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A village in the middle of the city. Urban village project an alternative to housing developments

Dobrawa Bies
18 of June '21

Damian Kuna, a graduate of the Wrocław University of Technology, attempted to create an alternative urban space on the site of the former Ursus factory in Warsaw. A space with characteristics of a traditional village - understood through the prism of the way of living, interpersonal relations, common work or play. His project received an award from the Urban Policy Congress.

best work on urban policies

TheUrban Policy Congress is a biennial event dedicated to the development and implementation of urban policies in Poland. It is jointly organized by the Urban Policy Observatory, the Institute for Urban and Regional Development and the Ministry of Funds and Regional Policy. The Congress included a competition for the best master's and doctoral theses on urban policies. Of the 52 master's theses submitted, the jury awarded five.

One of the winners is Damian Kuna, a graduate of the Faculty of Architecture at the Wrocław University of Technology. His thesis,"Back to the Future, Urban Village, Warsaw," was prepared under the direction of Dr. Ada Kwiatkowska of the Department of Architecture and Visual Arts.

Wieś w środku

Urban village is an alternative to housing developments

© Damian Kuna

nostalgia of the countryside

Damian Kuna's work is a proposal for an alternative urban space drawing on the tradition of the countryside and nostalgic memories about it. Living in such a place could be of particular interest to those who are increasingly aware of the dangers of the climate crisis and are looking for solutions that bring balance to the environment.

Consciously or not, one encounters an excessive tendency for people to romanticize the past. Memories intertwine with imaginings, building in the imagination successive colorful mosaics, referring to images formed in the head, which stamp out what is beautiful and in turn hide hardships or problems. Along with this phenomenon, there arises a desire to return to roots that have been idealized, without being able to confront reality. One such example is the nostalgic image of the Polish countryside, detailing the twentieth-century model that fell on the generation still living. A reflective flashback to this period is recorded in the form of photographs and numerous memoirs. From the media one learns that daily life under the conditions dictated by the realities of the time had little to do with idyll and lightness [...]. Despite this, older people reminisce about their youth, describing the countryside as a beautiful life, characterized by idyll, freedom or a sense of strong community. Hearing such stories, nostalgia can captivate. An analysis of both the twentieth- and nineteenth-century countryside, known mainly through the portraits used in literature or painting, leads to a moment in which the characteristics of the countryside are able to emerge, making it resound as a timeless entity. This is an issue worth considering, in the context of currently existing realities and ills," says Damian Kuna.

Miejska wioska
alternatywą dla osiedli mieszkaniowych

The resident would be able to configure the layout of his home. He would influence both the division of space and the final body of the house

© Damian Kuna

how to prevent urban sprawl?

The architect's concept could be one way to prevent the problem of urban sprawl that most European agglomerations face. In recent years, many people have settled in suburban single-family neighborhoods, which have little in common with the basic premises of a village. They require a large infrastructure of roads, electricity, sewage systems and daily commutes by car. From our planet's perspective, heavy urbanization is disrupting the smooth functioning of the planet, and taking more land for development and infrastructure is causing problems such as interrupting the natural paths of animals, drastically reducing biodiversity.

One way to deal with this problem could be to look for housing alternatives, especially for urbanized single-family neighborhoods. At the same time, densifying cities in an appropriate way, with preservation or improvement of housing conditions and without loss of green areas, the author argues.

Rzut i przekrój
przykładowego domu

Plan and cross-section of an example house of an urban village

© Damian Kuna

Thus, the goal of Kuna's project became the search for features of a traditional village that could become a reprieve from currently prevailing problems and create a housing alternative in the city on this basis. The author wanted to bring out the romantic aspects of the countryside and, based on them, create a model of housing that offers new opportunities, different characteristics and respects the environment. He identified key issues to meet these objectives. First, he mentioned the creation of living conditions on many levels - a combination of houses with greenery, spaces for relaxation and neighborhood life, arranged around the road. An important aspect was biodiversity as an important element of the rural landscape, which is extremely necessary in an urban space, and the self-sufficiency of the settlement.

Miejska wioska,
przekrój budynków A-A

The urban village was divided by the author into three types of buildings

© Damian Kuna

urban village in Warsaw

For the location of the project, the author chose an area that in the first half of the 20th century began to transform from the small village of Szamoty, with a street layout, into one of Europe's largest agricultural tractor factories. The area became part of Warsaw as the Ursus district. In 2003, the ZPC "Ursus" plants declared bankruptcy. Today, more real estate developers are building residential projects in the area, filling in areas left by former factory buildings.

