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Can the Wawel courtyard be changed and how?

30 of September '22

Workshop by students of the Faculty of Architecture at the Warsaw University of Technology at Wawel Royal Castle

Material from A&B 09/2022.

During the 2021/2022 academic year, students of the tenth semester at WAPW, under the guidance of Konrad Grabowiecki and Maciej Kaufman, in cooperation with the Wawel Royal Castle, participated in an unusual workshop on the study of Wawel's inner courtyard. A unique place, rich in historical overhangs, which is an important space for the daily functioning of the entire Wawel Hill.

In 2020, Professor Andrzej Betlej, director of the Wawel Royal Castle, and his team developed the Wawel Royal Castle Action Program for 2020-2025. The program is, on the one hand, a response to the rapidly growing number of visitors, and on the other hand, to the demand to bring the Castle up to European standards," says class leader Konrad Grabowiecki, founder of BBGK Architekci studio.
Theprofession of architecture is a profession in which the most valuable things are created at the interface of theory and practice, ideas and craftsmanship. Putting students in contact with a real design issue and real users is extremely valuable in preparing them for the profession. That's why every year, when conducting exercises in the A3 (Architecture of Technology and Structure) master's degree specialization, we invite the public side to join us, offering to make a "case study" of the issues that institutions face. This year, courtesy of the Wawel Royal Castle management, we took the so-called Outer Courtyard," adds Konrad Grabowiecki.

Zwiedzanie Zamku przez uczestników seminarium Wydziału Architektury Politechniki Warszawskiej

Touring the Castle by the participants of the seminar of the Architecture Department of the Warsaw University of Technology

photo: Paweł Orkinsz, deputy director of the Museum

As part of the course, the students sought, among other things, answers to the question of how to make the archaeological relics of the now-defunct Wawel Castle town more accessible and how to shape the green architecture. Together with the instructors, they considered the problem of moving around the site(it is currently a single pedestrian route) and places for resting. During the summer season Wawel is visited by up to 30,000 people, who don't have much of a place to find respite or sit down. A question was also raised about the potential - could there be space on the Hill for a concert or festival?

At the Faculty of Architecture at the Warsaw University of Technology, students choose one of eight specializations during their master's studies. The specialization includes a seminar, a lecture and a project. The optional project is the first element of the cycle that directs education at the master's level. Classes are held in the PBL system - participants must solve a problem of a research nature through project considerations conducted in a group and individually. The selection of research problems is determined by the specifics of the specialty. The nature of the problems must be as general as possible and encourage cooperation and the formation of individual design tools," explains Dr. Anna Maria Wierzbicka, professor at WAPW, head of the Department of Architectural and Urban Design.

Wawel courtyard according to WAPW students

The young architects were divided into teams of two and were given the opportunity to determine on their own how many problems of the Hill they wanted to solve and how deeply to analyze them. They could also decide whether to limit themselves to subtle landscape interventions or choose those that permanently alter the historic substance. The teams developed seven randomly assigned themes, they were: Opening, Community, Conservation Creation, Identity - what is Cracovism, Mystery, Modernity, and Returns.

Warsztat projektowy podczas seminarium na Zamku Królewskim na Wawelu

Design workshop during the seminar at Wawel Royal Castle

Photo: Konrad Grabowiecki


proj.: Monika Jablonska, Zofia Konarowska
[excerpt from author's description]

Wawel Hill is a palimpsest full of meanings, mysteries and undiscovered stories. The project aims to capture the spirit of the site of the now defunct town of Wawel. The outlines of the buildings were recreated using a variety of microclimatic zones: heat, cold, humidity, shade, sun exposure. The means used are ephemeral, fading and elusive against the historical fabric. They are complements that do not compete with the context of the site, but direct our attention to future climate solutions. The metaphorical recreation of a non-existent town through a variety of sensory means creates the premise of a mysterious garden. The multidimensional perception of the space stimulates the senses, encouraging individual discovery of Wawel Castle, drawing attention to the imperceptible and elusive.

Projekt Tajemnica

See full presentation of the project: board 1, board 2, board 3

Conservation Creation

proj.: Paulina Bukowska, Wiktor Martin
[excerpt from author's description]

The modern Wawel Castle, which is one of Poland's most important archaeological sites, is in a clinch with the world of mass tourism and attempts to fulfill its needs. The outer courtyard in its current form only contributes to sustaining this phenomenon. The goal of the project is to achieve a win-win solution, in which providing freedom to conduct research work and exhibit archaeological relics in no way precludes an attractive space in terms of tourism. The pavilion we are proposing produces a new interior designed for scientific research, which functions simultaneously with a completely different world of tourism located on the roof. The interior space of the building is created by gradually uncovering layers and historical imprints, going all the way up to solid rock. The entire roof area is dedicated to a garden of low vegetation, evoking the feeling of being in a natural meadow among a variety of grasses and shrubs.

