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Crisis or a higher bar? Results of the competition for the Architectural Award of the Wielkopolska Region 2023.

30 of November '23

Without the Grand Prix and prizes in two categories, and with an interesting vote on single-family houses. This is how the fourth edition of the competition for the Architectural Award of the Wielkopolska region ended. This is another regional competition without a main trophy, after the Silesian one. Is a design crisis beginning, or are the judges' demands increasing?

TheNAWW competition for the best buildings, spaces and interiors of the voivodeship in the past year has been organized by the Poznań SARP in cooperation with the Wielkopolska Regional Chamber of Architects since 2020. In mid-September, we learned about the 21 nominations announced in this year's edition by the jury, headed by Błażej Janik (SARP Katowice). Three of the seven categories were heavily populated. Four single-family houses, five interiors and three (all of a high level) "export works," i.e. realizations by Wielkopolska architects outside the province and the country, competed for the award.

stud individualists

When presenting the nominations in September, we predicted that among the single-family houses the winner would be the "multi-family house" of the PL.Architekci studio from Poznań, which has been successfully specializing in the field of individual construction for years. And so it happened. The original house consisting of several thoughtfully juxtaposed segments left far behind the competition, which the Competition Jury treated quite critically in its interesting opinion:

The review of this year's realizations in the category of single-family houses is reminiscent of Slawomir Mrożek and his famous description of Poles as herd individualists. Almost all of the submitted houses duplicate to the point of tedium the main trends or fashions in architecture that dominate today, from the simplified archetypal forms of the so-called modern barns, to neo-modernist realizations, [...]. The above impression is complemented by the almost identical nature of all the gardens [...] easy to maintain, with almost identical catalog flora, keeping the nature surrounding the houses under the full control of the gardener.

Dom WIELOCZŁONOWY, okolice Poznania; proj.: PL.ARCHITEKCI (Bartłomiej Bajon, Katarzyna Cynka-Bajon, Bartosz Stanek)

MULTIFUNCTIONAL HOUSE, near Poznań; designed by PL.ARCHITEKCI (Bartłomiej Bajon, Katarzyna Cynka-Bajon, Bartosz Stanek)—NAWW award in the „single-family house” category

Photo: Piotr Krajewski

This opinion makes a lot of sense, although it should be noted that all the nominated houses kept a fairly high level. It is probably not only due to talented designers, but also—as the judges recognized—a result of the high level of finances and ambitions of individual investors. So what did the „multi-unit house” award get for? The jury reports:

This realization is the only one that clearly differs from the other projects, bringing a breath of freshness and unconventionality close to experimentation. Breaking up the body of the building into a set of repeating, slightly different modules not only creates a new and interesting building form , but also introduces interesting relations between the interior and exterior, relations ranging from open through semi-open to closed [...]. The varied form of the building, in the assumption of the authors, is an attempt to seek the impression of a smaller and more intimate scale of a relatively large house [...]. The breaking up of the building clearly results from the functional disposition.

Dom WIELOCZŁONOWY, okolice Poznania; proj.: PL.ARCHITEKCI (Bartłomiej Bajon, Katarzyna Cynka-Bajon, Bartosz Stanek)

MULTIFUNCTIONAL HOUSE, near Poznań, Poland; design: PL.ARCHITEKCI (Bartłomiej Bajon, Katarzyna Cynka-Bajon, Bartosz Stanek)—NAWW award in the „single-family house” category

Photo: Piotr Krajewski

contact and Africa

So, regardless of the caveats, this category was still much better than multifamily construction. After all, the main ambition of most developers is not good architecture, but high sales. Hence only three nominations, although dozens of buildings of this type are built annually in Poznan alone. Here, too, the judges chose the building to which we at A&B gave the best chance. The award was given to the Insomia studio for a house broken into three segments on Slowackiego Street in Poznan. The architects, who have been awarded more than once for their multi-family projects, and this time they also coped well with the tight plot between Art Nouveau tenements and a contemporary office building on the outskirts of the Jeżyce district. The judges' justification reads that:

The selected scale of the building allows it to fit optimally into the existing fabric of historic residential buildings. The high architectural quality of the building and the designers' attention to detail deserve recognition [...]. The building has become an example of original residential architecture, non-dominant in the urban context.

Budynek mieszkalny wielorodzinny z funkcją usługową na parterze, Poznań, ul. Słowackiego 7; proj.: INSOMIA

Multi-family residential building with service function on the first floor, Poznań, 7 Słowackiego Street; design: INSOMIA—NAWW award in the category „multi-family residential building”.

photo: Przemyslaw Turlej

The judges had to havea difficult choice in the case of the „export work” category . One: all three projects were at a high level, and two: the territorial range of the nominated realizations was large. In the end, the most remote work won: the WAYAir Foundation School in the Ulyankulu refugee camp in Tanzania. The authors of this project are IwoBorkowicz and Adam Siemaszkiewicz of and Lukasz Rawecki of Arh+. Here is the comment from the competition judges:

The premise is a consequence of many trips to Africa and thinking about the needs of the community living there. The project was done pro publico bono. Readily available local materials and hand-formed bricks were used in the construction of the school . Some of them were produced at the construction site and some in a nearby valley—the resulting varied, two-colored bricks create interesting ornaments on the walls of the buildings. Children studying in the school make use of the common space, which is marked by the large shade of a mangrove tree located in the center of the school. This space can also be used by adults when school is not in session.

