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Julia Olenkiewicz - "Details of the Lower City. A public archive of traces"

09 of February '24
Technical data
Type: undergraduate thesis
Year of defense: 2023
Name: "Details of the Lower City. Public archive of traces"
Author: Julia Olenkiewicz
University: Faculty of Architecture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Gdansk, major: architecture of cultural spaces
Promoter: Dr. Marta Branicka prof. of the Academy of Fine Arts

Work submitted for the competition
"Best Diploma in Interiors 2022/2024".

In my diploma project "Details of the Lower City. A Public Archive of Traces," I explore the relationship between the past, present and future of the architectural fabric of Gdansk's Lower Town. The work is a record of the search for a characteristic cipher attesting to the character of the district, which changes its appearance from year to year.

Inspiracje, zdjęcia z terenu Dolnego Miasta

inspirations, photos from the Lower Town area

© Julia Olenkiewicz

Old factories or bourgeois tenements are being transformed from dilapidated 19th-century buildings that survived the bombings of World War II into modern apartment buildings. The surrounding space is modernizing, being thermally upgraded and clothed in a modern costume. At the same time, the old character of the neighborhood begins to disappear.

„Detale Dolnego Miasta”, ul. Jałmużnicza „Detale Dolnego Miasta”, ul. Śluza

nego City

© Julia Olenkiewicz

Thus, my project is a record of deliberations and search for what the visual code of the Lower City actually is and what traces of its former splendor are. It is an attempt to capture the transformation that is currently taking place. Wanting to freeze some architectural moments, I created a kind of public archive of the traces of the district.

„Detale Dolnego Miasta”, proces

"Details of the Lower City," process

© Julia Olenkiewicz

As a result of my research so far, I was able to create an archive composed of photographed and scanned architectural details, as well as old demolition bricks found at buildings undergoing renovation. I combined these two elements by imprinting computer program-processed scans of ornaments in brick shapes.

Moduły wykonane z gliny

modules made of clay

© Julia Olenkiewicz

In the future, the resulting objects will be permanently blended into the facade structure of one of the neglected buildings in the Lower Town. In this way, traces of the architectural heritage of the district will be preserved.

Warsztaty „Śladami Dolnego Miasta”

"Footsteps of the Lower Town" workshop

Photo: Mikolaj Jurkowski © Julia Olenkiewicz

The project would contradict its idea if the residents of the district were not invited to co-create it. The need to emphasize even more deeply the authenticity of the expression of the wall structure and the desire to establish a sincere relationship with the male and female residents made me decide to organize the "Footsteps of the Lower City" workshop. I invited artist and educator Nicholas Robert Jurkowski and children attending a local school.

Rezultat warsztatów z dziećmi

The result of the workshop with children

Photo: Mikolaj Jurkowski © Julia Olenkiewicz

Ceramic clay, usually the raw material used to make bricks, during the workshop became a matrix, a responsive material that accepts what workshop participants apply to it. The core of the initiative was an accurate but analog reflection of what I was doing during my project work - imprinting the traces of the Lower City. The idea behind the project was very simple: each child received a slice of clay, in which they imprinted the neighborhood's textures during a walk. The resulting blocks became an integral part of the rest of the wall structure.

„Detale Dolnego Miasta”, wizualizacja Ornament w glinie

The work uses quotation as the main formal means

© Julia Olenkiewicz

The concept is to blur the difference between the future and present image of the district. The objects assembled with the elements of the facade will highlight and bring out the traces of the past that already exist on the wall, and will serve as a public archive of the architectural details of the district.

„Detale Dolnego Miasta”, wizualizacja

"Details of the Lower City," visualization

© Julia Olenkiewicz

Although it was created as a design course, the thesis combines the language of design with art form and perfomative activities. It looks at architecture in a slightly different way - instead of creating new objects and searching for a new language, often foreign to the space, it operates with quotation as the main formal means and gives resonance to what is slowly disappearing in cities.


Illustrations: © Author

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