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City and Municipality of Konstancin-Jeziorna - harmony amidst chaos

26 of October '19
Technical data
Name: City and Municipality Office of Konstancin-Jeziorna
Investor: Municipality of Konstancin-Jeziorna
Location: , Konstancin-Jeziorna, 77 Piaseczyńska Street.
Authors: Jan Belina-Brzozowski, Konrad Grabowiecki, Wojciech Kotecki
Author collaboration: Joanna Orłowska, Maciej Rąbek, Tomasz Pluciński, Emilia Sobańska, Aleksandra Sybilska, Agata Fisiak, Jacek Wochowski
Construction: DMK Projekt, Stanisław Dałek, Maciej Kowalczy
Pasa Design


  • competition design
  • detailed design
  • implementation



  • plots
  • developments
  • total
  • usable

14 366 m²
3 544 m²
5 976 m²
3 278 m²

General Contractor:
Erekta Construction
approx. 26 million PLN

From the archives of A&B - the best Polish projects of the last decade

[ A&B 11'2018 original material]

The new City Hall in the suburban town of Konstancin-Jeziorna designed by BBGK has brought order and harmony to a chaotic space. Due to its location, the building is also expected to have a positive impact on the future of the locality.

Located on the southern outskirts of Warsaw, Konstancin-Jeziorna is a town with a peculiar character. It combines at least three, it would seem, distant worlds. Because on the one hand - it is a small town, typical for the Polish landscape, devoid of public spaces, with chaotic and rather ugly buildings, being a mixture of modern villas, farms and houses characteristic of the 70s or 80s. Konstancin-Jeziorna, however, is also a health resort with a brine graduation tower, a spa park and relics of pre-war buildings typical of an intimate resort. Nowadays, however, the town is associated above all with great luxury: here the regulars of the list of the hundred richest Poles, celebrities of the world of journalism or popular culture have their ornate villas.


Situation: 1. new City Hall, 2. old paper mill, 3. graduation towers, 4. amphitheater

© BBGK Architects

Interestingly, until recently, the City Hall of this one of the richest municipalities in Poland (17th in the country, 2nd in Mazovia) did not have its own seat: offices were scattered around random, subleased premises (for example, officials received petitioners in... stores of a closed shopping center). Before the building, which was commissioned in June 2018, was built, there were at least three attempts to erect an edifice for the local government, but either the location or the designs turned out to be wrong. It was not until 2013 that a competition was held to select the completed building - the first prize went to the proposal of the BBGK office (then still called Brzozowski Grabowiecki Architects).

In the justification of the verdict, the jury chaired by Boleslaw Stelmach emphasized at the time that the award was given "for exquisite spatial creation, resulting from the reading of local conditions, location and specificity of function. [...] Persuasive is the achieved, refined, mature spatial and aesthetic expression. It is the quintessence of the required seriousness and symbolism superimposed on democratic functionalism."

szkic koncepcyjny

concept sketch

© BBGK Architects

Wojciech Kotecki of BBGK studio stresses that the location of the building had a great influence on the design. The city hall stood on the "inferior" side of the Jeziorka River, which cuts through the city, in an area that does not have a good reputation (residents call it "Argentina"). Unlike in the vicinity of the graduation tower, here the houses are poorer and uglier, the development more chaotic, the land cheaper. The location had another advantage: next to the plot of land earmarked for City Hall is a huge vacant lot, which will be used for development in the near future. In other words - this is where the new part of the city will develop.

Kotecki explains, "It's a good thing that important public facilities are located not where the space is already organized, neat and attractive, but in places where they can act as an anchor, set the level of quality of development or break negative myths, disenchant places with a bad reputation."

That's what may happen in this case. The city hall was positioned not along the street (because frontage buildings will never be built here anyway), but somewhat diagonally, matching the ownership division of the fields that will determine the geometry of future development. Thus, the new edifice has already been inscribed in the - for the time being non-existent - urban layout and placed, as it were, at its head. Moreover, thanks to its deviation from the course of the street, the building is better visible from the nearby traffic circle, through which most of the city's traffic passes.

szkic koncepcyjny

concept sketch

© BBGK Architects

A significant part of the designs submitted for the 2013 competition referred to the luxurious, "palatial" part of Konstancin's development. BBGK Architects reached for other associations. They were inspired by Konstancin's graduation tower, as well as public buildings built of brick - neo-Gothic churches or the Old Paper Mill, a shopping and entertainment center created as a result of the revaluation of a historic post-industrial building. They recognized that more characteristic of the town than the villas of the rich are people-friendly buildings made of materials close to nature, the earth - like brick. There was another reason to reach for this building material.

