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The long end of the occupation - a communal settlement instead of German barracks

05 of October '21

More than 70 years (!) after the end of the war, residential barracks for Poles are giving way to a new communal housing development. The construction of the first two stages of the housing complex in Poznan's Swierczew is nearing completion. The form of the housing estate represents a significant advance over the communal investments of a few years ago. However, it is a little short of perfect.

The estate, which will eventually include 1,100 apartments, is being built in Swierczew, a peripheral district near Poznan's southern border. During the war, the Germans built dozens of brick barracks covered with a steep roof here for Poles displaced from their downtown apartments. German propaganda claimed that they were sturdier than the pre-war social housing, and, although this was not true, the barracks turned out to be indeed sturdy. The wartime buildings have survived to this day. Some of the one-story buildings on the east side of Opolskaya Street still have people living in them. Meanwhile, several barracks on the west side of the street were demolished in 2016, and four years later excavators entered the construction site of the first stage of the housing development, which is the largest investment of its kind in Poznań - implemented by the Board of Communal Housing Resources (ZKZL).

opolska poznan osiedle

Municipal housing estate on Opolska Street in Poznań
Drone view from the southeast side

© ZKZL Poznań

gradual progress

The investment, despite the fact that it will eventually occupy a large space, was carried out on the basis of a project selected not in an architectural competition, but in an open tender. It was won by the Poznan office "Archimedia" - Pracownia Architektoniczna - Architekci & Inżynierowie. Worth PLN 70 million. The investment, on the other hand, was implemented by the Agrobex company.

Over the next few months, 287 apartments will be put into use in five buildings (the first and second stages of construction): two five-story buildings, two with four floors and one three-story building - matched in scale to the surrounding lower buildings. The units range in size from one to three rooms and from 31 to 66 sqm. All, except for the ground-floor ones, are also equipped with balconies. Unfortunately, following the example of private developments, some of the apartments have rooms with kitchenettes, which cannot be converted into a separate room with a window. The advantage of two- and three-room units, on the other hand, is double-sided light. For the most part, the rooms of all types of apartments have decent proportions and are set.

A large number of units, about 30 percent, have been prepared with people with disabilities in mind. Half of the apartments of this type are adapted to the needs of such tenants, and in half it is possible to adapt them to the desired state. Settlement of the first three blocks is planned for the end of this year, with another two to follow in the middle of next year.

poznan opolska osiedle 1

Five- and four-story buildings located closer to Opolskaya Street. The finishing of the grounds and courtyards is underway. The first tenants will move in by the end of the year.

Photo: Jakub Głaz

How did the designers handle the composition of the development? Compared to commercial developments, the development is dense: designed on an L-plan, the buildings have spacious courtyards. The new estate also looks much better than the municipal blocks erected by ZKZL a few years ago. At that time, a typical project with a form similar to the austerity housing of the Gomulka era was repeated in several variants. Blocks were erected as if from a stampede on small urban sites suitable for this purpose. At Opolska Street, the plan was also to duplicate the finished project, but - partly under pressure from press criticism - a more ambitious variant was decided upon. This is another such attempt, following the better-than-typical blocks enclave of communal housing put into operation in 2019 in the Strzeszyn district.

apartments are not everything!

What's worse is that much of the space between the blocks, both in Strzeszyn and on Opolska Street, will be used for surface parking lots. Yes, space has been provided for greenery and playgrounds, but both investments are far from modernist estates with their separation of vehicular and pedestrian traffic. So far, there is also a lack of any infrastructure accompanying the new blocks. Only the two tallest buildings, equipped with elevators and intended primarily for the elderly, will have a day care center accessible from both the courtyard and inside. Social programs to integrate residents are also planned. There is also room for five ground-floor retail units.

However, in the immediate vicinity of the complex, as in Strzeszyn, there is a lack of separate spaces for services, retail or a kindergarten. The nearest commercial complex with a grocery store is more than a kilometer from the new development, and a modest Społem store is a little closer . The local plan for the entire area includes space for service buildings, but it is unclear when they will be built. Luckily, the estate is well served by city buses, which run here every few minutes during rush hour, taking passengers to interchanges in Górczyn or Debiec. Perhaps in subsequent phases of the estate's construction a slightly more diverse development will appear. The continuation is planned, among others, on the eastern side of Opolska Street, where residential barracks still stand.

poznan opolska osiedle

The intimate three-story building is matched in scale to the existing buildings

Photo: Jakub Głaz

The quality of the materials used is also average, although - as it seems at first glance - at an acceptable level. The walls were plastered, painted white and highlighted with colorful accents. The colors were assigned to the height of the buildings. Five-story blocks are enlivened by yellow, four-story blocks by green, and the lowest by orange. Thus, the latest Poznań realization is a bit short of the qualitative ideal, for which we can consider the repeatedly described clinker-faced buildings on Jagiellońska Street in Warsaw (designed by Kontrapunkt V-Projekt, 2015). But even so, one should appreciate the comprehensive approach to the realization and the abandonment of architectural and urban sub-standard, which until recently dominated the realizations of Poznan ZKZL.

Jakub Głaz

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