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15 years of Karpiel Steindel Architecture studio. A conversation with the architects

26 of July '21

{Studio}, an atelier known for combining the regional traditions of Podhale with modernity, is celebrating its fifteenth anniversary this year. We talk to Jan Karpiel-Bułecka junior and Marcin Steindel about changes in Polish architecture, the mésalliance of the past with modernity, the development of their own style and plans for the next fifteen years.

od lewej: Marcin
Steindel, Jan Karpiel-Bułecka jr.

From left: Marcin Steindel, Jan Karpiel-Bułecka jr.

photo: PREFA /Croce & Wir

Dobrawa Bies: Studio Karpiel Steindel Architektu is celebrating its 15th anniversary. What has changed in Polish architecture over that time?

Jan Karpiel-Bułecka jr., Marcin Steindel: This is a very broad question, but we have certainly made a civilization leap caused by the development of the architecture of metropolitan centers. Large cities have been enriched with outstanding public buildings, often recognized by international architectural bodies; including, among others, the first winner of the EU Mies Award - the Szczecin Philharmonic. Architecture has once again become an element of public interest and pop culture. Thanks to such projects as the Shakespeare Theater in Gdansk, the Silesian Museum, the Koszyki Hall and a number of private investments - original and ambitious - houses, villas and residences, we have ceased to be perceived exclusively as a former Eastern Bloc country, and have begun to arouse the interest of outside observers and foreign media. This is a joint achievement of architects and investors. We finally began to pay attention not only to the private, but also to the common.


The Boats in Koscielisko

Photo: Krystian Morawetz © Karpiel Steindel Architecture

Functional and attractive spaces have emerged in cities, planners have finally begun to care about greenery as if it were a higher-value asset. Private investors' awareness of single-family developments has developed. In the past we had to educate our clients about architecture, but now people come to us who know exactly what they want and have the courage and ambition to create unconventional things. Finally, investors have also recognized the value of historic buildings, which are increasingly becoming an element that builds the value of new architecture.

The young people we work with in the office today are completely different from us or from those we worked with fifteen years ago. They are open-minded people devoid of complexes and burdens of the previous regime. They design consciously, even if they lack experience they cannot be denied a lack of imagination and talent.

15 years of Karpiel Steindel Architecture studio

film: Lukasz Gabryelski

Unfortunately, what has not changed is the approach to public space outside large urban centers. Poland is still not a country where the development of suburban areas is implemented according to the principles of shaping an aesthetically balanced landscape adapted to the context of the place. A picture of the country based solely on the quality of development in metropolitan centers would be incomplete. We would like only outstanding realizations to testify about us, but unfortunately there are still more of those individual ones, forming the background of our lives, not matching the image of Poland that we try to shape in the media.

w Dolinie Strążyskiej

Houses in the Strążyska Valley

Photo: Paweł Ulatowski © Karpiel Steindel Architektura

Dobrawa: In your architecture you value respect for place and tradition, and many of your designs are rooted deeply in Podhale. What does the Witkiewicz style mean to you? Is it still alive today?

Jan Karpiel-Bułecka jr., Marcin Steindel: The Witkiewicz style is a valuable idea for us, but not a guiding one. We also rather refer to the primitive Podhale architecture of our grandparents - simple cottages, minimalist in detail. This, however, is the background for modern architecture, because this is what we primarily create. This is facilitated by the latest technologies, thanks to which, for example, we let more daylight into houses that are traditional in form - through massive glazing.

w Kościelisku, zachód słońca

Settlement in Koscielisko

Photo: Grzegorz Tatar © Karpiel Steindel Architektura

Dobrawa: How do you wisely combine traditional highland architectural elements with modernity? Is it a difficult task?

Jan Karpiel-Bułecka jr., Marcin Steindel: This is a huge challenge that we constantly face. Proportions are important in this, each project is a search for the right compromise between the traditional form of the house, details and contemporary elements. This requires experience and special sensitivity. However, we know that this mésalliance of the past with modernity is possible and manages to find the golden mean. We have tested many new design ideas over these 15 years and can confidently say that we have developed our own style.

Dom w Tatrach

Among other awards, the House in the Tatra Mountains received the first prize in the residential architecture category
in the competition for the Stanislaw Witkiewicz Małopolski Voivodeship Award

Photo: Daniel Rumiancew © Karpiel Steindel Architecture

Dobrawa: A big breakthrough for the studio was in 2018. Your House in the Tatra Mountains received numerous awards: European Property Awards 2017, 1st prize in the residential architecture category in the competition for the Stanislaw Witkiewicz Award of the Malopolska Region. You received the European Award for Best Practices and the PrefaRenzen catalog came to fruition. Did these awards translate into orders and international collaborations?

Jan Karpiel-Bułecka jr., Marcin Steindel: The awards and accolades allowed us to reach a wider range of clients and showcase projects in Europe. The media publicity surrounding the key realizations was the crowning achievement of our work and confirmed that the direction we took was the right one. We caught the wind in our sails, opened our minds and gained confidence, which translates into further challenges.

Bachleda Club

Bachleda Club Residence Hotel

Photo: Pawel Ulatowski © Karpiel Steindel Architecture

Dobrawa: Recently you have been focusing heavily on villa, guesthouse projects. Recently there was a lot of publicity about the unusual The Boats in Koscielisko. And what's in front of you? What is the plan for the next fifteen years?

Jan Karpiel-Bułecka jr., Marcin Steindel: Today we are implementing ambitious, including technological, residence projects. An interesting challenge is office buildings, which we are building in several parts of the country. Aparthotels are also a developing design theme for the studio. New opportunities have opened up for the office with the European Property Awards for the Bachleda Club Residence. We are also currently working on the revaluation and expansion of the historic Imperial Hotel in Zakopane. We are even beginning to be seen more and more as specialists in such projects. This is an interesting direction for us, especially in the changing reality and in the face of new customer needs.

Dobrawa: Thank you for the interview!

interviewed by: Dobrawa Bies

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