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A space for everyone. Award-winning design of the Protolerance Center

Dobrawa Bies
12 of February '21

{Student}, a student at Wroclaw University of Technology, won first place and the audience award in the international competition "Conquer. Design an LGBT Resource center", organized by UNI competitions. The task was to design a support center for LGBTQ+ youth. However, the author decided to go beyond the competition, creating a design for a place where everyone would feel safe - regardless of skin color, age, gender or orientation.

Participants in the competition organized by the UNI competitions platform were asked to develop a concept for a facility that would become a support center for LGBTQ+ youth. It was to be a place where youth would find information, help and support. The facility was to be at the same time a center that would sensitize the public and make them aware of the problems faced by LGBTQ+ people. As a location, the organizers proposed the town of Gżira in Malta, a country that has been at the top of the Rainbow Index for many years.

Protolerancyjne znajduje się na Malcie

The Protorelanning Center is located in the town of Gżira

© Xavier Marshal

double award for PWr student

The submitted projects were evaluated by an international jury consisting of: Kirsten Bauer, director of Aspect Studios, Juanjo Otero of MOL Arquitectur and Cecilia López Muinos, co-founder of Muinos Otero López Arquitectura. The jury, as well as the audience, considered the best work to be the project by Ksawery Marszalek, a student of the Faculty of Architecture at the Wroclaw University of Technology. His project was also an engineering thesis made under the supervision of Dr. Tomasz Glowacki of the Department of Architecture and Visual Arts.

Ksawery Marszalek named his proposed building - Tifhem, which means "understand" in Maltese. The student decided to create a project that with its assumptions would go far beyond the expectations and requirements of the competition organizers.


the building was designed for everyone

© Ksawery Marszalek

How the author justifies his decision:

Designing an object intended for one social group is associated with the unequivocal stigmatization of a given collectivity as a different, separate one. This action contradicts the undertaken goal in the context of striving for general tolerance, mutual respect and acceptance. As a result, the theme "Support Center for LGBTQ+ Youth" suggested by the competition brief was expanded by me to a Protolerance Center. This means that the concept focuses not only on the issue of sexual minorities, but also brings issues related to gender difference, racism, levels of ability, independence and age under consideration. This translates directly into the assumptions of form, functional solutions and their accessibility to a maximally diverse audience.

A hidden but accessible object for all

The award-winning design takes the form of a rounded object, mostly hidden underground, which by its shape is meant to encourage a visit inside. Referring to local architecture, the student designed the exterior of the center - with a plaza, courtyard and circular benches made of sand-colored limestone. The building itself, on the other hand, was recessed below ground level. In this way, the small plot of land was better utilized, and the temperature inside the building was lowered. An interesting treatment is the design of the entrance area with a sloping descent leading to the inner courtyard.

Aksonometria budynku Poziom -1 i przekrój

The glazed facade of the atrium makes the building open and transparent

© Ksawery Marszałek

What constitutes the essential value, the real beauty, is usually hidden in the interior. The building itself, invisible from a distance and not contrasting with its surroundings, harmonizes with this thought [...]. With a glazed interior atrium facade, the center would be open and transparent, and thus more accessible to a wider audience. It would counteract the creation of an enclave closed to the surroundings or completely isolated," explains Xavier Marshal.

installation creating a rainbow

The author decided to demolish the wall separating the plot from the north. In this way, the center, instead of being adjacent to an eight-meter high stone barrier, is open to the vast space of the former stadium, which has not been used for years. Hidden in the terrain, the building is marked by an above-ground installation that scatters water particles in the air and creates a rainbow.

Nadziemna instalacja
tworzy tęczę

The inner courtyard with a pond

© Xavier Marshal

To unreflectively use the six colors of the rainbow in the building would have been a trite and blunt labeling of it as serving the LGBT+ community. I decided to produce a rainbow in the building in the form of an atmospheric phenomenon that everyone perceives as a neutral wonder of nature," says the student.

The water installation, visible from the street, combines a sprinkler system with a spatial form woven from colorful strings. This creates a shadow, and a fine mist floats over the building, which, combined with the sun's rays, produces a rainbow. The author placed huge skylights and a pond in the square, and the atrium has a fully glazed facade.

sala wystawowa

An exhibition hall designed for self-expression

© Xavier Marshal

The atrium is also a space for meetings, organizing performances and community activities. There is a café in the building, and in addition to it, the first underground floor would house offices and offices where medical, legal and psychological assistance would be provided. The second floor is dedicated to education. The architect placed there a lecture hall, an exhibition hall and workshop space. At night, the exhibition hall would turn into a music club. The lowest level of the building is occupied by technical rooms accessible only to staff.

energy-producing shafts

The center is made of concrete, which is colored in the color of local limestone on the finishing surfaces. The exterior spaces are finished with limestone panel cladding, used on both the walls and the floor. Cobiax technology, used to create the ceilings, allows for large spans and free design of the slab shape. The glazing of the building's exterior facades was covered with a transparent hydrophilic film. The film is impervious to water molecules, limits the penetration of UV rays and repels dust particles.

Detal konstrukcyjny Poziom -2

The author used modern technologies

© Ksawery Marszałek

All façade glazing contains quantum dot technology. The polymer matrix, embedded in the glass structure, works like an optical fiber bounded by edges with photovoltaic cells. The dot structures have greater energy harvesting capabilities in the same area than ordinary photovoltaic cells, which translates into greater cost-effectiveness. The resources thus accumulated would be used to power water, ventilation and heating systems.

Tolerance is a value needed now more than ever. I am convinced that architecture, being a vast field, linked to every activity of human life, should also have a real impact on the issue of spreading tolerance," Xavier Marshal concludes.


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