From Brazil to Qatar: Projects by Polish Architects around the World
no-image, From Brazil to Qatar: Projects by Polish Architects around the World
For some of them, work abroad was only a brief jaunt, for others it was their entire life. Even though none of them has yet achieved the stardom of Frank Gehry or Zaha Hadid, Polish architects have realised some incredible projects worldwide.
Lucjan Korngold – from Warsaw to São Paulo
Lucjan Korngold, graduate of the Faculty of Architecture, Warsaw University of Technology in 1923, designed tenement buildings and villas for private investors. Linking modern form with classical elegance brought him popularity among pre-war Warsaw citizens eager to invest in real estate.
In 1939, Korngold and his family left Poland, escaping war and fascism. Via Italy, the architect travelled to Brazil, finally settling in São Paulo. Before acquiring rights to realise independent projects, he collaborated with other architects. In the mid-1940s, a real estate boom started in Brazil, resulting a lot of investment in construction. During this perdiod, Lucjan Korngold designed houses and residential settlements, but his specialty was city offices for the corporations and banks that were rapidly developing in South America at the time.
Commercial designs for big corporations were very different from Warsaw tenement buildings. In São Paulo, Korngold started designing reinforced-concrete skyscrapers with simple, geometrical forms and rhythmical façade patterns. He gave them unique character by using details such as rounded quoins or steel elements.
Dorton Arena, Raleigh, North Carolina, designed by Maciej Nowicki, 1949
In 1945, architect Maciej Nowicki, who designed urban plans during the war for the future rebuilding of Warsaw, was appointed Polish cultural attaché in Chicago and became a member of the team constructing the United Nations headquarters in New York City. Afterwards, he decided not to come back to Poland. He started a series of lectures at the North Caroline State University, combining theoretical work with architectural practice. In 1949, he designed the multi-purpose Dorton Arena, which today still holds a place in architecture textbooks worldwide.
The arena, which can seat up to 8,000 people, is unique in its construction: it mainly consists of a massive suspended roof. Two parabolic arches made of concrete create a frame on which steel lines are spread out that hold up the roof as it spans widely over the interior. Thanks to this, the arena is not divided by any load-bearing columns – the roof does not require additional support. Only 4 years after it was opened, the arena was listed as one of the ten constructions that have had the biggest influence on American architecture. In 1972, the Raleigh arena was placed on the National Historic Registry.
Construction of the arena ended in 1953, three years after the tragic death of the architect. Maciej Nowicki died in a plane crash on his way from the Indian city of Chandigarh, where he had been designing a governmental district. After his death, the city was later designed by Le Corbusier.
Polish architects in France
In the 1960s, Warsaw and Gdańsk architecture faculties got a chance to send their students for internships in France. Many of the young architects who participated in the programme decided not to come back to Poland – hence, there is a rather numerous group of Polish architects who shortly afterwards started working in France. At that time, the French government was carrying out the massive Villes Nouvelles project, which involved building new planned communities and towns in the region surrounding Paris. This meant a surfeit of jobs for the architects.
In 2009, SARP (the Association of Polish Architects) held the exhibition ARCHIPOL EXPO, which presented the legacy of Polish architects working in France in the second half of the 20th century. Among the projects displayed, there were: the surprisingly modern public housing projects by Iwona Buczkowska (in Saint Dizier, Le Blanc Mesnil and Ivry-sur-Seine); the expressive congress hall made of concrete, designed by Andre (Andrzej) Mrowiec for Perros Guirec in Bretagne; and the visionary utopian projects of Witold Zandfos. Zandfos, together with Jan Karczewski and Michel Lefebvre, started the Miasto group and created futuristic visions that were supposed to, in his own words, ‘use novel technologies in science and industry for complex spatial planning and the construction of cities on the ruins of 20th-century urban planning.’
Stanisław Fiszer – a postmodernist in France
One of the architects who decided to move their practice to France in the 1960s was Stanisław Fiszer. In 1972, he opened his own studio, Fiszer Atelier 41, in Paris, and in 1997 he opened a branch in Warsaw. He co-designed the Warsaw Stock Exchange headquarters and was responsible for the rebuilding of the Kubicki Arcades at the Royal Castle in Warsaw as well as Miasteczko Orange, a complex of office buildings also in the capital.