Damian Kuna decided to divide the planned housing development into several integrated villages. Each was to retain the street layout, but interpreted in two different ways, through vertical communication and by means of ramps, with the village to be tied together by connecting links. The urban village was divided by the author into three types of buildings: buildings with ramps and punctuals located in the interior of the establishment, and outlying buildings - galleried buildings with more urban characteristics.

Wieś w środku
miasta z uprawami wertykalnymi Budynek miejskiej wioski, rzut
2. kondygnacji

Within the estate there are numerous vertical crops

© Damian Kuna

The first type of building would be based on a simple CLT wood structure on a frame filled with ceilings. The spaces created by these elements would delineate the areas available for development for residents.

In this case, the architect would be like a settler establishing a village in which he delineates plots for new tenants. The plots would be located on multiple levels, with apartments higher up, closer to the sun, allowing the ideas of urban density and individual comfort to merge, explains Damian Kuna.

The first floor of the coastal galleries would be partially occupied by services. In the other buildings, it would be undeveloped (to increase the biologically active area and create a large park space). The second floor would be filled with vertical crops.

integration of residents

The main axis of the buildings would be communal spaces, located on multiple levels, providing opportunities to meet at a traditional "bench", play games or various games. All this to stimulate neighborly relations and allow residents to leave their homes for meeting spaces on the same level as their homes.

Miejska wioska,
przekrój budynków B-B

One of the author's goals was to integrate residents

© Damian Kuna

By studying the layouts of villages in Mazovia, and referring to Szamot, the project acquired the characteristics of a street, where the road becomes the keystone of social integration. In traditional villages, thanks to the creativity of the residents, ordinary streets designed to serve a transportation function became generators of interpersonal relations. In front of houses it was not uncommon to find benches where many social gatherings took place. Religious sites, such as roadside crosses and shrines, brought people together during services. Children also played on the roads, meeting companions from nearby homes. The design, by using a system of wide galleries and ramps in the central parts of the buildings, gives space and attributes to enable greater integration of residents, the author explains.

A resident of the urban village would be able to configure the layout of his home. He would have a say in both the division of space and the final body of the house, but kept within the framework of the local plan.

Uprawy wertykalne
i dużo zieleni Budynek miejskiej wioski, rzut
4. kondygnacji

Home gardens and green ceilings are found throughout the estate

© Damian Kuna

surrounded by vegetation

The function of fences and greenery, which traditionally separate houses in the countryside, would be performed by private rainwater tanks. Thanks to them, each resident would be able to take care of his or her gardens, using much less water from the waterworks. These gardens would be boxes full of flowers and other plants, placed in specially designed railings, and on the upper floors also green ceilings, providing vegetation. Publicly accessible gardens for residents, meanwhile, would be located next to the buildings.

The author also proposed vertical farming, citing data that such a farm is capable of producing 80 to 120 kilograms of vegetables per year from a square meter, using a liter of water per kilogram of vegetables produced. In comparison - a standard open-air cultivation produces 3.9 kg from a square meter, using 250 liters of water. One building of an urban village will produce about 42,000 kg of vegetables per year, providing full demand not only for its residents.

All the trees currently overgrowing the plot would be left intact. The architect proposed planting fruit trees typical of the Polish countryside (pear, apple, plum, cherry, mirabelle), whose flowers attract numerous bees. In addition to these, he also planned to plant trees of the Paulownia Clon in vitro 112 species, known as Oxytree, which absorb much more carbon dioxide. The urban village would also have a fish pond and nesting boxes for birds. All this to ensure that biodiversity flourishes.

Projekt miejskiej
wioski, sytuacja

urban village is biodiversity

© Damian Kuna

green solutions and contact with nature

The structures of virtually all the buildings were made using CLT cross-laminated timber technology. In addition to private rainwater tanks for use with domestic crops, the estate would also have ground tanks for services and vertical farming. On top of that, the buildings would be equipped with heat pumps and photovoltaic panels. This would contribute to the settlement's independence.

The urban village would provide an alternative in daily lifestyle and living. It would turn people towards each other. Give them opportunities for more frequent interactions and opportunities to build neighborly relationships, whether for entertainment or work in vertical farms. It would deepen their contact with nature, creating the most biodiverse climate possible, of which humans can become a part. In doing so, it would benefit from the traditional village pattern of being so close to nature," concludes Damian Kuna.

elaborated: Dobrawa Bies

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