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The unique project of a garden-house that will be ready for its first inhabitants in 2019 in Poznań (western Poland), has been designed by one of the leading architectural firms in Poland - Ultra Architects. The founders of the firm, Tomasz Osięgłowski and Marcin Kościuch, are subject-matter experts who are helping to develop a new program of study - Architecture - at SWPS University’s School of Form. Students of architecture at School of Form will have an opportunity to learn from both architects and hear the stories behind their best projects, which won numerous architectural awards. Design Space met with Marcin Kościuch to talk about the latest project of Ultra Architects.

The house at Drzymała Street in Poznań redefines the notion of a “green” building. It will be truly green, because it will be planted with close to six thousands plants, including grasses, shrubs and trees. It will create an illusion of a colorful installation that changes to the rhythm of the seasons. Thanks to birdhouses incorporated into the exterior of the building, the house will also serve as a bird sanctuary. The developer responsible for this unusual project is Ebest.

Design Space: Garden means life and transformation. How will the garden-house live and change over the year?

Marcin Kościuch: Everywhere in the world, where architects have designed balconies, tenants instinctively plant greenery. We wanted to provide people with the greenery right from the start. Our project has been compared to the Living Forest towers in Milano, designed by Stefano Boeri. Yes, it is the same idea and the same goal. However, our building has been designed differently. In Milano, planters serve as balustrades. In our building, the tops of planters are flash with the balcony floor. The balconies are separated from the planters with openwork balustrades that allow the greenery to push through.

We have built “raised beds” for the plants and created an illusion of standing on a balcony, which is extended by a garden. You cannot go out to the garden, but you may touch the leaves. It was important to us, to select plants native to the area. We laugh that some of them carry foreign names, but they grow right here. We selected plants with foliage that changes colors, as the seasons change. Some plants will lose their leaves for the winter, while others will keep their brown leaves until spring. Here and there we will place evergreens. We have chosen to plant trees and shrubs in their almost mature stage of growth, perhaps 20 percent smaller than their ultimate size, so that they have time to establish roots and develop. In general at the time of occupancy of the building, the plants will look like the greenery shown on the visualization, perhaps they might be even slightly bigger. We want to create a space, where everything will thrive, just as it would in a garden.

Design Space: The building at Drzymała Street is ‘greener’ than the shade of green afforded by the plants. It’s very ecological. How to marry ecological and technological trends in architectural design?

Marcin Kościuch: In case of this building, we have budgeted for simple approach to ecology. Perhaps it would be even greener, if we incorporated a lot of technology. It’s hard to say. But we would not get what the plants provide, that is the scents, the insects, moisture and the birds. It would make us very happy, if some birds made nests in the plants growing on the building.

I must add that the greenery in this project has not been incorporated only for the sake of the current architectural trends. The plot of land, where the building is situated, is not connected to the storm sewer system. So we have had to deal with the rain water that falls here. The plants are great for keeping the water. Of course we will incorporate an irrigation system that will deliver water to the ground, but some of the water will be used for watering the garden.

Design Space: What are the first reactions of the professionals in the industry to this unusual project? Is the industry ready and are tenants ready for a garden in the sky?

Marcin Kościuch: There are only fifteen apartments in the building. I think that we will find fifteen families who do not want to have plastic and a spic and span balcony without any specs of dust, but will fall in love with nature and will accept the surrounding garden. I have to add that we will not abandon the plants once the building is completed. A professional landscaping firm will take care of the shrubs and trees. Twice a year they will inspect, prune and fertilize the plants.

The house is built for responsible clients and their numbers are growing. The project has been enjoying a lot of interest since its unveiling. We have been expecting this reaction. You have probably noticed that the first things, which appear in new buildings are potted evergreens and flowers. People love plants and we are giving them a garden the moment they move in. Nothing magical about that.

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Phtos: Ultra Architects

We haven’t invented anything new, neither has Stefano Boeri. Going back to 1970s, SITE, i.e. James Wines and Alison Sky proposed this type of architecture. We could go back even further. The idea of hanging gardens is thousands years old. Contemporary highly-developed technology allows us to implement unique ideas. Here, all technical solutions related to insulation are so good that we are not worried about leakage.

Design Space: On the one hand, the house will blend with its surroundings, on the other hand it will stand out. Would you like it to become a landmark, an example of unusual architecture, visited by hundreds of tourists?

(laughter)

Marcin Kościuch: First of all, the architect wants to please the client. This developer is investing in a project in Poznań for the very first time and they’ve asked us to design something that will turn heads and I hope that we have achieved it (laughter). Although as I mentioned earlier, the idea of the garden resulted from the need of keeping the rain water somewhere. As you can see, the potential or a real “drawback” of the plot has helped us to choose an interesting direction and has become an asset.

 

Interlocutor

258 marcin kosciuch

Marcin Kościuch – architect, partner in Ultra Architect firm, lecturer at SWPS University’s School of Form. Recipient of the 2009 EUROPE 40 UNDER 40 award from the European Center for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies and the Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design that recognizes the most promising emerging European architects. Recipient of the 2013 Architecture Award by Polityka, a Polish current affairs magazine. Author of ‘Dom nad morzem’ (House by the sea) that won the first place in the 2013 “Polski Cement w Architekturze” (Polish Concrete in Architecture) competition and an honorable mention in the 2013 Architect of the Year award organized by the Association of Polish Architects (SARP). His other achievements include: finalist position in the ‘Building of the Year 2013’ competition, organized by an international portal ArchDaily, for his Office-Garage project; an honorable mention for Domek Mai (House of Maia), in the Architizer A+ Awards in 2013. Designer of the exemplary thermo-modernization of an apartment building in Poznań, which was included in the publication entitled “101 of the Most Interesting Buildings of the Decade, in Poland”. Since 2002, member of the Association of Polish Architects (SARP) and Vice-President of the Poznań branch of the Association from 2006 to 2012.