County Office in Toruń. We know the results of the competition!

The District Starost Office in Toruń will be built according to the design of the Toprojekt studio.The clinker brick platform forming the base of the ‘Starost Office Complex’ refers directly to the building tradition of the Toruń land. The colour of this base spills over harmoniously into the ‘skin’ of the buildings. The greenery surrounding the buildings reaches the openwork walls of the ground floor, climbing over them and blurring the boundaries between the site and the building.

The structure of the building consists of seven naves of equal width, arranged along a north-south axis. With the exception of the single-storey central nave, all the naves are three storeys each. The lower storey forms the body of the car park. The three eastern aisles form the County Offices Complex, while the slightly longer western aisles form the body of the County Office overhanging the entrance square and enclosing it from the west. A garden accessible from both institutions has been designed on the roof of the single-storey central nave. The design retains a row of mature alders on the plot. Referring to their direction, density and tree species, two new rows have been formed to shade the entrance plaza and external car park, and to screen the complex from the busy Maria Skłodowska-Curie Street.

The tectonics of the façade allows the interiors to be easily divided into rooms of different sizes. Fixed, vertical glazing is separated by narrow, opaque panels that provide individual room ventilation. Panels perpendicular to the walls effectively limit overheating of the interiors from the east and west, and external blinds are designed on the south façade.

A priority in the design decisions was to optimise the total investment and operating costs of the complex and to take care of the broadly defined green surroundings of the buildings.

For fear of violating the conditions of the competition, and because of the ambiguous position of the organiser on this issue, the project envisages supplying the investment area with the existing exit from Maria Skłodowska-Curie Street. However, according to the authors, it would be much more convenient and safer to use the road on the eastern side of the plot, leading to several municipal institutions, which definitely has the character of a public road. The answers to the competition participants’ queries suggest feeding the project site from Skłodowska Street, but do not include the word ‘directly’. Therefore, according to the authors, the use of the existing road plot does not violate the provisions of the local spatial development plan. A diagram of this supply, bringing out an additional inclusion lane at Maria Skłodowska-Curie Street, is shown in the attached diagram alongside the PZT. The construction of such an important facility for the city should take into account the reconstruction of the entire road lane along its length. It is a pity that the scope of the competition study was limited to the contours of the plot.

Poviat Starosty in Toruń – main objectives

The spatial context, functional connections, user safety and comfort, and optimisation of investment and operating costs are the basis for the decision to build a low-rise building – up to 12 m high. Limiting the number of storeys makes it easier to locate basic functions on one level.

The strategic decision to locate car parks was based on the requirements of the competition, which called for the creation of 250 parking spaces. An attempt to locate them at ground level would have taken up a significant part of the plot. Due to the high level of groundwater, the construction of an underground car park was abandoned and the construction of a multi-storey car park was considered to be economically and spatially unjustified. Most of the parking spaces were located under the building, with the remainder located outside the impassable building line. The car park is naturally ventilated from an east-west direction. Due to the mandatory distances from the plot boundary, the wall of the car park on the south side acts as an acoustic barrier.

The entrance plaza is shaded by rows of alder trees. The trees in the paved part of the square are surrounded by lines of openwork wooden seating platforms, and water from the brick surface is drained towards the roots. The piazza transitions into an arcade leading to the entrance lobby of the County Office, where a customer service office has been located. The lower lobby also contains a buffet with the possibility of staging tables outside to the arcade in the warmer months.

A wide staircase, located on the main axis of the Starostvo building, and symmetrically placed lifts lead to the first floor, where there is an operations hall two storeys high and the width of the entire nave. The room is lit from above by northern light. The counters on either side are used for seated service of visitors.

The side aisles are designed to house the other departmental rooms. The two-storey central aisle to the north is enclosed by the council chamber, glazed from both the operating theatre and the north elevation. Small lobbies on either side of the council chamber are indirectly lit from above and adjoin the board and councillor rooms. The second floor is dedicated to functions where public access is restricted.

The County Offices Building follows a similar principle of function design. The entrance hall on the ground floor is used as a reception area, information desk and for receiving correspondence. The first floor is intended for institutions with frequent contact with visitors – the District Employment Office and the Family Assistance Centre. The inner courtyard was designed as a square – a playground. Parents dealing with official matters will be able to leave their children there safely without fear of them wandering off. From this level, it is also possible to access the garden between the segments of the County Office and the District Offices. The Disability Assessment Team of the Road Administration and PINB, as they receive a much smaller number of visitors, are located on the second floor. The entrance halls are connected to a gallery-window, flanking the entrance square to the south and separating it from the car park. The gallery can be used to present thematic exhibitions about the land of Toruń.

The new building of the County Office in Toruń – architecture

Fortunately, the times of an administration operating like the court system described in Kafka’s ‘The Trial’ are fading into the past. Images of long corridors and lost petitioners wandering around, not knowing which door to knock on, are also disappearing. In addition, many administrative processes are moving to the Internet. The development of society is forcing constant changes in the tasks placed on administration. The architecture of administrative buildings should keep pace with these changes. Open spaces, well lit with natural light, must provide a simple orientation and allow the layout of separate rooms to be quickly reorganised.

