Tag Archives: architecture

Safe as Houses

The phrase ‘As safe as houses’ originally comes from the concept that houses were a shelter from the elements; and later this was developed into the concept that investment in property is more secure compared to other more risky ventures. Most people will agree that the first part of this description holds true no matter what, while the second part has been somewhat debunked due to the recent mortgage market difficulties. While Poland was not hit as hard as the United States and other countries by the mortgage crisis, it is still something being watched, especially as the Swiss Franc fluctuates.

However, in viewing the house as a form of shelter, a Polish architectural firm (called KWK Promes) has designed a property near Warsaw which they call the ‘Safe House’. It was designed for a private client, took over a year to be designed and then a further four to be built, but the finished product has gained some plaudits. Fans of both style and security have been discussing this house online, and achieved critical acclaim also by being nominated for architectural awards such as the 2008 Mies van der Rohe award and 2009 WAF awards. The house is over 550 metres squared on a plot of land over 2500 metres squared, and in colours and themes is quite minimal, with grey walls featuring heavily. However, where this house begins to challenge the mind and perspectives is with the number of sliding doors, windows and walls, which all combine for security and image. When all ‘locked up’ it looks like an impenetrable cube, but when opened it looks more like something that could easily feature on Kevin McCloud’s Grand Designs. It has floor to ceiling windows, with wide ranging views over two stories. However, it is when the house transforms from open to closed, and vice versa, that the most interesting features appear. If required, all doors and windows close, with a shutter dropping down over the front. From the final picture above, there are also escape options with a drawbridge connecting to the annex building nearby from the first floor. This has lead to some commentary on the Internet that this would be the perfect house for surviving a potential zombie apocalypse, or of course to stop any unwanted visitors such as mothers-in-law or Jehovah’s Witnesses – provided you know they are coming of course!

Some who see the house might complain that this is only designed to be a sterile cube, but when you see some of the internal pictures as well, you can see that there are slick design principles applied internally also. There are clean lines, mostly keeping in mind the right angles and directness of the external views. Plenty of light means that there is no worries of being ‘stuck in a box’ either.

Thus, this design is one that can evoke many feelings and thoughts, but whatever your opinion, you have to appreciate the effort which went into the design and build effort in making such a building in Poland.

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Polandian on Sunday #6


Welcome to Polandian on Sunday (with a slight delay due to author’s weekend break in Sopot). Here is a brief summary of what happened this week in Poland.

1. Warsaw’s future architecture

When you’re having a walk down the Warsaw’s Powiśle neighborhood why not pop into the Warsaw University Library. Since this week it is hosting an exhibition Plans for the future presenting what is going to be built in Warsaw. Organisers collected visualisations and models for various building and new developments. A sneak peek into what is coming.

Most praised


This apartment house, planned to be built in Traugutta street, respects the architecture of its area, being modern and light at the same time.


The new wing of the ASP Beaux-Arts Academy at the Vistula bank. Those huge windows will give sculpture and film set students some great views.


This Muslim Cultural Institute with minaret-like tower will be an original addition to Ochota district. There is something for the mind (lecture hall) and for the spirit (prayer room).


In times when walled districts become the fashion – this open complex at the former Norblin factory is like a breathe of fresh air. There is place for appartments, shops, offices and various facilities – like theater. Pedestrianised streets and markets make this a human-friendly development.

Most criticised


IPN – The Historical Institute is going to construct a new digitising centre in the Służewiec district. Architects complain that the design is similar to communist offices and follows boring patterns.


This boxy kindergarten is to be constructed in the intensively developing Wilanów district. It is being criticised as too tiny for the huge developments nearby and for its container-like form.


The offices of WOSiR – administrator of Warsaw’s sports and recreation facilities, near the Polonia stadium, doesn’t fit its neighbourhood with its disturbing, irregular shape.

2. Poland lifts (some) restrictions on foreigner real estate ownership

When Poland joined the European Union five years ago many people feared foreigners will come and buy out farms and houses. For this reasons some temporary restrictions were enforced.

