction is a bit like the story of our new architectural reality. Uncomplicated and passionate. At the vernissage on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the opening of the WuWA exhibition in Wrocław, a few friends and I stood under a board with an image of a freshly burnt kindergarten (accidentally, of course), complaining about the times, impunity of investors and – as always – bad weather. However, if it is possible to seduce an architect with a simple projection, then such a (collective) seduction took place there. Once again it turned out that a good plan is the ticket to the second life of a historical building. And that Vitruvius’ triad is not a list of points but a system of functions, where Firmitas is linearly proportional to Utilitas.

After the enlightenment at the exhibition, the events unfolded rapidly – as they do in our soldier everyday life. A brave and far-sighted decision by the local authorities to donate the site to the Chamber of Architects, months of efforts to obtain EU subsidies, an instant reconstruction project and construction at a record-breaking time of five and a half months. During this reconstruction there were many basic questions: exact location, details, colour. The thorough detective investigation with great support of the conservator brings a reward – a paddling pool discovered by accident at the end of the project confirming that the building is perfectly aligned.

Finally there it is! There will be a new home for architecture and architects. A permanent address which is an integral part of the profession’s raison d’être. Soon there will be an architectural film klub, a permanent exhibition of WuWa, lectures, workshops and exhibitions for young people. But that’s a quite different story.

RENOMA

At first there was a paralyzing fear. Although the task was seemingly trivial – finding the packaging. Or, to be more precise, the form for a modern trading machine, consisting of many unloved components (multi-storey parking lot) and technological duties (scoops, ejectors, openwork). A machine perfectly programmed for the needs of modern trade by specialists from London (Benoy) and introducing with its mass a considerable disharmony in the scale of this fragment of the city. In contrast there was the monumental and iconic, destroyed but still uncompromisingly beautiful Dernburg building, in front of which one should kneel. Things were not made easier by the extremely complicated guidelines of the Local Plan.
Later, many months of scrambling from wall to wall, looking for a formula that would solve all the problems… This time the key was intuitively close – in the first sketches and conversations, although to notice it we made a circle of discussions and many alternative versions.
The main intention was a stylistic and formal continuation of the existing architecture using a contemporary sign language and using the dynamics so characteristic of the era to balance the scale of the building. The coherence of the old and new parts was achieved through proportions, mass reduction measures, horizontal divisions of the façade, the character of used materials and colors. The dynamics of the unambiguously horizontal façade of the new part has been intensified by the fan-like deflection of the horizontal cornices, which create a very pronounced foreground of the façade. It is backed by glass storefronts and a wall finished with fibre-cement panels in dark brown color which corresponds with the ceramic cladding of the historic building. The new body is connected to the historic building through an entrance atrium, which serves as a link (buffer) between the two parts.
As part of the investment, the Czysta Square was developed and Podwale and Czysta Streets were reconstructed, thanks to which the areas surrounding the department store were again incorporated into the public life of the city.

SECONDARY SCHOOL SIECHNICE