Officials creating the cities

Officials are taking the lead over the architects in designing the urban developement - says Konrad Matuszewski, well known architect from Poznan - Also in the case of office buildings, where it is the job of an architect to determine the shape of the floor space.
Konradem Matuszewskim
Konradem Matuszewskim


According to Konrad Matuszewski, in Poland, in contrast to many of the richer countries in Europe, in the determination of the zoning layer there is a dictate of officials and investors focused on savings:
KM: The latter are only interested in how much can you "squeeze out from one meter", and not on how interesting an office building might look like. Meanwhile, the creation of a residential building or office should be the result of a creative investor attitude that inspires and encourages the architect to expand wings of imagination. It is not the case now, and few interesting office buildings in Warsaw are not changing the doleful landscape.
Why is this happening?
Under the influence of officials and investors we, architects, become "bureaucrats" who only check whether the designed object complies with so many rules. Officials dictate about the height of the building, the appearance and materials of the elevation and how it is supposed to be blended into surrounding buildings. They treat architects and investors like the children in the mist, which while left to themselves, would only do damage to the urban tissue of the city.
In this way, the creativity is killed. The creativity that can be found in most of the Polish architects work, which after all can be seen in various international competitions. Competitions won by the young, creative people, which then, over time, loose all of the verve to create anything. Because in Poland there is both, a rush of anxiety for recreating, copying and preserving the old, and the coexisting fear of creating something new, daring, different and in line with the times. It is the twenty-first century, and for example in Poznan, we still do not have a 200-meter skyscraper that would change the boring and flat silhouette of the city. Because apparently you need to protect it ... From what? One of the arguments is the claim that there never was such a high-rise. So maybe we should have one eventually - if there is money and a good idea.
Where does officials' conservatism comes from?
From the fear of liability, being creative and facing the boss for your decisions. God forbid you break the rules. And yet the people who decide about something are trained as architects or urban planners, and had also created something in the past, but because of the years spent behind the desk, their point of view has changed - they do not build cities, they are not designers, but they are only to assess whether something is in accordance with rules or not. And this is the fault of the rules too, which prohibits them to run their own business, stripping activity in the real world of architecture. It's as if the ASP professor would be prohibited from painting.
How, then, to create a good office, meeting the expectations of investors and officials?
I always start with the design of the functional program that is determined by an investor - how many and what kind of areas are to be included in the building. The next point is the convenience of the user, who will spend time in the created space. Here, of course, there is a problem, because some of us feels at home in the vast area of ​​open space, dotted with desks, and some definitely will close the door to his room.
The second element is the lighting - natural and artificial - which once was the problem to look at with paying a close attention, as the employees render the many activities on paper, with a pencil and ruler in hand, and the light source when compared to today's were so-so (for example, fluorescent tubes).
Today, we sit in the office and mainly in front of the monitor. You may want to remember this when designing an office building, and besides - we have also to apply to the standards. The last element is the communication and technological tracts and of course bathrooms and toilets. Not because they are less important, but because thanks to today's modern technology you can easily modify and adapt them to the designated space.
A modern office is a glass tower: energy-efficient, environmentally sustainable, economically ventilated, intelligently managed and controlled ... 
... where you can not open the window. This is another dictatorship, faced by an architect, dictated by the wizzes of savings. I know I'm breaking the line, but I think a passive building can save energy, but usually it's an odd building. How can it be nice if, for example, the windows on the north side must be smaller, and on the south side bigger, and as a result the ratio is imbalanced? I understand that the building is to be energy-efficient, but should not be designed either by the ecologist by the installer or by an accountant. Maybe it would be energy-efficient, but will it be nice to work in?
Besides, I think there are limits of saving. Making the thermal insulation 50% thicker does not give 50% savings on heat, but only 10%.   We can pass the building heat through various types of energy recovery units, but they have to be produced too.   In addition, we are surrounded by various devices that - first - cost money, second - needs to be maintained, and thirdly - wear out. They are not perpetual motion, for example in the recuperator after 15 years of service at least half of the items need to be replaced. Therefore, I believe that "green office" is often primarily a marketing attempt to "push in" the new technology.
How, then, to match the form of an office building with its interior?
Today, in spite of appearances, form is a secondary issue because it is easy to do, thanks to the development of technology. Therefore, I believe that the office should be a balance between appearance, function and utility, and various technical parameters. A predetermined form is also unnecessary - after all, I've seen an office building entirely buried in the earth with the light coming from the skylights placed on the lawn. Maybe it is the field for the imagination of  architect?

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