Mackow
House number two, a former kindergarten
Zbigniew Maćków, Chairman of the DSOIA Council is also one of the contributing designers of the kindergarten restoration project.

House number two, a former kindergarten, was raised to the ground in 2006. The single-storey wooden building was destroyed not long after it had been handed over to private owners. A very important element of the housing estate, which played a public role amongst community, had disappeared from WuWA’s landscape.
In 1929, the creators of WuWA exhibition had a concept of a spacious, bright and hygienic kindergarten which showed how modern and ahead of its times the complex was. It met social needs that were new for the time. The brilliantly designed building demonstrated modern construction knowledge and a notion of space taken from Maria Montessori’s school of thought which to this day is considered modern.
The building comprised a main rectangular play room with vestibule: a waiting room for the parents and lower floor rooms for group activities, a kitchen and bathrooms, etc. to the sides. Light entered the main room through windows in the gable walls. The building was covered with wood and constructed from a system of interconnected, wooden elements.
After regaining the plot in 2011, in addition to the destroyed kindergarten, the Wrocław City Government handed it over to the Dolnośląska Okręgowa Izba Architektów (DSOIA – Lower Silesia Chamber of Architects), under the condition they restore the building.
The architects had been looking for a suitable location for their office, so they eagerly got down to examining the urban revitalisation plans of the WuWA housing estate. These detailed that the regional authorities fund one-third of the kindergarten renovation cost from EU grants, the rest of the funds come from DSOIA membership fees. The restored building will not only serve as an office for the architects’ council but also as an exhibition venue for WuWA. It was also important that out front there be an authentic reproduction of the sandboxes and flower beds.
Zbigniew Maćków, Chairman of the DSOIA Council is also one of the contributing designers of the kindergarten restoration project.

Grażyna Hryncewicz-Lamber: What is the urban revitalization of the WuWA kindergarten about?
ZM: In architectural revitalization it is generally acknowledged and accepted that to restore an element of a building one simply recreates it in the same shape and form as it was originally designed. Of course, there is an on-going discussion if such interventions should be visible and should this unoriginality be exposed or not. There are two schools of thought, but I don’t see any point in discussing which is better. Each will always be preferred by architects: almost religiously in some cases.
When talking about urban revitalisation, we can compare it to architectural renovation. Restoring a neo-Gothic building, we fill in the missing bricks. If there is an urban complex, not a single building, as is the case with this exhibition which consists of twenty-eight objects, then they’re like those bricks in the wall: one or two of those objects are missing because they’re time-worn. I feel that it is acceptable or even recommendable to fill in these gaps and restore them.
Of course such issues are usually followed by lengthy discussions concerning if we should expose the new elements or should we do it in such a way that no one can tell the old from the new: but that’s a different story. In this situation, the need to fill in this urban complex comes from the fact that the missing element is a tiny fragment of a bigger whole. To me, that’s the only case when the restoration is justified. If it were the only historical kindergarten, located in Wróblewskiego or Olszewskiego Street, or were not a part of a whole, I wouldn’t recommend its reconstruction. It would be inappropriate from the point of view of city development philosophy.
In the process of city revitalization we shouldn’t go back to single buildings “eaten” by history. That’s my personal view: but here the situation is different. The kindergarten is a part of an exhibition consisting of twenty-eight buildings – blocks – I feel we have the right to fill in this one block to be able to refer to WuWA as a whole.

GHL: One of the aims of the exhibition was to show different construction technologies. Is the kindergarten being restored using the same technologies or different ones?
ZM: Yes and no. I think there are a few goals to reach in this project. The first goal, when it comes to the construction technologies used, was to show how efficient the wooden framework is, and what its capabilities are, for example, the pace of construction and its independence from the weather conditions. The second aspect of a wooden framework technology is the possibility of achieving certain heights and ranges; namely, the proportions of the interior, which in turn had a huge influence on the execution of the functional plan. To give you an example, it became possible to create a play room and bedrooms for the children using thin, small-sized construction elements. There were no massive walls or supports: the wooden framework act as a light support.

GHL: In my opinion it’s a very functional building, even for today.
ZM: Exactly. When we decided the course of the reconstruction, we reached exactly the same conclusion. It is a building, like no other building, that can be given a second lease of life in the same shape; without any modifications. The new function we’ve assigned to this building fits the space 98%, even though it’s totally different. The only things that have changed are the toilets because the regulations have changed and the baths have been removed. But this is only a fraction of the kindergarten site. The layout of the amenities is even the same, the toilets will be located in the same place but the internal walls will be arranged differently.
Going back to the construction technology adopted. You asked if we’re using the same technology and I said, “Yes and no.” This is because we aren’t using the Doecker system by Christoph & Unmack A.G. We managed to make contact with them though. They don’t produce precisely the same system any more, but if we had put our foot down, I’m sure it would have been possible to reinstate that solution. However, we have decided it’s unnecessary to pursue because the internal structure of the building is concealed. It would be just for the sake of it. Nowadays, we don’t need to remind ourselves what options a wooden framework offers. After eighty years we’re many steps ahead in the development of construction technologies. We don’t have to prove that using this technology is quick: it’s a known fact. We used the wooden framework though, in order to gain the same proportions, the same heights, the distances, the same elements that make the construction appear light, the thin walls, etc. only with the purpose to restore exactly the same space as it was in 1929.

