Dorota i Piotr Haśko.

Grażyna Hryncewicz-Lamber: If you could choose to live in a different house in WUWA, would you do it?
Dorota Haśko: No. I know that all the other houses in the neighbourhood are beautiful. It’s hard not to be impressed by the glazing and the terrace from the garden side of the house next to ours, but I saw this house inside and went for it immediately. I knew I would never see anything more beautiful than the cylindrical form of the living room: it’s visible from the entrance hall. I felt that my search had ended. . It’s not maybe too impressive from the outside: I mean now it is, but you know what it looked like when we went to see it in the past: it was devastated. When we became committed to restore the original appearance of the house, we didn’t foresee such huge public interest though. We have tours and individual visitors here too. Sometimes when returning home, I hear passers-by commenting on my house. And morerecently, I evenheardsomeone wondering if this house is in fact old or new.

GHL: I was really interested to hear Mrs T. Boniecki’s comments about your intentions, in that you were very much determined to buy this house.
Piotr Haśko: Yes, that’s right, we lived in the district of Biskupin for many years, over twenty years in fact, but this house has always been “the apple of our eye”. Once we were passing by and we saw the previous owner doing some garden work. From then on we started talking about buying this house and after very, very long negotiations…
DH: Almost two-year long negotiations.
PH: After two years we managed to buy this house.
DH: But we’d known the property for some twenty years, or even more. We would take our child for a walk here and now our child is an adult. At the beginning we thought this house wasn’t anything special because of its condition.
PH: We bought the house after a partial renovation which was totally out of line with the concept of conservation. We have photos from before the refurbishment; the condition of the house was documented by the previous owner. This individual on the other hand, bought the house from its first owners after the war.

GHL: So it wasn’t in the same hands since the war?
PH: No, it wasn’t. We’ve kept the documentation from the 1946 Census. The man from whom we bought the house was its owner for ten years. He partially repaired it, but in quite complicated circumstances as it was still occupied by the previous owners who had maintained their legal right to stay in the house for life . The house was literally falling apart: water pouring down and plaster coming off the wall. In documentation from 1998 you can see how much was destroyed and the estimated cost to put it right.

GHL: I see, so the people who could stay here for life were the first post-war owners of the house?
PH: That’s right. And our predecessor completed the work without any Preservation Officer’s consent, permission or project. Ultimately, he didn’t move in the end. Maybe he was tired of waiting and decided to sell the house.
DH: Buying it, we took into account the possibility that we might have to wait a while for it to become available, but we loved this place so much that we were determined to wait. We even bought an apartment as close as possible to the house, just to wait and be close at hand..
PH: And keep an eye on the house.
DH: Right, to keep an eye on the house. But we had to sell our previous house… We didn’t even enter this house not to make the elderly people think we wanted to evict them.
PH: We only entered it just before buying.
DH: When we finally got in, I knew right away I would do absolutely everything to live here one day, even though the smell inside was terrible, everything was covered in mildew and the elderly residents lived in only one room: the living room. When we saw the layout of the rooms, we didn’t even want to check the technical condition: we made our choice.
PH: The windows were new, also wooden but brown coloured, the cheapest available, but divided in a wrong way. The roof was totally changed: slanted at different angles. The body of the building was different.
DH: We knew this house before it experienced a complete renovation in 1998. It was a total ruin as you can see in the photos. After that, the house became awkward; the proportion was lost, it looked like a henhouse. We felt bad about it, because the place was so beautiful and it had been so awfully treated. So when the chance of purchasing it became feasible, we thought it would be right to restore its old appearance. Of course the Historic Preservation Officer had their own ideas about it, but our cooperation went really smoothly.

GHL: You must really love this house to have had the courage to buy it in such a bad condition.
DH: Yes, others would have run a mile.
PH: And the City had the right to veto your application.
DH: Yes, we took so much of a risk buying this house. Before signing the Deeds we had to sell our previous house and we still weren’t sure if the City would execute their right to veto or not.
PH: We waited a month for the decision of the City Council, not knowing if they were going to buy it or not.
DH: Yes, we paid for the house and waited. If the City had executed their right of veto, we would have had neither the WUWA house, nor our previous house. The Council would have given us back the money, but after some time of course.

GHL: Which year did you buy this house?
PH: 2007.

[We're visiting the house. Many of the interior solutions recall the original design, for example, the kitchen wall tiles, the ground-floor toilet, the radiators which look pre-war: even though they’re replicas. The rule here was to retain any of the original details and create solutions that would evoke modernism, but not too literally where it wasn’t possible. The bathrooms and the kitchen are kept in an art-deco colour palette: white with black details: but the furniture and appliances are modern. The doors with their constructivist handles, the built-in wardrobes, the beautiful winding stairs with original wooden balustrade and external terrace balustrade are the elements that have been restored.]