EU citizens had to apply for a special permission, each time they wanted to buy land, house or apartment. Since May the 1st 2009 EU nationals from other countries are allowed to purchase houses and apartments on free market. However some restrictions still apply to land – especially farms and forests.

3. Long live comrade president!

This Saturday Poland saw an unusual happening. Janusz Palikot, an eccentric millionaire MP from the ruling Civic Platform party organised an open reading of president’s LLD thesis in the Museum of Social-Realism in Kozłówka. President Lech Kaczyński and his twin brother’s Law and Justice party are famous for their uncompromising policy towards Poland’s communist past. Some people however point to the fact that their politicians demand people manifested courage in communist time – while they, the Law and Justice party officials, had been conformist themselves. Mr Palikot’s happening was to prove just that.

President Lech Kaczyński, law professor, hasn’t exactly boasted about his LLD thesis. It was revealed that this work is written from a communist party point of view, in the style of communist newspeak. Lech Kaczyński was not a communism-refusenik, who would consider a decrease in standard of living for his ideals.


Mr Palikot in white.



What’s hot what’s not this week in Poland


Safer sex – Yes. Despite the Catholics shouldn’t use that devilish invention! Poles have stopped reproducing. Statistical office predicts the number of inhabitants in Poland will decline rapidly. It is said in 2060 for every three people in working age, there will be two people in retirement.
Poland has changed, more people are now into having comfortable lives and only as many children as they could afford to educate. The government is not doing anything effective to help people balance family and work, nor to assure an equal, good start for all children. Without proper social policies or immigrants we are destined to shrink as a nation. But there is a good news: it will be easier to find a parking spot.


Conflicts between the president and prime minister – Which seriously start to work on everyone’s nerves. Can we get anything done please for a change? In Kenya they’ve come up with an original way to end rows between their president and prime minister. Their wives said there will be no sex, until they start to get along with each other.
We’ve tested everything in Poland, maybe it’s time for unusual methods already?

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Ten Krakow buildings 100 years later

An easygoing Monday post with the emphasis on images rather than the hard-hitting prose we are notorious for (ahem).

I found a great site with loads of pictures Krakow buildings taken in the last decade of the 19th century, so I took myself of this weekend to see what they looked like today (14th September, 2008).

Dom Popielów, ul. Basztowa 1

A fine solid building, little changed in a hundred years. Krakow’s monument to Rejtan is right in front of this building.


Długa 8

An unobtrusive little building now with big brother neighbors.


ul. Sławkowska 25

At the head of one of the main streets leading into the Rynek Główny. Whoever took the original picture was either 3 meters tall or standing on a horse.


Rynek Główny 4

A fabulous confection of a building that has since undergone the indignity of becoming home to a Hard Rock Cafe.


Corner of ul. Karmelicka and Dunajewskiego

Situated on one of the busiest junctions in Krakow, leading from Karmelicka (my hood) into the old town via ul. Szewska. Note that you can now walk through the corner of the building on the ground floor, now converted into a pedestrian access – I wonder when and how that happened.


Dom Pod Pająkiem (House under the Spider), ul. Karmelickia 35

The building at the end of my street. A tricky one to photograph since somebody has thoughtlessly built a whole row of buildings on the opposite side of the street making it impossible to get exactly the right point of view. Worth taking a look at; there are all kinds of spiders and spider web references.


ul. Biskupia 2

This building has featured here before as the star of Incident on Łobzowska Street.


ul. Piłsudskiego 40

I chose this one because of it’s unusual style. Turns out it’s currently undergoing renovation, and a fourth floor has been added at some point in its history.


Dom Zimlera, ul. Kurniki 3

A very-recently and very-well renovated building close to Krakow’s sparkling new Galeria Krakowska shopping center. Now a set of self-catering apartments, a restaurant, and a basement pub.


ul. Karmelicka 37

Another building at the end of my street. Note the classy marble cladding of the new bank tenants.


I’ve been guilty of this kind of post before
, although not quite on the same scale.

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