Stanisław Fiszer draws from different styles. He sees his departure from Poland as a ‘widening of the array of aesthetics’ which inspire him. Some consider Fiszer’s realisations to be supreme examples of postmodern architecture because they incorporate details and elements of the most diverse origin. The postmodern works of Fiszer include a school in Régalles (1980) and the Theatre and Media Library in Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines (1994). In 1988, the Marais district in Paris saw the construction of the research centre of the French National Archives. The solid, heavy form was finished with the use of stone and black metal. Another unique building is the monumental hotel at the Thermes Nationaux in Aix-les-Bains (2000), which combines modernist simplicity with ancient motifs.
Bohdan Paczowski – through Italy to Luxembourg
Bohdan Paczowski is a graduate of the Kraków University of Technology. He also studied at the Polytechnic University of Milan. In the early 1960s, he settled abroad permanently – first in Italy, later in Paris. Today he lives in Luxembourg, where he co-runs architecture studio Paczowski et Fritsch Architectes. Besides his designs, Paczowski is a writer, penning essays on culture (his anthology Zobaczyć (editor’s translation: To See) was published in 2006 by słowo / obraz terytoria), and a photographer
The studio Paczowski et Fritsch Architectes was founded in 1989 and has since then realised multiple projects in Belgium, France, Switzerland and predominantly Luxembourg. In 1994, the expansion of the European Court of Justice was completed. The result is a massive form with darkened windows, located behind a row of smaller, stone-decorated pavilions. In 2007, Rocade de Bonnevoie, one of the city council’s headquarters, was unveiled with the studio’s input, and then an airport terminal in Luxembourg a year later. Both are characteristic for their frigid modern form, in which metal and glass are dominant. Apart from public utility buildings, Paczowski’s ensemble has also designed residential buildings, offices and commercial objects.
Polish Embassy in New Delhi, designed by Witold Cęckiewicz and Stanisław Deńko, 1973-1978
In 1973, SARP (the Association of Polish Architects) organised a closed architectural competition for the design of the Polish Embassy in the Indian capital, New Delhi. Out of eight project groups invited to compete, the first prize was awarded to a design by Kraków-based architects, Witold Cęckiewicz and Stansiław Deńko. On a relatively small plot, the architects had to squeeze in not only the Embassy building, but also several accompanying objects, such as the trade advisor’s office, the ambassador’s residence, a school for the embassy staff’s children as well as recreational spaces. The construction of the complex was completed in 1978.
Witold Cęckiewicz and Stanisław Deńko decided to use a novelty material at the time: reinforced concrete. Using it, they built a complex of simple buildings raised onto 11-metre columns, which is today considered one of the most interesting examples of post-war modernism.
Many years later, Deńko recalled working on the design:
We were heavily influenced by Le Corbusier, but back then everybody was influenced by him. We wanted to translate Corbusierian language into Indian reality, so to speak.
The Polish Embassy in New Delhi is a geometrical, simple, modernist building adapted to the challenges of the sweltering Indian climate, such as lifting the buildings up onto columns to allow for the creation of a large shadowed area. Also, the two-ply roof helps ventilate and cool the interior, while the heart of the complex is an atrium with a swimming pool. The architects also thought of numerous terraces for meetings. An important element of the design are also the concrete trusses that protect the glass façade from overheating. These light breakers, aside from their practical function, also have a decorative one.
Polish architects in the Middle East and Africa
In the 1970s and 1980s, the collaboration of Polish government with several Middle East and Africa nations resulted in interesting architectural projects. Polish architects travelled to Damascus, Baghdad, Tripoli, Abu Dhabi, as well as Nigeria and Ghana to build housing estates, schools and entertainment venues. They also created urban plans for city centres and neighbourhoods.
The authors of the book Postmodernism is Almost All Right: Polish Architecture After Socialist Globalisation explain:
The export of architecture and urban planning was the feather in the Polish People’s Republic’s cap. It constituted an element of political and economic support given by the Eastern Bloc to the newly-formed countries in Africa, Middle East and Asia.
