Unikato housing supposed to stand in the center of Katowice – once a dynamically developing industrial city. What remained as the testimony of that time are the impressive modernist buildings. Today, the city is dealing with a demographic crisis and suffers because of suburbanization. There is a lack of new residential buildings, and the city is dominated by car traffic generated by people commuting every day from the sprawling suburbs. Unikato’s primary objective was to become an impulse reversing this negative trend and to give a new tease of life into the area.
Studio Name: KWK Promes
Design Team: Robert Konieczny, Michał Lisiński, Marcin Króliczek, Aneta Świeżak
Area: 1860 m²
Location: Koszarowa 1, Katowice, Poland
construction: Kornel Szyndler Proeco
Photography Credits: Juliusz Sokołowski, Jarosław Syrek, olo studio
The budget dedicated for this project was extremely low. The developer had funds only for the cheapest possible finishing (styrofoam, plaster, white plastic windows) and for the balconies as an extra storage space for small apartments.
Modernist buildings of Katowice were initially white. However, because of many years exposure to air pollution, they gradually got dirty and became almost black. They are equipped in white windows, contrasting with the black of the facade. This observation has become an inspiration for the project.
We used some motives from the neighboring pre-war building:
– dirty plaster color,
– plinth in the basement, typical for the surrounding buildings,
– balcony motif in relation to the window.
Full balustrade covers the balcony door, so all the windows appear to be square. The balcony becomes an extension of the apartment, providing privacy at the same time. The residents use it for recreation or storage. Thanks to the full balustrades, the building maintains consistency, and the objects kept on the balconies do not disfigure the area.
The balconies are arranged in the same direction on all the facades. Their position is shifted in relation to the irregular outline of the building which creates a characteristic silhouette as the dominant feature at the end of the quarter. What’s important is that the characteristic composition of balconies is not only a formal treatment. On the eastern facade, balconies adjoining the wall with the shorter side and sticking out far beyond the building outline catch much more of the southern light.
Another reference to the surroundings is the plinth motif taken from the neighboring buildings, which stretches across the entire street. On the other side, where Unikato borders with a free-standing villa, the plinth transforms into a fence, referring to the fence surrounding the villa.
In the ground floor of Unikato there is a parking for half less cars than the city originally wanted. We managed to convince the authorities that building was designed for people who choose to live in the city center to use bicycles, public transport or their own legs, instead of the car. Underground parking was too expensive for the developer. What’s more, we were not allowed to design any service functions at the ground floor level, because the analysis of the surroundings revealed that there are several vacant properties in the area that nobody wants to rent. As a result, parking in the ground floor was the optimal solution.
The balconies hanging above the sidewalk make the building look very dynamic, but as one moves away, it becomes more calm, mildly fitting into the urban tissue.
MATERIALS AND TECHNOLOGY
The building’s construction consists of solutions which are economical and easy to implement, such as a monolithic skeletal structure filled with a wall of ceramic clay blocks, a raw reinforced concrete staircase, white plastic windows and plaster on the facade. What seemed to be a disadvantage has been turned into an asset, because the combination of white with the dark finishing of the facade became a recognizable element of the building. The balconies are made in a monolithic construction. Their steel barriers are clad with cement panels and covered with plaster. The plinth of the building is finished with cheap aluminum sheet, which is gradually tarnished. The building is equipped with systems that minimize its energy consumption and is powered from an ecological municipal network. Despite the limited budget, the roof was designed as a green one which absorbs dust and smog and improves the microclimate.