Medusa Group is an architectural studio founded in 1997 in Gliwice by Przemo Łukasik (born in 1970) and Łukasz Zagała (born in 1972). The group deals with architecture, urban planning, design, visual communication and projects that are something in between architecture and art.
One of the first important realizations of the team was Bolko Loft – a revitalization of the former lamp warehouse of a mining and metallurgical company. The loft, which follows the aesthetics of raw minimalism, was completed in 2003 and quickly gained the status of a manifesto thanks to it addressing the issue of deteriorating architecture and its emphasis of the architects’ strong ties with Upper Silesia.
The same year, Medusa Group realized another project of remodelling an existing facility – the modernization and expansion of the headquarters of a company named Wasko, located in Gliwice in a socialist realist edifice from the 50s. The architects added a three-storey cube to the simple block of the building, doubling the space of the structure. The addition built on top of the building has glass elements and is surrounded by horizontal aluminium slats which strongly mark the horizontal divisions. The architect’s intervention creates a strong, openly contemporary accent, which dominates the building's original form.
The architects placed similar slats on one of the walls of the Ente building (2004), which also stands in Gliwice. The use of these slats emphasized the similarity of the two office buildings owned by the same investor which are located in different parts of the town. The Ente building also draws attention with such graphic interior architecture solutions as the multiply duplicated company logo and the rescaled storey numbering in the stairwell. An interest in graphics and visual communication is visible in the group's designs as exemplified by the sports pavilion in Gliwice. The façade of this structure is covered with the logos of sports companies.
The architects also deal with residential and house architecture. An example is an apartment building designed by them in 2008 which is located in downtown Katowice. This development is characterized by a minimalistic modular construction, the dominant aspect of which is constituted by protruding blocks of a saturated sharp green colour. The façade is meant to be co-created by the vines that grow over these blocks. In this way, the apartment building can blend into the surrounding monotonous concrete apartment block developments and at the same time diversify its surroundings with colour and vegetation.
The Medusa Group-designed house in Żernice, near Gliwice, completed in 2003, was erected on an unusual and troublesome plot (16x200m) which determined the look of this structure. The simple mass of the house is created by a long cuboid divided by atriums which enable the singling out of particular functional areas and the merging of the building with the structure’s surroundings. The house is surrounded by a terrace supported by posts, thanks to which it gains lightness and detachment from the surface of the earth. The sparing form of the building is accentuated by the materials used – concrete and plywood made from bright wood may be found in the interior and glass panels and larch wood may be seen on the façades.
Simplicity also characterizes the studio’s single-family houses in Olsztyn (completed in 2006), Toruń (completed in 2007), Ornontowice (completed in 2009) and Zbrosłowice (under construction). The block of the first building is constituted of a cuboid that has ascetic façades covered with waterproof plywood of a warm, rusty colour. The restrained form, diversified only by the vertical window modules that have an irregular rhythm, draws attention to the interesting texture of the plywood. Thanks to the shaded surface that changes over time, from a distance, the plywood looks like a smooth, soft material.
The studio also designs interior architecture and is active in the field of design (their Min 2 Table / Stolik Min 2 from 2004 was awarded at the Biennale of Art and Design in Kraków). The architects were co-authors (together with Monika Sosnowska and the curator Sebastian Cichocki) of a design submitted to the competition for an exhibition at the Polonia Pavilion at the 10th Venice Biennale of Contemporary Architecture, which took place in 2006. In 2004, the architects from Medusa Group were nominated for the Mies van der Rohe award.
Despite having a variety of interests and being active in many fields, one of the most characteristic aspects of Medusa Group's activity is their revitalization of industrial buildings. Apart from the precursory Bolko Loft, this team also designed amongst others: the revitalization of a tower of the Bytom mine "Krystyna", the revitalization of the former bathhouse of the Mining and Metallurgical Company in Bytom (both of these projects currently in progress), the lofts of the old granary in Gliwice (completed in 2009) and the new headquarters of Medusa Group itself, which is located in Bytom in an adapted workshop and warehouse building (completed in 2009). All of the group's revitalization projects are accompanied by a conviction that the raw character of the buildings, which is consistent with the buildings’ original purposes, ought to be maintained. From this assumption follows the use of the materials chosen for the interiors: concrete, bricks or wood, which are used so as to expose their natural textures.
Przemo Łukasik notes that:
One of the main problems of Polish architects is the tendency for ornamentation, which can be explained only by the historically conditioned influence of Eastern cultures. In the case of post-industrial architecture all interventions are almost unnecessary. The potential of this architecture lies, so to speak, within itself. These objects were chiefly shaped by technology. Damn honest technology. This authenticity is undeniable and it is interesting to bring it out. Medusa Group always tries to reach this authenticity. Sometimes it is better for the architecture when the architect doesn’t do anything. An example of such a place is Fabryka Trzciny, which is located in the Warsaw district of Praga. The architect didn’t do anything there. His intervention consisted in not doing anything there. I know how hard that is.
Medusa Group popularized the fashion for lofts in Poland and helped develop interest in industrial architecture. The architects also took part in the project Made in Bytom, the objective of which is to popularize the Bytom region.
Author: Lidia Klein
Translated by: Marek Kępa