New life for buildings from the 1970s. Housing could be created here

The author of the project is Michał Kiercz, a graduate of the Faculty of Architecture at the Cracow University of Technology. He prepared his thesis, which shows how to give old modernist buildings from the 1970s in Dąbrowa Górnicza a new function and design flats inside.

The project “Revitalisation of the architectural heritage of the 1970s. – adaptation of buildings of the Lipsk type in Dąbrowa Górnicza for low-rise flats’ was created under the supervision of dr hab. inż. arch. Jolanta Sroczyńska. prof. PK. He prepared his project not only to draw attention to the issue of protecting the architectural heritage of the 1970s, but also to raise the issue of the availability of low-cost housing and the possibilities offered by the adaptation of the existing architectural fabric.

Michał Kiercz has prepared a project for the modernisation of the Leipzig-type buildings in Dąbrowa Górnicza, which used to operate as workers’ hotels at the Katowice Steelworks. In his vision, they are being transformed into friendly residential spaces. The design of the Leipzig-type buildings was developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s. They were characterised by steel construction and lightweight curtain walls. Their construction was relatively quick. The column-free construction of such buildings ensured that the floors could be arranged as desired. Such buildings were ideal for administrative and office arrangements, but also for dormitories or workers’ hotels.

The buildings are characterised by strong colours and even divisions. Const
he structure of the curtain walling consisted of vertical and horizontal steel-aluminium profiles, which were part of the façade panels. The individual parts were created at the Leipzig combine and exported to 45 countries worldwide. Six such buildings “made their way” to Dąbrowa Górnicza. And up to 150 were exported to the whole of Poland.

However, the buildings erected in the Leipzig system were not without flaws. The lack of technological sophistication of the individual elements with regard to thermal insulation resulted in high temperatures inside the buildings in summer and low temperatures in winter. Another important issue is the use of asbestos panels in the curtain wall structure, the use of which is currently prohibited.

At present, the area of the estate in Dąbrowa Górnicza is degraded, one of the Lipsk-type buildings was demolished a few years ago, one of which houses social housing, but the building is in urgent need of modernisation, while the other has an administrative function where individual companies rent work space. The other three buildings of the system are abandoned.

The young designer draws attention to the architectural value of the buildings. He believes they should be protected by law. His project envisages model technological modernisation with the use of contemporary construction solutions and pro-environmental solutions, which will contribute to proper adaptation of this project to further functioning in relation to the required standards and norms, and will also contribute to lowering its negative impact on the environment. Michal Kiercz would also like to restore the sixth building of the estate, which no longer exists.

Ultimately, the buildings would become an attractive and affordable living space. He has several ideas for new interior layouts. The first is a corridor-based layout of the main interior typology, which most closely resembles the original system design. Based on observations and feedback gathered, in the original design the corridors were long and dark, lit only by artificial lighting and two windows at the ends of the tracts. In order to make the passageways a place with a different character, an open space is designed in the central part of the building for the residents of the building, which, in addition to its social function, will positively influence the perception of the place by providing natural light and changing the perception of the interior.

Another organisational arrangement is the gallery. By concentrating the horizontal communication in the building outwards, flats are proposed which, accessible from the gallery, are given a typology of flats in relation to the width of the entire building. Such a layout allows for a natural sequence of interior ventilation, thus contributing to improved residential comfort. In the proposed layout, the common areas for the residents are located in two zones at the internal staircases, as well as in the central one at the typology of single-level flats.

Axonometry, state BEFORE, state AFTER modernisation

Due to the functional character and contemporary standards, it is proposed to use galleries and balconies together with door modules replacing the original sections of the curtain wall. This will ensure that the designed flats, receive additional outdoor space and positively influence the comfort of the residents. The newly designed galleries and balconies will be mounted on a steel structure.

In addition, in the student project, the Leipzig buildings will gain usable space on the roofs. Terraces could be created there to serve as meeting and activity areas.

The concept is also accompanied by proposals for environmentally friendly solutions. The buildings would be insulated, collect energy through photovoltaic panels integrated into the façade panels and in the form of lamellas on the pergolas on the roofs. Gardens would also be created on the latter, with rainwater harvested to irrigate the greenery on dry days. The surroundings would also change. The architect proposes to implement the design prepared by Miastoprojekt Katowice and to carry out new planting with the construction of sports pitches.

The thesis received a distinction in the Architecture category for the best diploma thesis defended in the 2022/2023 academic year at the Tadeusz Kościuszko Krakow University of Technology in Krakow, and was awarded a distinction in the international competition named after Professor Jan Zachwatowicz, for the best diploma thesis by university students addressing the issue of cultural heritage protection in 2024, organised by the Polish National Committee of the International Council for Monuments Protection ICOMOS.

design: Michał Kiercz

Read also: Architecture in Poland | Modernism | Architecture of the People’s Republic of Poland | Renovation | whiteMAD on Instagram

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