Ten years in the making this unique project makes the most of a flexible material to create a striking façade
The ultra-modern OVO Wroclaw complex comprises 50,000 sq m in Wroclaw, Poland’s fifth largest city. Designed by Gottesman-Szmelcman Architecture, with JSK Architekci as executive architects, this statement-making project is located near the historical market square and features an inspiring rounded façade made with DuPont™ Corian® high-tech surface in white colour. An astonishing 6,000 sq m of sophisticated Corian® wraps around corporate offices, 180 luxury residences and a five-star DoubleTree by Hilton hotel with 189 rooms and suites and offers a majestic view for visitors to its sprawling inner courtyard.
This sleek white structure takes its place next to the classical Brick Expressionism post office and is now a part of Wroclaw’s evolving urban landscape. Wroclaw, a business city set on the banks of the Odra River, offers a variety of architecture and is the ideal setting for the OVO Wroclaw to make a significant statement. Gottesman-Szmelcman Architecture’s concept focused on layering the building in such a way that it reflects the complexity and richness of urban life.
Architect Asaf Gottesman explains the history behind this extraordinary structure. “OVO Wroclaw began 10 years ago, in 2006. It is a result of an international competition and although we began working on the site prior to the 2008 financial crisis we were forced to stop the works because the banks were unable to fulfil their financial commitments. In order to move forward, we had to restart the project in 2012.
As an architectural practice our work is always site specific. We pay particular attention to the cultural and urban context. As a practice, we are also always involved in the development of the programme and we consider the programme as a critical component of the architectural process. As a practice, we tend to be concept driven rather than pre-determined by stylistic considerations.
Finally, like most architects and artists, we tend to create problems and a part of what defines us is how we choose to resolve the technical challenges that are a part of the creative process. So when we first came to Wroclaw, what struck us was the incredible diversity and plurality that is inherent in the architecture. Contrast is celebrated here and it is the inherent openness and curiosity of Wroclaw that so attracted us.”
The plot where the OVO Wroclaw stands wasn’t easy to design. There is an existing post office made of bricks on one side and major thoroughfares on the other two, which means a major car traffic and significant emissions. Thanks to the non-porous and easy to clean surface of DuPont™ Corian®, the façade will be pristine and beautiful over the long haul. Furthermore, if anything happens to the curves on the façade, it can be mended on site without having to dismantle it.
Asaf Gottesman describes an idea behind the project. “Here is a simplification of the process by which we developed our conceptual guidelines. Inspired by the pluralism and diversity of Wroclaw, we chose to underline a dialogue that celebrates contrast rather than mirroring:
- OPEN-CLOSE: If the post office is a typical public building that is closed and underlines boundaries, we chose to envision an open building, one that is a part of the public space.
- OPEN-GREEN: we retained the boundaries of the urban block but we created an internal public garden.
- LIGHT-DARK: While the post office is dominated by the deep richness and detailing of red brick we opted to go with white Corian® and to underline the play of light and shade. An additional reason for choosing Corian® was our desire to align the way we work with 3D modelling and its translation into the built form. Corian® enabled us to retain the spirit of the design, its minimal lines and perfectly curved surfaces.
- SOFT-HARD EDGE: If the post office is a solid mass defined by hard edges, we sought to create a softer and more ambiguous contour to our building.
- DYNAMIC-STATIC: If the post office is the manifestation of a classical world view of repetitive windows and a static façade, we sought to introduce motion and dynamism rather than classical repetition. The result, I believe, is typically Wroclavian; a manifestation of plurality, contrast, openness and dialogue.”
The amorphous design that was envisioned required alternative building techniques in order to be properly realized, and after considering various options, Gottesman-Szmelcman Architecture chose to clad OVO Wroclaw with Corian® surfacing material panels.
DuPont™ Corian® was pre-treated during production. The material was then transported to the A&B Consulting firm, which fabricated the panels of Corian® into the desired shape through thermoforming techniques. When the form cooled down it was subjected to a final treatment process – milling each piece using a 5D plotter.
Arkadiusz Maziarz, owner of A&B Consulting, says: “The biggest challenge was the shape of the building itself. We had to achieve all the cambers and geometry. Not only was the architecture of the building very difficult but also the assembly of each element onto the building, which had to be perfectly matched to one another and maintain curves and cambers. Corian® was assembled in a way so that all the elements are undetectable. Creating invisible installation uniformity and a streamlined structure is keeping consistent with the designers’ vision.”
By combining versatile material, great minds and skilled professionals, a superbly designed environment is achieved, one that holistically integrates residential, cultural and commercial activities in the heart of the metropolis.