GHL: Were there any problems concerning the project? Everybody tends to have trouble with the choice of colours…
ZM: There was a problem with the colours, since we had no prior information to go on. We arranged a few meetings with some knowledgeable and experienced architects: the City Historic Preservation Officer; the author of a study about the housing estate, Dr Jadwiga Urbanik; a specialist from the Lower Silesian Monument Conservation Workshop, Andrzej Kamiński; the architect, Andrzej Poniewierka; the town planner, Piotr Fokczyński; and two designers-constructors, Bartłomiej Witwicki and I. This team discussed the colour of the façade and its elements.
There was some detective work involved, as we hadn’t found any materials to hand concerning the colour of the walls. We had a couple of black-and-white photographs which we blew up to one metre by one metre squares. We then analysed the photographs under different lighting conditions. Fortunately, the building had been photographed under various lighting situations. Looking at some of the photos where the façades were in the shade, it seems like the building was painted in one colour, without any shade exposing any details.
However, in full light, it is clearly visible that there are differences between the colours of particular elements. We concluded that all the window and door frames were pure white. All vertical hardware such as fascia boards, constituting also the cornices and supports, were also white. On the other hand, the whole façade was one tone darker: it wasn’t white. It is clearly visible, especially in the photos with good light, that there is contrast between the white elements and the background.
Of course, it was a problem to obtain the original materials because when we searched through Christoph & Unmack’s tender, it turned out that these ready-made systems had been produced in only green and claret colours. Claret was out of question, there is no doubt about that; the building was too bright. We thought it might have been a very light pea-green.
We asked Dr Jadwiga Urbanik to tell us which choice would be the best. We prepared four large one metre squared colour samples, having chosen the colour of the window frames before using this same method. The six of us spent a lengthy amount of time at the construction site comparing, one by one, each sample and trying to choose the one that would match the colours of the wall base and clinkered brick terrace we had seen in the post-war photographs. Finally, after some long discussions and by process of elimination we arrived at the right shade – white with two drops of black and a hint of green.
On the last day of our discussions a funny thing happened. We had spent, I think, three days or so putting the finishing touches on the selection when Andrzej Poniewierka brought along his seven-year-old granddaughter who without any hesitation pointed to the same colour as our team of six had spent the last few days choosing.

GHL: I wonder if there is still anyone alive who would have witnessed this era: if there are people on Tramwajowa Street who have been living there since the 50’s.
ZM: I haven’t thought about that, but we can always repaint it if we discover new information regarding the colours

GHL: How are you planning to develop the area around the kindergarten? In 1929 people could roam freely around the WuWA exhibition. Is the kindergarten going to be open to the public?
ZM: We want to go back to the idea of accessibility. The former kindergarten was a public building, so we are planning to make it available to everyone: there will be no fence. The garden development will be exactly the same, a replica, including the flower beds, sandboxes, a large square and benches. The building will be made available; there will be an entrance area with an information office, etc. We want to comply with the requirements of the project that won the competition for the best housing estate public space development.

GHL: How is this going to relate to the whole WuWA estate? As far as I understood, the exhibition part of the building is going to be given to young architects, is that right? Are you planning to make this building a venue to greet and inform tourists? WuWA is certainly lacking such a place.
ZM: That’s been our initial plan. We want this site to be a tourist stronghold for WuWA which is already a niche attraction: dedicated to certain tourists. We want this building, especially its front area to serve the tourists who will be able to enter inside. For that purpose we’re renovating two display cases in the entrance. They will contain some artefacts such as books and souvenirs as a part of the permanent exhibition about WuWA. We would like to find a curator for the whole venue and we will be able to prepare the rest of the space for exhibition purposes, for example, there will be display cases, wall mounted information panels and a vast hall with space for a scale model. I imagine that for now at least, when there is still no visual information system, tours will be able to prepare for sightseeing, freshen up, grab some refreshments from a self-service machine and learn the history of WuWA in a nice, dry and warm environment. I’m sure that when this specialised type of tourism develops we will make the seminar room available for lectures or film screenings and use the terrace for relaxation. We require only a few rooms for administration, the rest will be at WuWA’s disposal as its flagship building. The second function of this building is to be a place for the Architecture Society’s activities. I’d like to see it as another spot on the city map like SARP (Polish Architects’ Association), the Museum of Architecture or the Wrocław Contemporary Museum. There will be an exhibition space for young architects, meeting and training rooms and maybe a cinema devoted to architecture with screenings once every two weeks. We don’t want to compete with the Museum of Architecture, but broaden its varied repertoire of architecture-orientated locations with a less formal space; a place where the community can integrate and meet in such a wonderful environment.