Wojciech Kotecki explains, "The seats of government are built for many generations, with the assumption that they will serve for hundreds of years. They are the ones that have the greatest chance of being a kind of time capsules, passing on knowledge of the past to future generations. Therefore, they should be made of high-quality materials that age well."

The town hall in Konstancin was built with hand-formed bricks from a Polish brick factory. The ceramic material here complemented the architectural concrete of the structural elements, terrazzo on the floors, and steel and aluminum profiles.

cegła na elewacjach

Elevation ornamentation traditional to Mazovian architecture

Photo: Juliusz Sokolowski © BBGK Architekci

The bricks on the facades were arranged in a three-dimensional rhombus pattern taken from the forms of farm buildings, barns - one of the few ornaments appearing in Mazovian architecture.

"The idea was also to soften and diversify this rather modernist, simple mass," he says. - Kotecki adds.

The three-dimensional pattern is even more visible thanks to the use of grout in the same color as the brick.

The competition regulations for the city hall building did not include many guidelines for its massing. It did, however, stipulate certain functional solutions and the requirement that the building be... very cheap. So, as Wojciech Kotecki somewhat jokingly says, the goal was to de facto design a super-expensive office building (which every city hall is to a large extent). It was clear that there would be a low-rise building, because it matched the scale of the houses around it, without a basement, not requiring many stairs and elevators (and therefore inexpensive and easily accessible), with a simple body that does not intensify the cacophony of forms of neighboring buildings.



© BBGK Architects

"To this pragmatics of implementation cost and functionality, as well as fitting in with the surroundings, representative elements had to be added. Because although typologically the city hall can be considered an office building, it cannot do without a symbolic layer, emphasizing the rank and seriousness of the building." - Kotecki emphasizes.

That's why the architects added a storey in one corner to the one-story, flat-roofed pavilion-like structure. The result was a horizontal building with one vertical element, associated with a belfry, a clock tower, a height dominant, after all, strongly rooted in Polish building tradition. This elevated part of the building also became a place to locate the attributes of the public building: coat of arms, clock, entrance portico.


The coat of arms of the Municipality of Konstancin-Jeziorna made of oak wood, 5 cm thick, milled using the CNC method, oiled with clear oil, placed on the axis of the decorative representative wall (axis "B") in the hall of the City Council at a height of 765 cm from the floor to the upper edge of the coat of arms, hidden mounting [description from the technical documentation of the project].

© BBGK Architects

In this way, the very body of the building incorporates the symbolism associated with local government. It is reflected in the gradation of importance of individual spaces: the first floor of the City Hall is accessible to residents and officials. On the first floor, a kind of piano nobile, to which a representative staircase leads from the lobby, the mayor with his deputies officiates, and next door, in a glazed high, bright room, there is the City Council room.

"Reflecting the logic of the division of power, its hierarchy, was an important element in the shaping of the block itself," - Kotecki explains.

Importantly, this power is understood as given by the people, democratic. Kotecki clearly emphasizes that the seat of local government, in his view, should be as open and friendly as possible to residents, because they decided who sits in City Hall. That's why the City Council room is the only room in the building with huge windows - on the one hand, councilors can see from the height of the floor the space they are managing, on the other hand, passersby are able to see what's going on inside. This arrangement can also be understood as a symbol of the transparency of power.

Among the attributes of power, the entrance portico plays a special role. A huge door framed by a simplified colonnade of steel profiles leads to the main hall of the Konstancin-Jeziorna City Hall. Thanks to the deviation from the axis of the street at the front, an urban square has been created, a space that has not existed in Konstancin so far. It is possible to organize public events here, the place has a chance to become a meeting area for residents.

drugie wejście

The second, more intimate entrance, is located at the back of the building (from the north); interestingly, this entrance is much more frequently used due to the parking located here

Photo: Juliusz Sokolowski © BBGK Architekci

The glazed main entrance, topped with a stylish sign, is not the only one, however. At the back, on the north side, there was a second, less representative, but much more frequently used one. This is because on this side of the edifice there was a parking lot, important in a locality whose residents actually move only by car. While the main entrance was traditionally shaped in a rather majestic way, the rear one is much more friendly, as it leads through an intimate courtyard, which Wojciech Kotecki calls a calming buffer, an airlock, allowing to calm down after the mass of forms and chaos of the surrounding buildings. In the courtyard, which may bring to mind an atrial house, a pedunculate oak, a tree featured in the city's coat of arms, has been planted.

