interview from A&B 09|2022 issue
Magdalena Milert, my interviewee, is more widely known on Instagram as Pieing. What is hidden under this word? Magdalena explains the nickname this way on her blog www.pieing.cafe: "Pieing is a pie throwing, an act of public displeasure, but also a verb that means you can do anything. Since you can do anything, here is a blog about architecture, urban planning and land use interspersed with memes. To read over coffee and cake. Here I write about how a city is made, sensitize people to their surroundings, explain what came from what. Everything as simply as possible, so that you don't have to read the blog with a dictionary."
The aforementioned blog is essentially divided into four sections: "Architectural History," "Land Management," "Stories" and "About Me." What can you learn from the last tab about the author, Magdalena Milert? That the blog and social media are just a slice of her activity. She works with public institutions, social organizations or companies in the role of an expert on the politics of sustainability and the psychology of architecture and space. You can meet her as a speaker at conferences and other events related to architecture, urban planning and spatial management, or as a tutor at workshops conducted using the design thinking method. She is no stranger to moderating debates and conducting interviews and raising awareness of the indispensability of inclusivity in design. At every opportunity and through various channels, she reaches out to laypeople with information on urban policy in an accessible way. As a member of the Jagiellonian Club, she writes for Intercity and contributes to a podcast on trends in urban development. As if that wasn't enough, she is vice president of the Embassy of Communities Foundation, which focuses on social activation and non-formal education through, for example, organizing workshops and hackathons aimed mainly at young people.
Her mission is to promote, educate and raise awareness about good urban UX (User Experience). She suggests how to respond to bad urban practices and how to spot the good ones in the immediate environment. Encourages residents to fight for better living conditions and suggests how to do it effectively. She focuses on sensitizing people to the fact that the city should be accessible to all and points out social exclusions. She graduated in architecture and urban planning from the Silesian University of Technology, and worked in her learned profession after graduation. After working in an architectural office for several years, she switched to the other side of the barricade and instead of designing for developers, she chose to make people aware of how not to fall into the traps they prepared [cf. A&B 04/2022]. Last year she published an e-book called "Housing Cursive, or How to Buy an Apartment and Not Regret," in which she hints at what to look for when buying an apartment, whether from the secondary market or at the hole-in-the-ground stage. This is what we talked about.
illustration from the e-book
drawing: Magdalena Milert
A conversation with Magdalena Milert,
author of the pieing.cafe blog
Marta Kulawik:Let's talk about the "Housing Coursebook, or how to buy an apartment and not regret it," of which you are the author. When and how was the idea to write this e-book born? Was it an impulse or a process?
Magdalena Milert: Definitely a process. On my profile on Instagram, I wrote about things to pay attention to when choosing an apartment. I mainly showed the "tricks" that investors and designers often use to make an apartment look more attractive, which can be seen on the building design, but was cleverly hidden on the visualization. Since the response was amazing, and I couldn't find anything similar among the publications, I decided to put everything together in the form of a "Coursebook."
Marta: What topics does the "Coursebook" cover, and which, in your opinion, is the most important?
Magdalena: I tried to go through all the issues, from the layout of the apartment, analysis of the architecture of the building, to the surroundings. I also show what to pay attention to in the documents and examples of apartment analysis. The most important thing is that it's a course-book - it contains forms to fill out, based on the analysis of our needs. The book is compact, which allows you to go through many topics quickly, but leaves a lot of room for asking yourself: is this what I want?, is this what I want my apartment to look like? Often we are fooled by beautiful images of visualization, we believe in marketing slogans, and then it turns out that yes, the apartment can be beautiful, but not at all for us.
© Magdalena Milert
Marta: When did the e-book premiere take place?
Magdalena: In March 2021, so it is more than a year old.
Marta: Looking back on that time, is there anything you would have written differently? Or maybe subtracted something, added something?
Magdalena: I'm thinking of an expanded edition, in which I would describe the issues in more detail, maybe give more examples. And definitely - if I could go back in time - I would delegate the whole process of putting up an online store, I would also allocate more time to editing and formal matters. It turned out that publishing a book in selfpublishing is practically as much work, if not more, than writing it.
Marta: Have you been through the process of buying your own apartment? And if so, did you manage to avoid mistakes when buying it, or is there anything you regret now?
Magdalena: Yes, I have such a purchase behind me, and it was it and the mistakes I didn't pay attention to before that gave me the strength to describe the whole process. I have lived in many places, in different locations and standards, so I knew what I definitely did not want to buy. I also think that at the time I couldn't avoid the biggest downside of my apartment - the lack of a separate, dedicated room for work. When I bought it, I didn't even think that I wouldn't get up to the office every day. As my career path changed, so did my lifestyle, and so did the needs for which the apartment was tailored. However, I like my apartment very much and do not intend to change it.
Marta: In your opinion, what are the current most favorable and unfavorable trends in housing policy? How are the realities of buying an apartment changing?
Magdalena: I think that, first of all, apartments are not a right, but are mainly a commodity in which we are very eager to invest money. If anyone has savings, they buy an apartment. As a result, we have a huge problem with the rent gap in Poland, that is, the number of people who can't afford to buy an apartment while earning too much to get a communal apartment is over 40 percent. We also have an efflorescence of "micro-apartments," which are mainly advertised as investments. Marketing simply encourages people to invest in an apartment, resulting in 11 percent (up to 18 percent in some provinces) vacancy rates (data from the Central Statistical Office as of April 26, these are units where no one lives, as determined by the amount of electricity consumed in them). On top of that, the square meter is getting more expensive, so we buy apartments that are smaller than we need, or choose those located further away, often outside the city. We then have to commute everywhere, this also means traffic exclusion of children, spatial chaos and so on. We have practically no housing policy in the country.
illustration from the e-book
pic: Magdalena Milert
Marta: In the current turbulent times (pandemic, war across the eastern border, inflation, etc.) it is even more difficult to make a decision, mainly for young people, to buy an apartment. If the course book had the subtitle "how to buy an apartment and not go crazy," what would you recommend to your readers?
Magdalena: I often ask myself this question, but I don't have a good prescription here. Maybe I would write this book as a reportage and send it to all politicians and local government officials.
Marta: That is some idea! At the beginning of last year, your blog published a post entitled "Credit vs. housing, or why it's still not OK". Today we already know how the black continuation of this scenario was written by life. If it wasn't OK then, how do you define what we're struggling with now?
Magdalena: We can see the effects of what all the experts who talk about "tethering" with credit warn against. People can no longer afford their housing. For the roof over their heads. Installments have increased so much that house construction is being suspended, apartments are being sold. Of course, we can say that, after all, everything was in the contract that was signed. But let's not kid ourselves that a situation in which we can't live at home with our family is normal.
Marta: What books, e-books could you recommend to laymen who have already acquired basic knowledge from your e-book, but want more?
Magdalena: "A System for Housing" by Agata Twardoch and "Beyond Property" by Joanna Erbel. These are not books about how to choose your M, but about the fact that we have the right to be pissed off about the current situation and how things could be different.
Marta: Are you planning another publication?
Magdalena: I was planning to publish a book about arranging an apartment and how to find your corner when renting, but for now I'm pushing those plans back to the future.
Marta: I keep my fingers crossed for their realization and wish you the strength to continue your multifaceted work!