Charming street furniture in Gdansk

10 Oct 2012

Schleifer, Milczanowski Architekci creates gleaming multi-use public facilities

In 2009 Gdansk became one of the EURO 2012 host cities. The Schleifer, Milczanowski Architekci team was asked to prepare several conceptual designs of a prefabricated public convenience and to develop a feasibility study for the project. In the future the project deliverables were supposed to serve as basis for developing a technical design of a reproducible Gdansk-specific public convenience. It was already at the stage of selecting the initial locations that it turned out how demanding and complicated this idea would prove, despite its small scale.

Gdansk - Downtown is an exceptionally difficult place for investments. The architect is required to respect the conservator’s conditions and proprietary rights; to be able to weave through a chaotically structured technical infrastructure; and, most of all, to balance and respect the archaeological and historical heritage. The level of difficulty was raised by the requirements of the employer - investGda, a city-owned company acting on behalf of the City of Gdansk. The aim was to create a prefabricated construction that requires minimum earthworks. The public toilet was to be semi-automatic, for use all year round and easy to operate. In architectural terms, the architects were required to do something seemingly impossible - to create an exceptional building that would suit not only the historical surroundings but also modern city districts. The building should thus suit everywhere.

Schleifer, Milczanowski Architekci began work by undertaking wide social and environmental consultation. The conceptual designs were presented to the City Architect, the Conservation Office and the local community. When designing this facility Schleifer, Milczanowski Architekci wanted to create a modern piece of city furniture; a form not very aggressive that in detail refers to materials from the immediate surroundings. The team had studied many architectural forms and compositions to finally choose a number of solids as basis for further analyses. What turned out to be the most optimum solution was a structure circumscribed around a circle.

The challenge was to adjust such a shape of the interior to the needs of the disabled, assuming the least possible surface. Schleifer, Milczanowski Architekci managed to do it by slightly deforming the entrance zone. Thanks to that the projection of the facility resembles a drop of water. This suggests an immediate association with widely understood environmental protection, renewable energy as well as the concept of sustainable design. A transparent glass roof allows appropriate further illumination of the interior at daytime and thanks to energy gains - support of the heating system. Schleifer, Milczanowski Architekci was concerned that the facility should be built using recyclable materials. That is why steel and glass as basic materials were chosen, and the team suggested composites with ecology certificates for trimming the interior.

The base of the toilet is a steel frame construction. It is supported on a slab foundation. The whole is surrounded with panels of patinated sheet metal in rusty colour and suggests an association with raw ship hulls in neighbouring shipyards. Moreover, the shade of patina sparkling in the sun looks like gold of the north - amber. However, that colour formed background for the ribbing of acid resistant steel surrounding the body. The ribs are polished and a slight deformation of their shape makes it possible to park bicycle wheels between them. The idea of a multifunctional piece of city furniture became reality. The polished side of the ribs reflects the immediate surroundings, thereby drawing on the context of the neighbouring vicinity in full reflections. Yet the reflected world is not accurate.

The slight deformations, bends make the reflected fragments a colouristic and vivid reference rather than a photorealistic repetition. Thereby the facility partly disappears, while the reflections of greenery blur the edges making the whole seem to be transparent and melt against the historical development. Schleifer, Milczanowski Architekci tried to emphasise that effect by the distinctive bevel of the facility’s roof, and the ribs extended beyond its edge are a metaphor of the tops of the old tenements of Gda?sk. As a result, this quite explicit form does not impose itself and does not try to predominate the surrounding vicinity. Instead it remains in constant dialogue with it, with a lot left unsaid. It suits our city in each of its parts at any time of the year and day. It is a city’s jewellery - modest and at the same time stylish. Schleifer, Milczanowski Architekci are proud of that design.

Stefan Schleifer
Schleifer, Milczanowski Architekci

Key Facts

Civic Buildings Urban design

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