Ex-centric eye candy – Austria/Poland

Architecture outside centres bears qualities which often stay hidden simply because those buildings are often outside of the spotlight of architecture magazines and they are not as spectacular as monumental high-rises and huge campuses of technological giants. Commonly, architectural websites are often focused on buildings of huge scale. It is natural to be amazed by the modern, tech-savvy and innovative buildings.

There are, however, other qualities buildings can have. It was quite a surprise this year, that Pritzker Prize, often referred to as the Nobel Prize of architecture, was given to not so widely known architecture trio, RCR Arquitectes. Founded by Rafael Aranda, Carme Pigem and Ramon Vilalta in 1988 and based in Olot, Catalonia, Spain, this studio explores local traditions, building techniques and materials. And the Pritzker committee has decided, that smaller, local architecture, is often overlooked and more people should know about it.  And the work of this trio is truly exceptional.

And that leads us back to the project of Faculty of Architecture in Liberec. Collection ‘Architecture outside centres’, published around 2014, explores lesser known local architecture.


And it is a true architecture book. Mostly comprised of pictures. Those are truly eye-candies. And I decided, since there are only 500 copies of those books, that I should share some of the interesting buildings there. I choose those examples randomly, so whatever caught my eye, I took a photo and got a link to find out more. The first part is from the trips to Austria and Poland.



Ecker Abu Zahra Schuppen, Luftenberg, Austria (Hertl Architekten, 2010)

Even a small shed, with its subtle earthy tones used on cladding, can persuade us that architecture matters at every scale.

Rohner port house, Fussach, Austria (Baumschlager Eberle Architekten, 2000)

Cantilevered port house, located above the flood level overlooks the area of the port.

The Timmelsjoch Experience, Timmelsjoch, Austria (Werner Tscholl Architects, 2010)

On the highest point of the Brenner Pass, one can find a man-made erratic boulder, overlooking the valley. The museum inside the ‘cave’ pays tribute to the pioneers of the High Alpine Road and their remarkable accomplishment.

Museum Liaunig, Neuhaus, Austria (Querkraft Architekten, 2008)

Art collector Herbert Liaunig decided to move his collection into a new space. After an architecture competition, concrete block, which is mainly underground to save energy, grew on the plot. Only one end, part of the 170 m long block is cantilevered over the road to invite people inside.

Steinhaus, Steindorf, Austria (Architekten DOMENIG & WALLNER ZT, 2008)

Own house of an architect Günther Domenig, which took long twenty years to build, because of the financial problems and complications from the authorities. The architect enjoyed his home only for four years, since he has died in 2012. The house now serves as a center for concerts and festivals. Domenig was a leader of ‘Grazer Schule’, deconstructivist movement in Austria. In his house, concrete, steel and glass clashes together in a symbolic composition. Despite the cacophony, the building creates a harmonious complex on the shore of the lake.

Kielce geological center, Kielce, Poland(Palk architekci, 2009)

Karst area around Kielce was proclaimed a geological reservation. Geological center, which rose from an architectural competition cleverly uses local materials. Stone for facades and interior cladding, and local flora for the green roof. The shape itself is a reminder of material which has been mined from the limestone quarry.

Bolko loft, Katowice, Poland (Przemo Łukasik, 2003)

Claimed to be the first Polish loft. Architect Przemo Łukasik wanted to create an inexpensive home for himself and his family. He used an old part of a lamp factory. He kept the load bearing concrete platform and skelet and added an industrial staircase, which was left behind after another his project. Area below serves as a covered porch, which would certainly appeal to Le Corbusier and his five points of architecture.

Art-Punkt, Opole, Poland (Małgorzata Pizio-Domicz Antoni Domicz , 2010)

Offices for a nearby theater. Repurposed from an old hostel. Interesting plastic veil around the cubic volume, with lights around blinded openings.

Polish-German Library CARITAS, Opole, Poland (M. i A. Domiczpracownia architektury, 2001)

Three very distinct volumes were built on a vacant lot between city blocks. The entrance, glass hall is placed between former brick building, which was restored and newly constructed concrete block. The final collection of three materials is surprisingly coherent and symbolizes the connection between Poland and Germany as is the purpose of the library.

Traffic node, Wrocław, Poland (MAĆKÓW PRACOWNIA PROJEKTOWA, 2011)

For the purpose of 2012 Football championship, new traffic node, combining tram and train station was built. Arrow shaped roof points to the direction of the football stadium. In a strange contrast with modern sharp shape, the trams of the city look rather archaic. One can only hope that in the future, the architecture and public transport will find a common ground.

City hall, Siechnice, Poland (MAĆKÓW PRACOWNIA PROJEKTOWA, 2012)

Example how one man, born in a small town of Siechnice, can shape his own hometown. Architect studied urbanism of his hometown for many years, so it was no surprise that he won a competition, which purpose was to define the city centre and overall urbanistic concept, since the city was clustered as a result of fast expansion during the construction of nearby power plant.

These examples show the importance of the architecture in everyday life. How the small local projects help the communities and can bring people together. And finally, that every architecture matters, as long as it is made with a pure desire to make the world better.




How I built the wall

Today, I would like to recall, what I did last summer. The idea sparked because I have been very busy recently, since presentation of our project is getting closer each day. And the time I am going to talk about was one of the most tranquil in my life. I spent around two week in southwestern France volunteering on a construction of an old mill.

It was some kind of Erasmus programme, and my girlfriend and other classmates, who were learning French at that time, were invited by our class teacher. I was learning German, but since nobody wanted to go, I could. So, in the end there were 4 of us going to France. My girlfriend, me and two more guys. And it ended up as a great group! We had so much fun together. Those who know me would tell you how boring I usually am, but since those two guys we were with were so hilarious, they kind of overrided my usual grumpiness.

I also spend those two weeks nearly completely without phone, computer or any other electronic device, since there were just a few places to charge these. And surprisingly, I did not need it. It was strange at first, but I quickly got used to it. And that is also the reason why there are only around 4 photos of that time. And I am going to show you all.

We lived in the second tent from right side. We slept in a sleeping bag. Camping experience. There were around 40 people at once and we took turns in cooking for the whole camp. When was our turn, we simply wrote what we needed and someone got into the car and went shopping to the nearest town.


Here is one of the buildings of the mill. Some of us were working on a scaffolding there, repairing the gable.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

But my job was little back away. I was repairing the stone wall around the plot. Or more like one tiny part. Like two meter long part. And there were usually 3 of us working there, and it took us two weeks. Why is that? Every stone had to be ‘beautiful’. One of the guys who was running the place was very particular about the stones we could use, so we spend hours just chiping stones so they look ‘beautiful’. I learned how to mix mortar. Take a wheelbarrow, add sand, cement, lime and water. Mix it with shovel. Nothing fancy. Just plain old hand work. And so we were slowly building this wall. I do not have any photos of it. But it is there. At least I hope. It should survive few decades at least. I am pretty proud of it.

And this is the photo of all the workers together.


It was a peaceful time. However it is long time ago.


Only memories and that one wall still remain. I have new challenges in front of me. And I need to face them and not dwell on time long gone. Let’s finish what we have started.