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1999 Photographs from Torun | Panoramic Photograph | Poland Site Index | Home
I woke early to attempt some morning photographs in the historic center of the city. I waited patiently for over an hour but with the constant rain, my attempt was a failure. I changed out of my wet socks before heading to Torun University. After a brief tram ride, I arrived at the conservation studies building to meet with Professor Bozena Zimnowoda-Krajewska. We spoke briefly and then departed to visit the architect's studio. On the way, we stopped to purchase flowers to present to his wife. I had been wondering about the procedure for giving flowers since I arrived in Poland, now I had the opportunity to see how the arrangements are created.
Prof. Zimnowoda-Krajewska called for a car and we went to meet with Piotr Koziej and his wife at their house/studio. Knocking on the door, we were greeted by a huge Bernese Mountain dog. Mr. Koziej is an architect running a small private studio with the help of two or three assistants. He has run his own practice for about 8 or 9 years and has built up a good client base by designing small banks in and around Poznan. Some structures are free-standing though many are interiors within the buildings of the Stare Miasto or new construction in the town center on the few under-built sites in the area. He also teaches studios at the university.
Most of the offices in the city are small studios like his own. Apparently, there are not enough large or frequent projects to support larger offices with big staffs. Perhaps in Warsaw but not here in Torun. Not many architects are practicing in Torun are doing his type of architectural infill work. We also discussed the difficulty and expense of purchasing computer equipment and software to run a modern office. His costs are nearly double the amount paid in the United States for equivalent equipment and software. He has attempted orders direct from US suppliers but none will send any of their product to him. He must deal with the distributors in Poland.
Mr. Koziej showed me many projects from his files that he had studied and built in recent years. Two bank projects were located in central Torun. The first was an addition to the rear of an existing building which filled an open courtyard with a glass atrium space. The second was the redesign of the upper stories of the facade on the main square, near the statue of Copernicus. I would see the atrium space later in the day and I had unknowingly seen the construction site for for the facade redesign during my outing earlier in the day. He showed me a design for a free-standing bank just outside of Torun. The building's form was a simple cube rotated on two axis and then placed into the ground. Mr. Koziej was quite proud of his design and the bureaucratic turmoils he overcame to have his project built. He had two projects for the rebuilding of the granaries in Gdansk which he studied twice in his lifetime: once, for his architectural thesis project and more recently, for a competition sponsored about five years ago.
As our discussion evolved around his projects, I learned that he does not agree with the idea of buildings constructed to look like historic buildings and blend into the context of their surroundings. As he illustrated in a final project, his work is "of the present time." The design was a study for a new building adjacent to an existing historic building. Setbacks in the footprint of the design allowed breathing room for the historic building. The new building was positioned to allow views of the adjacent existing building from other locations up and down the street. The proposal was flat-roofed and used a variety of patterns on the street facade. During review, the design was rejected by the local building and preservation authorities in favor of a more contextual design, one which repeated the forms and materials of other pitched roof buildings in the area. Not all design battles are won.
Following our extensive meeting in his office, we went on a tour of his built work in the heart of Toru . All the sites were within a 5 minute walking radius with several located on the same street. His most visible project is was just beginning construction, located on the main square across the street from the statue of Copernicus. These were the same cranes I photographed in the morning's panorama. When completed, the existing historic facades will be restored and float above a two story glazed storefront system.
The completed projects are all bank buildings with fairly straightforward programs: teller counters, loan officer desks, administrative and support areas. The first project we visited contained the glass atrium. Tellers are at the front of the space within the shell of the existing building. Administrative areas extended into the courtyard, now an interior space enclosed with glass. Extruded aluminum framing and insulated glass panels form the roof assembly. Another project is located in a similar historic building where many of the original decorative wall and ceiling paintings remain intact. These elements have been restored and the new elements of the bank are installed so the original elements are not disturbed.
Prof. Zimnowoda-Krajewska took us to a nearby building to see a wall painting recently uncovered during the renovation of a second floor lobby. The wall mural was beautiful. It covered the full height of a wall approximately 3m high x 6m wide and partial fragments are visible on the surrounding walls which were once completely covered by the mural. We then walked to the Cathedral of SS John the Baptist & John the Evangelist (Katedra Sw Janów) to see to see a pair of doors repainted in accordance with the findings of a historic paint analysis. Mr. Koziej disagreed with the new color scheme, especially after generations had seen the dark black paint for so many years. Such a sudden change for the sake of historical authenticity seemed inappropriate and shocking to him. For the remainder of the afternoon I walked the heart of the city making numerous photographs, grateful for the nice afternoon light.
Later in the evening, I returned to Mr. Koziej's home for dinner with his family, along with his sister and her husband and daughter. I enjoyed an excellent meal and conversation on a variety of topics for the entire evening. Mr. Koziej's young daughter and her cousin have been learning English in school during the past year. Since a native speaker was available for the evening, they were very curious about the pronunciation of the word "the." Was it pronounced "thee" or "thuh"? It's all in the context.
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