Administrative buildings, especially meeting rooms, should serve NGOs and various cultural and educational purposes after office hours. This can easily be achieved with modern access control systems. An office cannot be an office building with corridors and enclosed offices, although it must also have such areas. Public spaces are becoming very important: open and closed. The design of the County Office in Toruń offers a range of such solutions. The shaded entrance square is equipped with fixed seating platforms and adjustable chairs and tables. The sensory garden is intended to provide respite, affecting the senses of those using it.

The inner courtyard of the County Offices, transformed into a square – a playground, will allow children to be left safely while attending to official business. The arcade in front of the entrance to the County Office serves as a summer garden buffet. The operations hall is large enough to be used for short, informal meetings. The meeting rooms and the council chamber can be accessed in the afternoons without the risk of unauthorised access to the rest of the building. Even the link between the segments, visible from the entrance plaza, acts as an open gallery. The building should be a meeting place between the public and the authority, not a symbol of its domination.

The building is constructed with seven naves of equal width, arranged along a north-south axis. The structural layout is clear and repetitive, based on spans optimised for the garage and upper floors. The structure is a prefabricated post-and-beam structure covered with pre-stressed reinforced concrete slabs. The glazing, with the exception of the door openings, is non-openable and installed without external clips. In the inter-window strips, the internal glazing is laminated in graphite and the frames are concealed behind the façade mullions. Despite the non-openable glazing, each room adjacent to the external walls can be naturally ventilated by means of narrow, hinged panels mounted between the doubled mullions. Positioned perpendicular to the plane of the façade, the columns provide protection from excessive sunlight on the east and west elevations. On the south façade, the offices are obscured by external roller blinds.


The cover structure of the two-storey operating theatre and council room is made of glulam, and light wood acoustic panels are used on the walls. Despite their considerable scale, the interiors are intended to be warm and welcoming, with soundproofed acoustics. The interiors are also warmed by the natural greenery in the central part of the operating theatre. The council chamber is open to both the view from the operating theatre and the outside. While waiting to be admitted or for a case to be decided, interested parties can use the sensory garden located on the operating theatre level or go to the buffet on the ground floor. The garden and buffet can also be used by visitors to the County Offices. A shaded and safe children’s play area has been designed for children accompanying their parents on a visit to the County Office Complex. The architecture of the building is intended to foster the image of an open, citizen-friendly local government.

Greenery and sustainable architecture

Sustainability plans are already influencing the decisions of conscious investors, who are certifying construction sites and following a detailed ESG strategy, aiming for decarbonisation, biodiversity and a circular economy. They are increasingly turning to materials produced through low-carbon or recycled processes, and this is being applied to the principles of this project.

In the pursuit of sustainable architecture, however, all elements of the building process, including the very important economic aspect, must not be forgotten. When creating a realisation project, rather than an experimental one, the financial possibilities of the developer must be taken into account. In the case of a local authority using public funds that could be used for other purposes, such rationality is particularly important.

Simple and compact units, a balanced amount of glazing protected from overheating and the possibility to use natural ventilation, combined with photovoltaic-powered heat pumps, will reduce energy consumption and minimise the building’s carbon footprint.

The design places great emphasis on reducing the building’s environmental impact. A dense row of old alder trees has been retained, allowing small organisms to migrate at ground and crown level. The existing ecosystem, adapted to the soil and moisture conditions of the plot, has been replicated in the two newly designed rows and in the planting around the building. Perennials and herbs on the rooftops and in the sensory garden will provide food for tree-nesting insects and insect hotels, while nesting boxes will attract birds to the plot. In the green belt around the building, plantings of trees, shrubs and groundcover plants and climbers will be introduced to climb the openwork walls of the ground floor. In the other green belts, it is proposed to use ground cover plants or high and infrequently mown turf instead of traditional lawns.

County Office in Toruń – jury opinion

The award was given for a clear spatial arrangement, correct functional-utility solutions, safety and comfort of users, and optimisation of investment and exploitation costs. The designers took into account the geological conditions in the competition work, in particular the high level of groundwater, by locating the car park at ground level under the building. By limiting the number of storeys, the basic functions were located on one level. Noteworthy is the cover structure of the two-storey operating theatre and the council chamber, designed in glulam, with acoustic panels of light wood on the walls, making the interior warm, friendly and cosy. The council chamber is open to both the view from the operating theatre and the outside.

The building, which is up to 12 m high, has three storeys with a clear and simple form. Vertical glazing in a rhythmic arrangement provides light to the interior and limits overheating. The design harmoniously relates to the surroundings with the form and height of the building, the preservation of the existing tree stand and the introduction of solutions limiting the negative impact of the building on the environment, such as green roofs, installation of photovoltaic panels and rainwater retention. The winning studio (Toprojekt) was awarded First Prize in the Competition in the gross amount of PLN 50,000.00.

How do you like the new County Office in Toruń?

source, visualisations: Toprojekt /
source: SARP /

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