Two elements played a crucial role in determining the Cultural Centre’s eventual form: the building’s surroundings and urban context, as well as the functions outlined in the competition brief. Other inspirations included the existing Centre’s eco-farm/petting zoo and the last local homestead at 7 Tarminy Street.
Up to the early 1970s, farmhouses dominated the housing stock in the Służew district. This rural landscape of farms, orchards and grazing cows saw the rapid construction of the Służew nad Dolinką housing estate and its eleven story apartment blocks. The development’s architects preserved the verdant valley along the stream, despite efforts to use the area for single-family housing. To this day, this green stretch of open land functions as a natural haven for area residents and local wildlife.
Our first design decision was to respect the location’s unique character by ensuring that the new building’s form would fit harmoniously with its surroundings and relate to the area’s heritage. The Cultural Centre siting was chosen to encourage area residents’ to enjoy the surrounding park as well as the centre.
The project’s adaptation of the traditional homestead concept is closely related to local history and traditions. It also respects urban zone boundaries and the building’s various functional areas. Keeping its target audience in mind, the Centre also incorporates references to childhood iconography.
The local urban plan restricts building height to 6m. By locating many of the building’s intended functions (concert hall, rehearsal rooms, audiovisual lab) below ground, the ground floor level has been left as an open, accessible outdoor space featuring several smaller house-like structures featuring traditional forms and materials. Each house can be accessed directly from the outside and each is dedicated to a particular activity type (e.g. art studio, reading room). Thanks to glass walls overlooking the park and Bacha Street, pedestrians are able to observe some of the Centre’s activity, while enjoying the green vistas of the Służewiecki Stream. This arrangement maximizes the connection between the Centre’s interior and its surroundings, and makes the Centre an urban public space – which can provide an outdoor venue for the Centre’s various programs.
The Centre’s architecture can be described as being both reserved and friendly. The building attempts to bring a modern sensibility to a traditional urban layout and simple natural details. The low-key building, ensconced in greenery, is meant to take a back seat to the events and activities it will host. One of our assumptions has been that the architecture of these types of buildings can play significant educational and cultural roles. For example, It can help shape an appreciation for aesthetic and ecological values. This is why the petting zoo’s animal quarters and enclosure are located in the building’s core, and why solar panels and a wind turbines were proposed as alternative energy sources. This thought also inspired the building’s homestead-like layout, which references the area’s rural heritage in a new urban context. The Centre’s users will mostly be local children who spend most of their free time in confined urban spaces: apartments and shopping centers. The Centre allows them to enjoy nature, interact with and take care of farm animals, and cultivate a small fruit and vegetable garden.
The competition brief called for 50 parking spots. In order to limit the lot’s impact on the area in front of the Centre, some of the spots have been located street-side on Bacha Street. The rest have been located on the parcel’s eastern end, next to the window-less concert hall. That is also the location of the lone vehicular entryway onto the property leading to the lot and the building’s technical areas (trash-cans, electrical room). Because of elevation differences, all cars are parked 60 cm below the building’s ground floor level. Thanks to these decisions, the parking lot’s visual and practical impact on the building’s most important (pedestrian) approach has been greatly reduced.
Pedestrian and bicycle paths outlined in the local zoning plan are an integral part of the Centre’s development plan. The proposed path along Bacha Street, has been slightly shifted to the south, allowing bicyclists closer to the new Centre. Hopefully, the building and the easily-visible activities within it will tempt bikers to enjoy a coffee at the reading room’s terrace cafe, or give the climbing wall a try. Another proposed path, a north-south route on the parcel’s western edge leads to a proposed campfire location and continues on to the wooden footbridges spanning the stream and wetlands.
The project foresees the ability to freely move around the parcel, except for the fenced in petting zoo and garden areas. At the same time, the Centre’s grounds and building feature a clear axis which connects the nearby housing estate and the stream’s green valley. This axis begins at the apartment blocks, follows the stairs down the escarpment, crosses the street and continues as a wood-paved path with benches and outdoor lighting. This space, suspended between the city and nature, can serve as a natural gathering spot for older residents, a place for a quick rest, a game of chess or a pleasant place to wait as their grandkids’ finish up classes at the Centre. Moving further, the wooden path continues as a series of stairs incorporated into the amphitheater seating area, leading down to an outdoor stage and the main entrances below the ground floor. Protected from the wind, this multifunctional outdoor space serves as a performance stage, an impromptu playground as well as the building’s epicenter. (The wood flooring here can be removed to access a culvert below) The path then rises back up along the opposing seating area and eventually descends into the park, leading to the campfire site near the stream. The project proposes a series of footbridges over the park’s wetlands and stream.
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