Projekt Kreacja Konserwatorska

See the full presentation of the project: board 1, board 2, board 3


proj.: Matvei Aleinikau, Monika Koziel
[fragment of the author's description]

In the popular consciousness, Wawel is regarded as a staid and noble museum that is visited only once. We want people to return to Wawel Castle. "Returns" is a project of a year-round changing garden with a set of mobile pavilions, thanks to which the outdoor courtyard will be different every time!

Projekt Powroty, makieta

See a full presentation of the project: board 1


proj.: Anna Leonik, Sandra Namyślak
[fragment of the author's description]

Krakow is strongly associated with art, culture and science, including the figure of Stanislaw Wyspianski. The project involves translating a selected stained glass window by the artist into the form of a flower garden. Most of the plant species used for the project were introduced by Wyspianski in his "Herbarium." The treatment creates an attractive space from the human eye level, and its full image is shown to visitors from a viewing tower proposed on the site of the former Maiden Tower. As an element of Wyspianski's work, we decided to introduce a reference to his most recognizable stained glass window, "God the Father - Become," into the courtyard space.

Projekt Tożsamość

See the full presentation of the project: board 1, board 2, board 3


proj.: Klaudia Setniewska, Julia Szuniewicz
[fragment of the author's description]

By adding another layer, the contemporary, to the palimpsest that is Wawel Castle, the project responds to the museum's current needs - to accommodate tourists. The structure, reminiscent of the castle's cloisters, is a minimal intervention that integrates the new form with the historic fabric. As a result, the arcades slightly alter the appearance of the Hill.

Projekt Współczesność


proj.: Zuzanna Pomaska, Anna Smołko
[fragment of the author's description]

Hortus Apertus is a design for an open garden on the Wawel Hill that enriches the courtyard and the intercroft with essential recreational and gastronomic functions, as well as a layer of meaning through the introduction of a garden motif. Freely shaped green islands and pavilions, between which one can move in many ways, facilitate the discovery of the courtyard. The architecture is reduced to lightweight garden pavilions, which conform to the landscaping in form, while the detailing is reminiscent of Krakow's subtle and romantic in expression. The choice of shapes is not coincidental: taken from nature, the organic forms do not attempt to imitate or dominate the historic fabric, but rather aid in careful observation. The protruding roofs of the pavilions frame the images, and turning to nature by collecting water on the roofs or increasing the amount of greenery fully accessible to visitors restores the presence of nature on Wawel Hill.

Projekt Otwarcie

See the full presentation of the project: board 1, board 2, board 3, board 4, board 5, board 6


proj.: Magdalena Mucha, Joanna Ubik
[excerpt from author's description]

The project responds to the needs of the three communities present on Wawel Hill: values, emotions, ideas. This is done through the use of three types of design intervention and leads to the possibility of using the entire courtyard area as a space for integration within the communities.

Projekt Wspólnota

a word to conclude

The student architectural workshop held at the Wawel Castle, which was associated with the Royal Castle, stemmed directly from the need to define what this special place is and how it can function, with great significance for the history of Poland and the Poles. Wawel can be viewed from different perspectives. On the one hand, the Wawel Royal Castle is an iconic place that should maintain its genius loci, with the most important significance for Polish culture, with the symbolic presence of the greatest Polish figures of culture, history, science, prompting reflection. On the other hand, Wawel is at the same time the home of one of the most important museums in the country, and is sometimes treated only as a tourist attraction. For several years, we have been trying to make the Castle function according to the idea of #wawelopen, to make it a place that is not only a kind of historical and mental canvass (that is, it is all that is connected with the concept of cultural heritage), but also a place that connects, to which one should return. The castle, as well as the entire Hill, was not, is not and cannot be a "static" place. Suffice it to recall that for more than a century there have been presented (and discussed) concepts for the transformation of the Wawel buildings: the visionary design of Stanislaw Wyspianski, the concept of "The Procession of Kings" by Waclaw Szymanowski or the solutions proposed by Adolf Szyszko-Bohusz. Wawel Castle must therefore be based on such activities, which will very much open the museum to visitors. The mission of the museum is to enable contact with national heritage and artistic works of past eras, but at the same time the vision of the museum's activities is to create a modern institution that is an active center of exhibition activities, a space to which one returns. The concepts developed in the classes - they may be considered completely unrealistic or even iconoclastic - but let's remember that it is possible to see in them ideas or individual solutions that will help in thinking about the future and shaping this unique place - Prof. Andrzej Betlej, director of the Wawel Royal Castle.


The instructors Konrad Grabowiecki and Maciej Kaufman would like to thank all the students for their commitment and active participation in the exercises. They extend special thanks to the management of the Wawel Royal Castle Museum - Prof. Andrzej Betlej, Paweł Orkisz, Daniel Hankus and Marta Graczyńska - for their extraordinary hospitality and substantive contributions to the discussions. They would also like to thank very much Dr. Kinga Zinowiec-Cieplik for her great commitment to the organization and parallel hosting of the seminar and lectures, as well as Prof. Anna Maria Wierzbicka for her patronage and support of the idea of cooperation between WAPW and Wawel Castle.

Dobrawa Bies

Illustrations courtesy of the Faculty of Architecture, Warsaw University of Technology.

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