Founded in 1998, the Grupa 5 Architects studio designs office buildings, residential houses, and public buildings. Its style is characterised by restrained elegance, regardless of whether the design is for a new project or a reconstruction of a historical building.
Grupa 5 Architects was founded in 1998 in Warsaw by Roman Dziedziejko, Michał Leszczyński, Krzysztof Mycielski, Mikołaj Lech Kadłubowski, and Mariusz Jasiński. Today, the company employs about forty architects on a permanent basis and cooperates with more than a hundred specialists in various fields. It is managed by Roman Dziedziejko, Michał Leszczyński, Krzysztof Mycielski, Rafał Zelent, Rafał Grzelewski, Maciej Dudkiewicz, and Maciej Lewandowski. The end of the 1990s, when Group 5 formed, was, on the one hand, a good time to develop an architectural studio because of the construction boom in Poland. Investors competed in search of talented designers. On the other hand, it was not easy for young artists to survive on the market, which back then was still unstable. Grupa 5 Architects succeeded. Not only has it recently celebrated its 20th anniversary, but above all, it continues to take on new challenges with the same level of commitment.
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Grupa 5 Architects became famous in 2012, when, on the occasion of the European Football Championship Euro 2012 in Poland, it carried out an impressive renovation of the main railway station in Wrocław. In 2008, the studio won the design contest for this multifaceted project. It involved restoring the huge neo-Gothic mid-19th century building, adapting its interiors to contemporary needs, as well as creating a completely new arrangement of the square in front of the station. All the work was carried out in close cooperation with a conservator, which turned out to be particularly important, as during the construction works numerous details were discovered, such as historical carpentry which was successfully restored.
Tradition & Modernity in Harmony: Transformations of Polish Railway Stations
The aim of the project, which the architects themselves described as ‘preserving the place’s inimitable and unique atmosphere and mood while simultaneously introducing new elements in a contemporary style evoking original solutions,’ was successfully achieved. Not only has the project won many awards, but it is still seen as an example of a model revitalisation of a historical building which, while retaining its original structure, has been adapted to the requirements of the 21st century.
The success of Wrocław railway station’s revitalisation was not a coincidence – Grupa 5 Architects is perfectly capable of dealing with projects in a historical context. With success and respect for the original form, they turned a modernist printing house building into a dormitory in Łódź. They are also the co-creators (together with the Spanish BAAS office and the Silesian Małeccy Biuro Projektowe) of one of the most famous architectural projects of recent years – the headquarters of the Radio and Television Faculty of the University of Silesia in Katowice. The building was built in an exceptionally difficult area – on a small plot of land, among dense, downtown buildings. Furthermore, the new building absorbed an old building, part of an old light bulb factory, located nearby.
Poland’s Most Beautiful University Campuses
The architects wrote about this project:
The intention of the designers was not to build an iconic building, but to complement a fragment of the city. They took a look at what exists, discovered why it is unique and then gave it a special atmosphere and personality.
In this project, it was possible to combine the specific needs of the students of the Faculty of Radio and Television (both a courtyard for social meetings and a number of specialised rooms, including recording rooms, were created) with the addition of a new quality to the urban environment: a building that refers to the size, colours and textures of the neighbouring buildings without directly imitating projects from the past. Behind the facade of hundreds of openwork ceramic fittings is a modern university building.
The Silesian Museum: The Architecture of Identity
In 2018, on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the existence of the studio, a book summarising its achievements was published, entitled Życie i Przestrzeń (Life and Space). In the book, Krzysztof Mycielski explains:
(...) Setting oneself a goal of designing only aesthetics is not enough. I was never willing to die for aesthetics. Taking care of it is an important part of our profession and this should not be forgotten, but architecture is not just about a nice picture.
It seems that these words characterise the group’s approach to design well. The team’s output shows that although the visual effect is important, the architects give priority to the space they ‘package’ with the building. And this space has two faces: the comfort of using the building – clear layout, bright interiors, human scale, colours and textures, but also the impact the new building has on the surroundings, on the neighbourhood. That is why their primary school in Podkowa Leśna has a fragmented body (it appears smaller) and irregularly arranged windows marked with colourful frames (which break the monotony of elongated elevations), and the house in the vicinity of the landscape park is surrounded by a roof supported by wooden poles imitating tree trunks. The flat shape of the building is a tribute to Mazovia’s flat landscape.
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One of the founders of Grupa 5 Architects, Michał Leszczyński, explains:
From among our realisations, buildings that are not necessarily flashy will be the ones to survive the test of time. Like the apartment building on Lądowa Street in Warsaw – it is not an architectural firework, but it fits well into a street designed in the 1930s.
The apartment building at Lądowa Street in the vicinity of Warsaw’s Łazienki Park has a form reminiscent of the architecture of the interwar period, and its luxurious finish with subdued colours does not distract from the area’s authentic historic buildings. It is completely different from the diamond-shaped, snow-white, glossy facade of the Klif department store. Here, in the post-industrial, chaotic buildings of Wola, white corian (a modern material that covered the facade) subtly distinguished and emphasised the shape of the intimate shopping centre. A building does not have to be spectacular to stand out – like the office building at Komandorska Street in Wrocław, which is connected with a series of tenement houses at one end of the street and reaches towards a railway viaduct at the other. The flat façades of the geometric block were finished off with razor blades designed especially for this building, part-ceramic (brick) and part-aluminium, and thus change the building’s appearance as it changes its direction of view.
Living Façades: Shades of Green in Polish Architecture
grupa 5 architekci
mies van der rohe award
In 2016, the Architectural Award of the President of the Capital City of Warsaw for the best residential building was given to their apartment building on Morskie Oko Street. Inserted far into the park, the building could be considered a crime in the green landscape of the slope, but thanks to its subdued architecture it remains almost invisible among the trees. Huge windows, on the other hand, provide the residents of the luxurious building with a view of the tree tops.
As art, architecture [...] creates aesthetic space, as a social science it also influences the environment in which we live. Through functionality, usability and technical efficiency it influences the quality of our everyday life.
Grupa 5 Architects show that work for commercial investors (which is the most common case with Grupa 5) does not have to be an obstacle to good design. The ability to cooperate and stay true to their principles, but also to find an appropriate form for a business enterprise is what usually characterises the Warsaw-based s. Perhaps its success lies in the motto formulated by Maciej Dudkiewicz: ‘a designer must respect people’.
2020 Brick Award Goes to University of Silesia Radio and Television Department