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Architecture of recollection - the design of the retreat center in Sulejów

Dobrawa Bies
18 of August '20

Anna Kowalik designed the retreat center using the former ruined wings of the Cistercian abbey monastery in Sulejów. The project, which harmoniously combines modern architecture with historical architecture, is a thesis done at the Warsaw University of Technology under the direction of Prof. Konrad Kuczy-Kuczynski.

The design of the retreatcenter is Anna Kowalik's response to the increasing pace of life and the constant flow of information while neglecting the spiritual sphere. The Cistercian abbey, where the author proposes to create a new facility, rises on the right bank of the Pilica River in Sulejów. Despite the use of some Gothic structural solutions, the premise has an outstanding Romanesque character. The clarity of the entire layout and the homogeneity of the details used make the object appear as a unified product of Cistercian thought. The project makes use of the former ruined wings of the monastery.

As the author says:

Ruins are often seen as picturesque monuments to the past, but each has the potential to give shelter again, to become a historical frame for a contemporary space.

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Cistercian abbey, a stagnant situation

© Anna Kowalik

harmonious connection

For the sake of the unique context of the site, the author, in designing, tried to answer the key question of the appearance and functioning of modern architecture in an environment that has a rich historical heritage and scenic qualities. So she proposed a discreet architecture, revealing the value of what is found and introducing only what is necessary. As the author says, her project is a compromise between the theory of Alois Riegel and Eugène Viollet-le-Duc. The combination of modern architecture and the historical one together gives the impression of one harmonized whole. The use of simple means of expression and almost ascetic interiors focuses the audience's attention on what is important - man's relationship with himself and the surrounding nature.

Widok na wirydarz

view of the garth

© Anna Kowalik

object inscribed in historical space

The form of the retreatcenter results from the place and context in which it is located, blending into the surroundings. The author has inscribed part of the building into the relic of the monastery's southern wall. From the side of the river, the disturbed proportions of the remains of the monastery's eastern wing can now also be seen, where the proportions of the roof were changed in the 19th century, incorporating the cloister space into the wing's volume. The designed building restores the original proportions of the east wing and expands it in accordance with the historic outline of the exterior walls. From the side of the abbey courtyard, the new building is unobtrusive, slightly projecting beyond the height of the historic walls, providing a simple, massive volume.

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The new building blends in with its surroundings, providing a backdrop to the historic architecture

© Anna Kowalik

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