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To the rescue of the general villas. Project of the Center for culture and neighborhood integration at the Bem Fort

Dobrawa Bies
03 of August '21

{Student}, an architecture student at the Warsaw University of Technology concerned about the fate of the deteriorating General's Villas at the Bem Fort , proposed a solution to preserve the entire historic urban layout and introduce a new function to the area. Her design for a cultural center is a place for meetings and integration, strengthening the identity of Bemowo.

Zuzanna Woznicka's work is an engineering design entitled. "Center for Culture and Neighborhood Integration at Bem Fort," prepared under the direction of Dr. Anita Orchowska. The work won an award in the competition for the Prize of the Minister of Development, Labor and Technology for the best thesis, dissertation and publication in the fields of architecture and construction, planning and zoning, and housing.

Projekt Centrum
kultury i integracji sąsiedzkiej przy Forcie Bema

Project for acenter for culture and neighborhood integration at Bem's Fort

© Zuzanna Woznicka

A new place on the map of Warsaw

The student's idea was to design a cultural center that would become a meeting point, education and a place for many artistic and social events. The designer proposed architectural and spatial solutions in the vicinity of the historic General's Villas by the Bema Fort, which will emphasize the value and give a new quality to the area. An important consideration was also the activation of residents and all visitors to the area. In addition, an important aspect is to preserve the biodiversity of the site by creating places for relaxation in the greenery and extending the existing community garden.

Wizualizacja kawiarni przy
Forcie Bema

Cultural center at Bem's Fort

© Zuzanna Woznicka

A need of the residents of the Bemowo district is to take care of the general's villas, destroyed by the passage of time. The project aims to help preserve the entire historic layout and give it new life. The map of Bemowo and its immediate vicinity lacks such a place as the designed cultural center. Through its rich program, its setting in greenery and its respect for history, it will help strengthen the identity of the place, which is the entire area of Fort Bema, and reappear in the consciousness of Warsaw residents, the author says.

Fort Bema

The Fort Bema area itself and its immediate vicinity is a special place on the map of Warsaw. It is one of the best preserved fortifications of the Warsaw Fortress and offers many attractions to all visitors. Most of it is occupied by a well-developed park and numerous recreational and sports services. The other dominant feature is the modern multi-family residential development surrounding the aforementioned areas. Residents from all over the area enjoy visiting the site, but the Fort's foreground is the most attractive. Unfortunately, the test of time has not survived the other buildings that were built as a back-up to Fort Bema and served the entire complex of historic fortifications. They were mainly associated with the production of ammunition and its storage.

z opuszczonych willi generalskich

one of the general villas

photo: Zuzanna Woznicka

Right next to the path surrounding the moat, on Waldorffa Street, are located general villas dating back to the early 20th century. Covered by a barrier of dense greenery, they shyly invite you into their urban interior. Through negligible attempts to undertake their protection and revitalization, they now stand in ruins. Few residents and history lovers know of their existence and stray from the main route to admire their beauty. Year after year, their technical condition deteriorates drastically, and the restoration of the entire complex exceeds the district's budget," says Susanna.

Rzut centrum kultury

projection of the cultural center building

© Zuzanna Woznicka

cultural center and cafe

The student's project primarily involves landscaping the area. By lowering it in steps, an inner courtyard is shaped, which directs pedestrians from the park to the interior of the cultural center, and then further to the general's villas, which will eventually be seen wandering through the park. Adjacent to this central location, which is the courtyard in question, are two buildings. The larger of the two, with access from Waldorff Street, is a facility for workshops and exhibitions. It will house a wide range of cultural activities. Its post-and-beam construction allows for adequate space for the function. The facade is as simple and minimalist as possible and refers to the surroundings through the materials used - concrete and brick.

Przekrój budynku

cross-section of the cafe building

© Zuzanna Woznicka

The second building draws attention with its appearance, referring to the historic buildings of Fort Bema. It is partially undermined and in its cross-section and elevation, built in an arched structure. The building was made entirely with modern technology and clad in clinker bricks. Inside it one can enjoy a good cup of coffee or buy local products. It is a meeting place with a relaxed character.

The cultural center has a lot of small architecture solutions sunk in greenery, which makes it possible to spend time both in groups and in solitude. You can stop here for a long while, go to an exhibition and eat something together with friends while sitting around the trees. Spend a rainy day with a laptop in a cafe, or run from the park to the general villas and continue walking.

Widok na założenie
centrum kultury z lotu ptaka

The premise is conducive to integration and allows for a variety of ways to spend time

© Zuzanna Woznicka

fate of general's villas

Until the time I wrote my engineering thesis, the situation of the General Villas fluctuated strongly between disaster and rescue. However, a breakthrough in their case came in early 2020, when the association caring for the villas received a summons for an administrative hearing on the demolition of the building at 22 Waldorffa Street from the District Building Inspector. In response, social actions were immediately launched to save the historic building (one of the villas). Throughout January and February, more than a thousand signatures were collected and dozens of cultural organizations were involved. As a result, the petition to enter the building in the Register of Monuments was signed by the Capital Conservator of Monuments, the Mazovian Voivodeship Conservator of Monuments and the authorities of the Bemowo district, together with the authorities of the City of Warsaw. However, the situation with the virus outbreak delayed the whole process, and it's not hard to believe that time plays a huge role in this case. As a resident of Bemowo and a student of architecture at the Warsaw University of Technology, with the title of my diploma thesis I would like to draw attention to the problem described above and propose architectural and spatial solutions that will support efforts to protect cultural heritage. At the very end, I can proudly add that in February 2021, the complex of buildings of the pre-war Ammunition Factory No. 1 on Waldorffa Street was entered in the register of monuments. Let's hope for the future! - Zuzanna Woznicka concludes with hope.

Read also about the casino project in the deteriorating Khrushchev Villa in Katowice.

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