Wojciech Jarząbek, one of the most important Polish postmodern architects and the man behind Wrocław’s Solpol, designed a commercial and office complex called Al Othman in Kuwait. Jan Jacek Meissner, Małgorzata Mazurkiewicz, Marek Dunikowski and Wojciech Miecznikowski designed the monumental National Library in Damascus. An architecture team led by Wojciech Zabłocki created the Olympics centre in Latakia, Syria, while Stefan Kuryłowicz and Jakub Wacławek competed for the design of the Parliament building in Algiers. The general consultant for urban planning in Baghdad was Tadeusz Ptaszycki, the head designer of Nowa Huta (the urban plan for which was developed by the state agency Miastoprojekt Kraków).
34/35 Dessauer Straße residential building in Berlin, designed by Romuald Loegler, 1991-1993
Internationale Bauaustellung (IBA, Interbau) was an international exhibition cycle on urban planning and construction, organised in Germany throughout the 20th century (both before and after World War II). During each of the exhibitions, architects presented innovative and experimental urban designs, which were supposed to answer urgent city needs, e.g. cheap residential buildings. One of the most important exhibitions was the 1987 edition organised in Berlin. Since the topic of the IBA’87 was on the urban revitalisation, rebuilding and reconstruction of historical buildings, Rem Koolhaas, Aldo Rossi, Zaha Hadid, Hans Hollein, Arata Isozaki, Rob Krier and many other architects were charged with designing infills for an exhibition in the Kreuzberg neighbourhood.
Polish architect Romuald Loegler, designer of the Łódź Philharmonic and the Kraków Opera, also realised a project at IBA’87. The residential building at Dessauer Straße 34/35 was the result of Loegler’s analysis of the urban situation of its historic district, partially destroyed during the war. The four-storey corner building was designed according to basic geometric shapes: squares and rectangles. The plaster façade was adorned with a clay truss, arranging different-sized windows in order and giving them a harmonic rhythm.
Romuald Loegler’s designs from the 1980s are considered some of the best examples of postmodern architecture. The house in Berlin can also be considered part of the postmodern trend, given that, like other IBA’87 designs, it creates a form of dialogue with its historical surroundings and paraphrases architectural motifs from the distant past.
Polish Embassy in Tokyo, Japan, designed by Krzysztof Ingarden and Jacek Ewý, 1994-2001
Krzysztof Ingarden, co-founder of Kraków studio Ingarden & Ewý, first went to Japan in 1977. In the 1980s, he worked at Arata Isozaki’s renowned firm. Since then, he regularly travelled to Japan and, in 2002, became an honorary consul of Japan in Poland. It was his studio that designed the Polish embassy in Tokyo between 1994 and 1999, with the construction ending in 2001.
On their website the architects described the challenge they faced:
The building of the new Polish embassy is situated in the Meguro-ku district, where it is surrounded by low residential buildings. The small plot required development fitting the dimensions and shape of the building to the scale of the narrow street and leaving as much open public space in front of the building as possible. At the same time, the building needed official character, although not ostentatious.... Showing the relationships of the architecture to Polish tradition was a major objective.
Culture.pl in Brazil
The embassy building was divided into two parts. One is a relatively simple office building, while its entrance is located in a separate pavilion adjoining the façade. The oval pavilion made of brick has a small suspended roof protecting the entrance. The entire composition resembles a medieval barbican with an open, and thus inviting, drawbridge. The intended gravity and elegance of the diplomatic building were achieved by the use of appropriate materials: dark brick on the façades of the entrance pavilion, and fair stone and glass in the main building.
WWAA w Katarze
Young Polish studio WWAA was made famous through its design of the Polish Pavilion, prepared for the Shanghai EXPO in 2010. The pavilion, with its plywood façade inspired by folk cut-outs, was so popular that it was quickly plagiarised. Its exact copy was built in Dubai.
This did not lead the WWAA architects to hold a grudge against the Middle East, however, and since 2013 they have been collaborating with a television station in Qatar. They have created a couple of interior design projects for television studios, ordered by National Qatar Television, including one for a game show, Ched Halak, and a morning programme called Sabah Rabah, as well as one for a programme celebrating Qatar National Day 2013. It’s no coincidence that a member of the WWAA studio is a respected scenographer, Boris Kudlička.
Written by Anna Cymer, translated by OK, January 2016