Szkoła Fundacji WAYAir w obozie uchodźczym Ulyankulu w Tanzanii; proj.: Iwo Borkowicz, Adam Siemaszkiewicz (, Łukasz Rawecki (Arh+)

WAYAir Foundation school in the Ulyankulu refugee camp in Tanzania; designed by Iwo Borkowicz, Adam Siemaszkiewicz (, Łukasz Rawecki (Arh+)—NAWW award in the „export work” category

photo: Iwo Borkowicz

they measured up and won

In the very sparse „common space” category, the winner was an interesting project by the Poznan studio Neostudio Architects (Bartosz Jarosz, Pawel Swierkowski): Przystanek Edukacja. The realization is interesting for several reasons. First, it was built in the small town of Wielen in the north of Wielkopolska. Second, it creatively and economically transformed the space after a former bus stop. And third, it is another urban intervention by the same architects in a city whose mayor has been implementing a thoughtful program of downtown renewal for years . In addition to the award-winning Bus Stop, Neostudio has provided Wielenik with completed projects for the reconstruction of the Market Square and the boulevards along the Notec River. Let's give the jury the floor:

The authors faced uncompromisingly the low-quality architecture of the neighboring pavilions, proposing a contemporary, original reinterpretation of them in a different material, non-invasive at the same time to the street layout. At the same time, they undertook an interesting dialogue with the nearest tenement buildings and referred to the social habits of the residents of the bus stop existing in this place.

Skwer Usług Kultury - „Przystanek Edukacja”, Wieleń autorzy: Neostudio Architekci, architekci: Bartosz Dawid Jarosz, Paweł Świerkowski, Tomasz Sołtysiak

Cultural Services Square—"Education Stop", Wieleń authors: Neostudio Architekci,
architects: Bartosz Dawid Jarosz, Paweł Świerkowski, Tomasz Sołtysiak—NAWW award in the „common space” category

Photo: Pawel Swierkowski

Finally, in the heavily staffed but less important „interior” category, the competition's jury recognized those projects that stood out against similar projects maintained in grays, whites and beiges. The award went to Koper Studio for its design for the Reumedika Medical Clinic, while an honorable mention was also given to a medical investment: the interiors of the Neurological and Senior Rehabilitation Center Neuroport in Poznań by the Zawieja Studio—Martyna Zawieja . All winners (except the honorable mention) received an award from the Office of the Marshal of the Wielkopolska Region: PLN 5 thousand.

Reumedika klinika medyczna, Poznań; proj.: Koper Studio Magda Piotrowska architektka, Olga Hausmann

Neurological and Senior Rehabilitation Center Neuroport, Poznań; proj.: Zawieja Studio—Martyna Zawieja—honorable mention in the „interior” category.


without public and young

Instead, the last two categories were without awards: „public building” and "young artist." The Grand Prix was also not awarded, which happened in the still young competition in Wielkopolska for the first time. And this, despite the fact that many compliments were showered on the „multi-unit house” from PL.Architects in the justification of the court, calling it one of the best works in this edition of NAWW (in all categories).

Ośrodek Rehabilitacji Neurologicznej i Senioralnej Neuroport, Poznań; proj.: Zawieja Studio - Martyna Zawieja

Reumedika medical clinic, Poznań; proj.: Koper Studio Magda Piotrowska architect, Olga Hausmann—NAWW award in the „interior” category

photo: Przemyslaw Turlej

The Grand Prix and the award for multifamily buildings were also not awarded this year in the Architecture of the Year competition of the Silesian Voivodeship. Is this a sign of the weakening level of domestic architecture? Such voices could be heard from the judges backstage, although—of course—it is difficult to speak of a declining trend after one weaker year. Then again, perhaps the views of competition judges are increasingly critical and complex. This would be indicated by the passages of the NAWW court opinion, which also concerns single-family homes:

Most of the submitted projects are characterized by exclusivity and elitism. What issurprising is the almost total absence of cheaper and smaller realizations, as well as the use of only classic technologies , creating an impression of detachment of architecture from the main problems of today, starting with climate change through the political and economic crisis to the so-called digital switch.

Thus, it is no longer just form and function and attention to detail that count, but more topical and important aspects of design. Paradoxically, this may be a testimony that in some areas Polish designers are already doing really well. Some of the nominations that did not make it to the podium would have deserved at least an honorable mention just fifteen years ago. Today, the bar is higher. As it seems, the judges are raising it, because—as we remember from school, for example—more is simply required of the talented.

Jakub Głaz

Chapter of the competition:

  • Arch. Błażej Janik—chairman of the Chapter, SARP Katowice,
  • arch. Szymon Rozwałka—Czech Republic Brno
  • arch. Aida Januszkiewicz Piotrowska—representative of the Governor of Wielkopolska, member of the WPOIA RP,
  • arch. Piotr Grabowski—vice president of SARP Poznań, member of WPOIA RP,
  • arch. Jowita Maćkowiak—representative of the Marshal of the Wielkopolska Region,
  • arch. Katarzyna Weiss—member of the Council of the WPOIA RP, SARP Poznań,
  • arch. Piotr Bartosik—member of the Council of the WPOIA RP, SARP Poznań,
  • arch. Ewa Gbiorczyk—member of the Council of the WPOIA RP, SARP Poznań,
  • Prof. Piotr Korduba—director of the Institute of Art History, UAM,
  • Anna Dudzinska—journalist, Radio 357.

The vote has already been cast