The co-author and chief curator of the exhibition in the Polish Pavilion of the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale has been working on the quality of public space in Poland for years – both as a designer and a member of the Public Space Studio at the Institute of Design Kielce.
Designer, curator, and organizer of initatives in public space.
Dominika Janicka, born on 1986, studied architecture at the Gdańsk University of Technology and at Institut Supérieur d’Architecture La Cambre in Brussels. In autumn 2015, the idea for the exhibition at the Polish Pavilion of the Venice Architecture Biennale which she drafted together with Michał Gdak, was selected as the winning entry in the competition for the concept of the show; in May 2016, when the Biennale opened to the public, The New York Times featured the exhibition Fair Building as one of the six most interesting national pavilion presentations. Janicka and Gdak decided to demonstrate the process of creating architecture from the perspective of its least appreciated participants – the construction workers.
In a consumer-driven culture we can be more concerned with the standards involved in making chocolate bars than the buildings and spaces that frame contemporary society. This exhibition will focus on the ethical issues surrounding the construction industry and the views of those directly involved. – the curators announced in the press release. And they achieved their goal: not only was it noticed, but also provoked a discussion on the working conditions of builders and on the fact that their input in erecting new objects is still unjustly ignored.
Before Dominika Janicka conceived the idea for the exhibition in Venice, she was also working on improving the quality of the everyday surrounding space. As an architect, she designed street furniture and objects, which made Polish cities friendlier.
In 2012, together with Anna Jankowska, she decided to… transform common grey electricity boxes into colour bar tables with rotating seats. The designers turned a permanent element of a cityscape into functional and cheerful furniture that could be used for relaxing, meetings, a short rest, but which also simply added an aesthetic value to the street. The project was realised in 2012 in Gdynia as part of the competition Gdynia City Transformers, organised by the Gdynia Design Centre.
In the same year, Dominika Janicka and Anna Jankowska received a distinction in the competition for the landscape plan of the Friends of Sopot Square.
As a resort city, Sopot has always been associated with entertainment. We tried to to reflect this character in our plan – the designers wrote and, following this concept, they devised a system of mobile city furniture. The intention of the seats and divans sliding on rails, but also e.g. waffle booths was to make people smile and encourage mutual interaction.
In 2012, Dominika Janicka and Anna Jankowska founded the architecture studio AD 12 (Anno Domini 2012).
The duo aims to create projects that spur users’ imagination and encourage interaction with the surrounding – the designers stated in their motto.
They implemented their idea to create concepts that are blend into the surroundings and are unconventional, for instance when designing (in collaboration with Michał Idźkowiak) unusual bus stops for a borough in Gdynia.
The architects, with the support from the borough council, decided to transform well known bus stops into places that welcome creativity, thus generating an intriguing and inspiring space – Gazeta Wyborcza wrote about this project.
The authors changed the side walls of the traditional bus stops into game panels with pin boards and labyrinths which one could move around with a wooden handle. These simple and appealing – not only for children – games were supposed to sweeten the time for those waiting for their bus (the Chwarzno-Wiczlino borough in Gdynia, where the bus stops were installed, not only lacks recreational facilities, but is also notorious for traffic jams, which prolong the wait for the bus). The toys met with very positive reception.
Since 2014, Janicka has been co–running the Public Space Studio at the Institute of Design Kielce (an institution focusing on promoting design and innovative initiatives related to it). The Studio had already generated several dozen projects, from workshops for children or international students to activities educating and animating residents in the fields of urban greenery, aesthetics of advertising, and spatial order.
Whether as a designer, curator or organizer, Dominika Janicka continues to incorporate unrecognised themes in public debates – from respect for spatial design to ethical approach towards the under-appreciated participants of the process of raising buildings. At the same time she proves that projects in public space may not only make life easier, but also more pleasant.