A Factory To Live In
Piotr Gniewek_Warsaw University of Technology, Architecture and Urban Planning, Design Thesis
Warsaw city as a metropolis is aspiring to become a big centre with supra-local significance. Unfortunately, in the same way as other metropolises, despite dynamic expansion and its complexity, Warsaw is developing into a ‘modern factory’ with its citizens becoming a new working class. It is easier to understand bearing in mind the fact that capitalistic production is nothing but the production of services such as communication, education and culture that evolved from manufacturing. During the 19th century industrialization process a great many people migrated to newly created industrial districts. Production concentrated in big centres leading to the reduction of the costs. Nowadays many industrial sites in developed countries have changed its original function or just stand abandoned because of the relocation of the basic production functions to countries providing cheaper labour costs. At the same time, what can be observed is the development of metropolises and a complex structured information society. The gradual disappearance of industrial sites goes hand in hand with the development of management centres. This is the answer for both the dispersion of each stage of the production process and changes in the way of producing. Metropolises that have a direct and tangible effect on global affairs with a global range such as London or New York develop nowadays just in the same manner as the great industrial districts years ago.
Telecommuting has created a situation in which employees do not commute to a central place of work and just do not require any workplaces to be made physically. This tendency can be mainly observed in the service sector, especially in its part in which the manipulation of information plays a major role. Nowadays it is possible to work even from one’s own bed. Production is no longer what we traditionally understand as physical activity. It appears in all activities connected with culture, media or education. Production leaves factories and becomes part of municipal business centres and is connected with such phenomena as outsourcing, freelance, piece work, home working, etc. ‘The production place undergoes the process of deterritorialization and becomes a virtual place being the coordinates of communication network. Unlike the former vertical industrial-corporate model, contemporary production becomes a horizontal enterprise network.’ The increasing number of people changes their former way of living and working. Work becomes an integral part of their lives. As a consequence there is a need for some changes in the way of thinking about the space they need. A FACTORY TO LIVE IN is a multipurpose structure concept, available 24/7 for both its users and city dwellers. It offers a wide range of public spaces (squares, outpatient surgery centres, nursery schools, coffeehouses, etc.), half-public spaces (common canteens, kitchens and sanitary blocks) and private spaces (living units, studios, workshops).
The open-access square and the variety of proposed functions such as cafés, bowling alleys, libraries, community centres, galleries and temporary market places are here considered to be competitive with shopping malls that are so popular and prominent nowadays. Studios’ and workshops’ area is designed to be open and focused on cooperation. Wide corridors together with the common space should form the place of interaction where people could share their daily experiences with each other. The complex’ area would not be out of reach for the people from the outside. The inhabitants could meet there freely with their customers or guests. Accommodation units are divided into minimalistic modules limited by plain walls what still makes room for the diversity in each module’s adaptation. A large number of accommodation units is counterbalanced by terraces and common backyards located in interior patios that at the same time provide more light.
The reason for the simplicity and modularity of the apartments is that a contemporary place to live in is no longer defined by separate spaces such as living room or kitchen. We live where the attributes of those spaces (a computer, tv set or a coffeemaker) are. Comfortable spaces have been replaced by user-friendly devices. An apartment has to be as easy to use as the latest mobile phone model.
Who influences you graphically?
I think that architecture is both about abstract and representation. When I think “abstract” I think about the time when I was very interested in modernism. I think that hours of looking at modernist paintings have left a mark on my perception and on my way of thinking. I was impressed by simplicity, strong colours and abstract approach. I still appreciate these values in art and in my own life. For me, works by Piet Mondrian represent the clearest and the strongest attitude in that field.
But I think architecture is not only about that. A wall is not only a division of space but also a construction element. It is also a surface to cast shadows. A room is not only a piece of space with beautiful proportions but also a place for spending time and living. To think in this way, Johannes Vermeer has influenced me the most. I think in his paintings he represented masterfully two things: calm and clear space and ordinary moments of life. In my opinion the two most important things in architecture.
You mainly explore your proposal through perspective views, why so?
I have realised that when I visit a place, not necessarily an extraordinary piece of architecture, the thing I remember the most or the element that touches me the most is a view. Sometimes it is a landscape seen through an opening, sometimes it is a sharp edge of an elevation seen on the background of the sky. I can even go further with that. I do not like to present a building as a whole. The most valuable moment is when we meet a detail. When we experience architecture piece by piece.
I use perspective to represent my design, because in this way I perceive and understand architecture the most. Of course there are other very important senses in architecture such as sense of touch. But it is very difficult – or maybe impossible – to represent and articulate it without an existing building.
How is the concept of simplicity around which the proposal evolves conveyed graphically?
For me the simplicity does not mean the lack of something. The design follows simplicity in the field of idea or geometry to be a background for richness of actions that take part in architecture. A simple wall made of glass could be a very dynamic and changeable element because of the sun, the sky or environmental reflections. The same situation is for example with materials. In this way of thinking, graphic representation of my design does not convey the simplicity but covers it, covers with wide range of deepness, textures, gradients, shadows, reflections and I think also colors.
What is the purpose of the framed sky image? And why was it staged in such a way?
The presented building is a huge structure. It is one hundred meters wide and five hundred meters long. The building has a very wide range of functions. It was designed as a simple concrete frame which could be filled with private, semi-private and public features. This specific view was taken from inner courtyard which provides light to flats and working area. There are dozens courtyards like this one in the whole building. The entrances to this courtyards are mostly from semi-public areas like common salon, common workshops etc. So the space is accessible for most of the users. I made it because I wanted to show that the design is not about the building itself. Glass bricks, steel beams and rough concrete have become a frame. The sky is the subject. If a user went onto that courtyard, nature would be the most important element.
You neglect to visually show the thematic of cooperation and interaction between people within the spaces, why so?
I believe that the elements of the building should suggest their destination of use. If you see stairs, you understand that there is a place where two or more levels of the building are connected vertically. You do not have to see a climbing person to understand that. I think that the same thing is with other elements and spaces. If the entrance does not suggest the connection between “in” and “out” then maybe it is a problem of a design or a representation. Of course sometimes showing the interaction between people and space is very important to show the variety of the use of space. But I try to leave that field for a viewer to interpret it by themselves. Especially in the presented design. “A factory to live in” is a design supposed to be adapted and invented by users.
Born in 1987, Piotr Gniewek graduated in Architecture and Urban Planning at Warsaw University of Technology, Poland. In 2009 he studied at Tampere University of Technology, Finland. He has collaborated with architectural groups from Finland, Great Britain and Poland. In 2014 he has established an individual practice in Wroclaw. His work is balancing on the border between graphics, product design and architecture.