The architecture calling card of the European Capital of Culture 2016 in Wrocław will promote social cohesion, and refers to the tradition of the pre-war avant-garde.
Visualization of WuWA2 in Wrocław, designers: Tadeusz Sawa-Borysławski, Piotr Zybura, Paweł Horn, Tomasz Głowacki, Igor Kazimierczak, photo: Nowe Żerniki Design Office
An exhibition of residential and commercial building, Wohnungs-und Werkraumausstellung or WuWA, opened in Wrocław in 1929. It was organized by a group of Silesian architects, designers, artists and engineers from the German organization Werkbund, whose members worked on innovative solutions in architecture and industrial design. WuWA was the show’s most innovative housing project.
Less is More
The large complex, built around a dozen years before the city's renownwed Centennial Hall - a UNESCO World Heritage site - filled a wide range of functions. Single- and multi-family homes were bordered by playgrounds, a school, a craft workshop, commercial space and even a model farm. Also featured were care facilities for children, the elderly and the unmarried.
All the buildings in the exhibition were designed by architects of the avant-garde movement. The original complex was thus not only conceptualized as a multi-functional space offering a variety of services, but also in terms of its architectural form. It marked the first appearance of the modernist idea of minimalism, with geometric white “boxes” in which function was more important than form and “less was more.”
One Idea and 40 Architects
Visualization of WuWA2 in Wrocław, designers: Agnieszka Chrzanowska, Marta Mnich, Lukasz Wojciechowski, Grzegorz Kaczmarowski, Mikołaj Smoleński, Photo: Nowe Żerniki Design Office
WuWA, now on a list of monuments, was in 1929 an expression of the most progressive ideas concerning housing, urban planning and the features that should be offered to citizens. Today, more than 80 years later, similar ideas occupy the architects and designers of Nowe Żerniki, being built in Wrocław - there is a reason this project is called WuWA 2. “Nowe Żerniki will met the needs of contemporary Wrocław and promote the formation of social bonds”, explains Piotr Fokczyński, the chief architect of Wrocław.
The idea for the construction of the building, which aims to differentiate itself from the mass banal “developments” that are flooding the suburbs of Polish cities, was born in December 2011. Wrocław authorities, in cooperation with the Lower Silesian Regional Chamber of Architects, decided to devote 40 hectares northwest of the Market Square and near the City Stadium to the model housing estate. Work on the concept of the estate was also done by the Lower Silesian Branch of SARP. The creator of the project emphasizes that the development will be not only an innovative, eco-friendly place to live, but also an architectural landmark in the European Capital of Culture in 2016 (Wrocław was awarded this title in 2011).
Visualization of WuWA2 in Wrocław, designers: Mariusz Szlachcic, Marek Wiśniewski, Małgorzata Chrabąszcz, Photo: Nowe Żerniki Design Office
Nowe Żerniki is a residential complex unique in many respects. It was not designed by a single studio, but rather the concept and urban planning were done by a team of forty Wrocław architects. Working together under the supervision of the chief architect of the city, they created a vision for the whole project, the details of which are still being worked out.
Describing their idea for the project, developers said, “In contrast to standard housing, erected randomly on the outskirts of the city, Nowe Żerniki was conceived as a unit able to elevate the quality of life and character of the city. On the estate there will be a school, a kindergarten, a nursing home and a community center located in a converted bomb shelter. The main axes of the development are designed as green alleys, along which retail and service outlets will be integrated. There will also be recreational facilities – stadiums, tennis courts, and playgrounds. In the southern part of the settlement, near the park, there are plans to erect a church.”
But that is not all: the estate plans to provide a “bazaar”, as well as outpatient or home care for the elderly. Everything will be on a “human scale” and located in the green, friendly and safe environment. Architects have devoted a great deal of attention to the division and development of public, semi-public, and private spaces. Today, many complexes are built with a focus on private space. Developers will ensure that an apartment is equipped with a terrace or fenced in garden, but rarely do they think about what lies outside that fence. WuWA 2 will have public spaces – streets, plazas, and squares – that are just as meticulously designed as the gardens and courtyards found in other housing blocks.
Visualization of WuWA2 in Wrocław, designers: Piotr Marek, Bartosz Żmuda, Bartosz Szczepański, Photo: Nowe Żerniki Design Office
Residential buildings in the complex will have variable dimensions. There will be high blocks, private and multifamily homes and villa quarters. The area will be divided into a number of small colonies, which will be built in stages. The first is to be completed in 2016. It will be located in the northwestern part of the settlement and include a cultural center, which will play an important part in the events celebrating the European Capital of Culture.
Each of the quarters of the building will have its own character, inclusive of the people and their identification with their place of residence. Everything in the complex will be enclosed, providing a sense of security and intimacy. Streets, courtyards, alleys, and gardens are employed to integrate residents and eliminate the feeling of anonymity that plagues many new residential developments. The human scale of the development and the infrastructure (shops, schools, clinics) arising with the project are a natural way to eliminate the need to travel by car. Architects predict that most destinations will be accessible by foot, which is also motivates the development of well-designed public spaces and green avenues.
In accordance with the requirements of modern construction, the development will be built with energy-saving technologies. In addition to excellent insulation and efficient heating, the blocks will be built with consideration of the natural features of the area: living rooms will be positioned to let in the most natural light, while bedrooms and utility rooms will have smaller windows to avoid energy loss. Rainwater will be collected (for use in green or flush toilets) and architects have also provided for the use of renewable-energy sources including solar panels.
A Fairy-tale Development
Visualization of WuWA2 in Wrocław, designers: Anna Misiura, Łukasz Kabarowski, Photo: Nowe Żerniki Design Office
The funding of the project is also unique. The city allocated 40 million złoty (around 10 million euro) for the construction of public buildings (schools, kindergartens, homes for the elderly) and road infrastructure. Private investors will finance the construction of the residential buildings. The plan includes contributions from many sources, not only large developers. The diversity in dimension and scale of the individual quarters will enable “the implementation of model solutions for buildings of varying scale and the involvement of a variety of investors – developers, small firms, cooperatives, and individual investors”, stress the project developers.
Private investors will be selected through a process of bidding, the winners of which will be offered the projects made available by the 40 residential architects working on concepts for the development. Zbigniew Maćków, chairman of the Lower Silesian Region Chamber of Architects and one of the designers of the estate, explains that investors will be able to buy the architects’ plans, “but we do not exclude that they come with their own ideas. [...] We do not focus on how much the developers are willing to pay for the property, but what and how they intend to build. We want to create at Żerniki a good and friendly environment for the residents".
To anyone familiar with the state of housing blocks in contemporary Poland, Nowe Żerniki sounds like a dream. Contrary to market requirements, the architects want to create a great place to live, a wonderful neighborhood where everyone feels content. Will it work? Houses built in 1929 for the WuWA at the time seemed avant-garde, but today the modernist blocks and associated philosophy are no longer uncommon. Ground has already been broken in the construction of Nowe Żerniki….
More on the developlent avaliable on Nowe Żerniki
Translation: Alena Aniskiewicz 28.06.2013