DH: Not everyone wants to restore the interiors to the way they were built originally, but we really tried, for example, the wood flooring looks exactly as the original one [it’s herringbone pattern parquet in rustic oak]and there is neither gypsum plaster, nor gypsum walls. We chose a special mineral plaster, similar to that used before the war. Of course, it was more expensive and its application much more difficult as the resulting surface isn’t perfectly smooth.
PH: There is unevenness to it, so no a perfectly smooth end result: but it’s inevitable.

GHL: Are all the floors new?
PH: The old ones were rotten, before the renovation water poured in through the collapsed roof.

GHL: Frankly speaking, I was shocked at the condition of the house in the pictures from 1998. I can’t imagine it having been so devastated.
DH: We bought it when it had already been repaired.
PH: Secured.
DH: And malformed. The resulting situation was that we had to remove the rotten wooden floors, dry everything out, insulate and lay new concrete.
PH: When we bought the house from the previous owner who had completed this “renovation”, the water was pouring in everywhere; there was only one layer of tar on the roof…
DH: : As a consequence of the renovation, the house was in such a bad condition that we had to remove almost everything and start from scratch. At one point there were no windows, as they were being replaced, there was no roof, only the walls as if a bomb had gone off in here. “The starry skies above me… . ” It all looked appalling and on top of that the mould-attacked plaster was removed. The owner of the company doing the exterior renovation told us he could build exactly the same house from the foundations up for less money. Of course we wouldn’t have built a house here… During the works all sorts of smart ass specialists wanted to add their two pennies worth; for example, to remake the steep stairway all the way down to the basement or move it elsewhere. Finally, my husband had enough and he said, “Gentlemen, this house is visited by architects and students from all over the world. Do you think that you and I know better and we’d come up with anything better?” And so that brought the relentless commenting to a halt. We were really angry that someone would want to change anything, while we loved absolutely all of it. Naturally, we kept certain changes: we didn’t restore all of them. For example, we didn’t restore the partition walls between the kitchen and the servant’s room and in the bathroom we decided to keep the existing layout of the walls. Originally there were three doors, which made sense actually. The lady of the house had her own entrance to the bathroom through which she could go to the children’s room and when the master of the house came back home a bit tipsy, he could use the bathroom without waking her and the children up… When we bought the house, it had already been changed so now there’s only one door and there’s no bath, but there is a shower. This solution meets the requirements of a modern bathroom. These changes aren’t too serious since the layout hadn’t been original anyway. We did our best to keep the rest as it was.

GHL: But the new interior recalls the modernist style.
DH: Yes, right. We wanted to make a tribute to the original shapes. We’ve preserved original furniture which we restored from junk. I don’t know if anyone else would actually dare to do what we did. The dining table, now in the living room, was in extremely poor shape but fortunately a furniture restorer did it up for us so now this rather small, elliptic art-deco table extends. Ten people can now sit comfortably and dine thanks to its restored mechanism. The chairs are from different sets, but there are also two simple and inconspicuous chairs signed by Thonet, and another elegant art-deco table. The dresser was bought by us. We wanted something that would fit with the other restored pieces of furniture and the overall characteristics of this place. It is practically impossible to find original modernist furniture on the market, and we simply couldn’t afford contemporary reproductions of the modernist “icons”. We therefore decided to buy furniture from that era or keep the ones we had.

GHL: Have you preserved all the original details that were in good enough shape to use them? The doors, for example?
DH: Ninety percent of the doors: only one is new but identical to the others, I can’t tell one from another at the moment. They were made of painted plywood. Everywhere we could, we kept the original door handles; only the entrance door hasn’t got one. But our ambition is to find a similar handle. It’s really hard to track them down though. I’m always browsing Allegro and antiquefairs and I’m sure I’ll find one at some point. The lamps in the living room are most probably originals. The Historic Preservation Officer drew our attention to them and told us to keep them, even though they aren’t in the pictures from the times of WUWA exhibition. They must have been installed later on.

GHL: This house was well-thought out in terms of its functions: there are a lot of built-in wardrobes and storage space, right?
DH: I have a different angle on it. People nowadays have more possessions. For example, we have more clothes; in the past people had fewer things but they were better-made and therefore they had longevity

GHL: Yes, but there were hats, fans and gloves…
DH: OK, but because of our eclecticism we also have hats, fans and gloves with the jeans and trainers. I think I’m like that myself and so is my house there is a combination: a bit of new and a bit of old, a bit of kitsch with a few key items of greater artistic value.

