Paradoxically, the crucial decision determining the shape of this building concerned an area situated several hundred metres further. The function of a spot that for years had been earmarked for a gigantic and withdrawn shopping centre was changed for residential purposes. This triggered a snowball effect and translated into a number of changes to the complicated geometry of streets in this narrow stretch of the island of Kępa Mieszczańska. A new urban plan emerged from a mesh of 19th-century residential quarters – a triangular inner city square that offered a radically new spatial quality, capable of creating the desired effect of urbanism. Our task was to close the main frontage of the new square, which became the starting point for considerations about the form of the building.
In this situation we decided to make an uncompromising gesture and enclose the quarter in order to create a new stage for urban activity. The char-acteristic form of the building resists the temptation to fall in line with the pulsating cornices. Moreover, it has been dramatically cut in half because we were looking for the proper mass distribution in such an exposed site. The homogenous façade, perforated by the alternating French windows and loggias with black-lined interiors, was enclosed with a light openwork crowning of the pergolas on the roof. The building has six storeys, in which 70 flats of different surface areas (from 32 to 200 m2) were arranged in two blocks. The flats have an above-average standard (in comparison with the local conditions) – three meters high, with ample provision of daylight thanks to the French windows, balconies, loggias or terraces. The flats on the top floor overlooking Księcia Witolda Street have private terraces, while a communal terrace overlooking the river and the panorama of the city is located from the side of Zyndrama z Maszkowic Street. The withdrawn ground floor with service outlets will perform the placemaking functions, which are so desired.
While walking across the urban square teeming with activity into an elegant hall lined with warm wood, which creates the right atmosphere for meetings of neighbours, it is hard to imagine that barely ten years ago there were just three buildings in this quarter.
The building fills in and closes up a historic city block while providing a spatial framework for a small urban square that was created during the designing process. The building uses terse aesthetics, emphasising instead the quality of material, spatial and functional solutions for the city and the inhabitants.
The common areas – a spacious hall and the corridors in the residential part – have been designed with attention to detail and finished with quality materials: wood, architectural concrete, high-grade stainless steel and craft ceramic tiles with an original pattern constituting a graphic variation on the logo of the project. Inside the building there is a number of solutions providing added value, such as an internal green courtyard to be used by the inhabitants connected with the rest of the building, a publicly available rooftop terrace with a view of the Old Town, Ostrów Tumski and the river, or a two-level underground car park.
The building makes a clear division between the interior of the city block, which is dedicated to the inhabitants, and a public square that makes the complex complete by providing the appropriate surrounding area. Planning a triangular square in front of the building, which emerged naturally at the junction of Ks. Witolda and Zyndrama z Maszkowic streets in the wake of the decision to enclose the block, required an alteration of the local spatial development plan. In this way, the densely developed fragment of the island acquired a public space. A triangular publicly-accessible square in front of the building, which used to be undeveloped and served the role of an illegal car park, has become a new place for rest and integration of the inhabitants.
The square has been divided into polygonal areas that are fully filled with decorative grass of one species – the purple moor-grass. The square is supple-mented with street furniture – benches, rubbish bins, bike racks and illumination. Along the streets, alleys of the London plane have been designed. The development of the square was fully paid for by the investor. In the internal courtyard dedicated to the inhabitants there are small hills covered with grass, while on the rooftop there is a belt of extensive greenery surrounding the wooden terraces.
Beyond doubt, a unique aspect of the project is the comprehensive and multidimensional approach to the development – from solving the problem of closing up the city block at the level of urban planning and providing a public square in front of the building to embed it in urban fabric, to searching for the correct form and composition of the elevation that further blends the building with the adjacent structures, to designing comfortable flats with ample provision of daylight that could be accessed through quality common areas.
In the opinion of the design team, it is the building's interaction with the city, the way in which it filled in a gap in the urban fabric, and the social dimension in the form of creating a public square that ought to be deemed the chief assets of the project.
The residential-service building 'Witolda 43' fills in and closes up a historic city block while providing a spatial framework for a small urban square that was created during the designing process.