rzut parteru

first floor plan

© BBGK Architects

A very important feature of the project is the clear functional layout. Through the main, as well as through the rear entrance, one can get to the main hall. Here you will find the residents' service hall, stairs to the first floor, as well as entrances to the commercial spaces located on the east side of the building. Importantly, they are also accessible from the outside - from a pedestrian walkway that runs along the facade. The idea was that they could function independently of City Hall's office hours. The canteen, post office, bank and notary's office were located in this part of the building.

The lobby with petitioners' service areas and the City Council room are fully open spaces, accessible to residents. Part of the first floor was also occupied by officials' offices, grouped around a second courtyard, resembling a civic garden and overgrown with a flowery meadow. The proximity to the land, assumed at the design stage, was reflected not only in the use of natural materials, but also in the fact that the officials' offices were located at ground level, and their windows offer a view of the meadow vegetation. And here one can find a certain symbolism: local government officials have not been exalted, the awareness of their role as close to the people and their daily life has been preserved.

drugie wejście

An intimate courtyard with a pedunculate oak tree planted in the center - a tree featured in the city's coat of arms - leads to the entrance.

Photo: Juliusz Sokolowski © BBGK Architekci

Konstancin-Jeziorna City Hall was designed from the beginning as a green building. According to the philosophy adhered to by BBGK architects, its eco-friendliness was to result from architectural solutions (here the size and location of windows, shielding them from the sun, and a green roof, among other things, played a role). However, the city authorities also obtained a grant from the Lemur program of the National Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management, which made it possible to add many technological improvements - heat pumps, tanks for rainwater (used as gray water), thicker layers of insulation or windows with better parameters than are standard in public buildings. While this may have deviated from the designers' assumptions about building a low-tech facility, it has helped to further reduce operating costs.

The icing on the cake of this composition of subdued, elegant and nature- and people-friendly forms are the chandeliers decorating the City Council hall and its atrium. They are real light sculptures, designed specifically for this particular space. They consist of luminous tubes, juxtaposed with each other according to the tensegrity structure, in which balance is provided by mutual stabilization of tensile and compressive elements. Visible from the street, the chandeliers are not just a decoration, they are a hallmark, an integral part of the architecture. As Wojciech Kotecki says (adding that it took two years to design the extremely complicated structure of the chandeliers and brought the authors no income), in the case of public edifices, the architect should not limit his role to designing the layout of walls and ceilings, filled with catalog elements. Designing for the local community, for the public good, is worthy of an authorial approach and adding something from oneself. Even if the cooperation between architects and the public investor is not perfect (as it was in the case of the Constanta City Hall).


The chandeliers adorning the City Council hall and its vestibule are real light sculptures, designed specifically for this particular space; they consist of luminous tubes, juxtaposed according to the tensegrity structure, in which balance is ensured by mutual stabilization of stretched and compressed elements

Photo: Juliusz Sokolowski © BBGK Architects

BBGK's realization - like many other similar projects - also became a victim of the public procurement law, in which the most important criterion for tenders is price. During the construction of the City Hall in Konstancin, it was necessary to change the contractor, because the first one, offering prices lower than real ones, stopped construction when it was no longer financially viable for him. This is one of the reasons why a large number of architects simply avoid working for public investors... Difficulties in communication between the principal and the designer, which is another weak link in the project implementation process, occurred here as well. Wojciech Kotecki recalls that the mayor of Konstancin-Jeziorna, with an iron fist ruling the city for many years, was a difficult partner, unwilling to change. However, such an attitude cannot be entirely condemned, as every local politician is enmeshed in a complex web of dependencies and influences, with the opposition lurking for a stumble, control institutions looking for evidence of mismanagement and, most importantly, voters who account for a given credit of trust. "For a local politician, an undertaking of this magnitude, like the construction of City Hall, is a huge challenge that requires great courage," Kotecki says. And he adds that despite various troubles, the result of this cooperation in Konstancin-Jeziorna seems satisfactory to all.


on trend

Another outstanding project by BBGK Architects - the Katyn Museum in Warsaw - received the prestigious East Centric Architecture Triennale Award presented at this year's Architecture Triennial in Bucharest.

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