GHL: Tell me something about the porcelain.
DH: This porcelain comes from Żary, Sorau is the pre-war name, where there was a manufacturer called Carstens. This set, which I absolutely love, is from the end of the twenties and turn of the thirties. It’s one hundred percent original because the factory was destroyed and looted and after the war and they never restarted production. Besides, this plain-styled, cream-white coloured porcelain service with gold details couldn’t have been produced later. During Nazi times, gold had other usages than ornamentation… Hitler forbade using gold reserves other than for military purposes.. There’s a story connected with this porcelain. I saw this amazing service on the Internet at the same time when the first negotiation talks concerning this house took place. These talks were extremely intense and long. I never lost hope and I believed that if I bought these cups – I imagined myself at the terrace drinking tea from them – then it would have started positive chain of events. I had huge trouble getting hold of these cups. Someone would outbid my offers on Allegro continually but finally I managed to buy my first two cups. The courier delivered them and from then on the negotiations took the right direction and we managed to buy this house. Our great dream came true.

GHL: Do you think that this house should be self-indulgent? Or is it just your hobby that is decadent?
DH: This house is not supposed to be an exhibition model house. I like harmony but I don’t feel the necessity to own something of a particular brand or from a particular designer or for something to fit all together perfectly. Home is a place where you simply live and celebrate family life.

GHL: You were the first ones to show how appealing it could be. I hope that when the garden reaches its full potential, the house will regain its standing and it will be a complete success.
DH: We hope so too. We never thought cooperation with the City Historic Preservation Officer would cause any trouble. We’ve heard that some people are really dissatisfied with the communication and that the Historic Preservation Officer imposes certain requirements on them. We had some sort of mutual respect with the officer who oversaw our construction site. He was very much content with our work and we were with his hints, so our cooperation was nice and smooth.

GHL: But I also think you chose a contractor who is very much experienced when it comes to monument restoration.
DH: The cooperation went really well. We have had a very good experience with both the officer and the contractor. Of course, the vital element of it all was the design created by the architect, T. Boniecki. And we were simply lucky to qualify for the subsidy. Buying this house we didn’t know anything about that, we were planning unthinkable loans, then the credit crunch kicked in and our financial capability changed radically. We wanted to do this renovation thoroughly and we were afraid we would have to compromise a lot. Thanks to the City subsidy program we weregranted a reasonable amount money to renovate the exterior and we didn’t need to make extra savings elsewhere. When the house wasn’t under the supervision of the Historic Preservation Officer, the renovation works went in a totally differently direction. For example, take this plinth made of red brick. Each of these bricks has been manually treated with a special lacquer. When you’re renovating a house that is not a monument you don’t really pay attention to this type of detail. We, however, would need to choose the right colour of bricks we needed for a new chimney stack. The outcome is that the house looks incredible, but since we had done some repairs in our houses before, we knew what to do to make this one look good and not to pay a fortune in the process. Here we had to take into account higher costs but it was all worth it. Also the subsidy from the City was a positive surprise to us.

GHL: : Exactly, and you are the new pioneers here, which makes people very much interested in your house.
DH: Just imagine the situation: last winter, right after we moved in, in a total mess, absolutely exhausted, we saw two ladies coming down the path to our front door. When I opened the door they said they wanted to see our house inside. To my response that it’s a private house they said, “OK, but it’s a national monument.” – “Right, but a private one,” I replied. “But the information board says it has been renovated with public money,” they said pointing at the board in front of our house. “Yes, but only the exterior.” – “When can we see it inside?” I didn’t want to be rude, but I also didn’t want to let those ladies inside either; however kind they were. I was really perplexed that someone might have thought that if it’s a monument, they have the right to see it. When I finally calmed down after this curious visit my husband told me I should have invited them to the Museums at Night event.

GHL: Have you seen the winning project for the public space development competition? What do you think of it?
DH: We can’t wait to see it, but we know – from what our neighbours say – that opinions are split. Now the grounds are embarrassing. People from all over the world come here. I’ve seen different visitors: Japanese, German, Czech people, English-speakers. They come to see these dense bushes, houses falling apart and more often than not, disfigured houses that are the victims of not-thought-through modifications. We are looking forward to this new development of the public space. I think this place will get a new lease of life and everyone will feel much, much better here. Besides, we can see how many people are coming and how much they’re interested in this place. My colleague from work, who has lived in Wrocław for years, didn’t know what WUWA is. She saw WUWA for the first time when she was brought here by some Americans. She told me she was so embarrassed when they climbed though some bushes in order to get a better view of WUWA. Now she knows that I live in a very important monument because people from all over the world come to see it.