The Schleifer & Milczanowski Architekci team was asked to prepare several conceptual designs of a prefabricated public convenience unit and to develop a feasibility study for the project. In the future, the project deliverables were supposed to serve as the basis for developing a technical design of a reproducible Gdańsk-specific public convenience. The aim was to create a prefabricated construction that requires minimum earthworks. The public toilet was to be semiautomatic, for use all year round and easy to operate. In architectural terms, they were required to do something seemingly impossible – to create an exceptional building that would suit not only the historical surroundings but also modern city districts. The building should thus suit everywhere. More images and architects’ description after the break.
In 2009, Gdańsk became one of the EURO 2012 host cities. Gdańsk – Downtown is an exceptionally difficult place for investments. The architect is required to respect the conservator’s conditions and proprietary rights; to be able to weave through a chaotically structured technical infrastructure; and, most of all, to balance and respect the archaeological and historical heritage. The level of difficulty was raised by the requirements of the employer – investGda, a city-owned company acting on behalf of the City of Gdańsk.
We began our work by undertaking wide social and environmental consultation. The conceptual designs prepared by us were presented to the City Architect, the Conservation Office and the local community. When designing this facility we wanted to create a modern piece of city furniture; a form not very aggressive that in detail refers to materials from the immediate surroundings. We had studied many architectural forms and compositions to finally choose a number of solids as basis for further analyses. What turned out to be the most optimum solution was a structure circumscribed around a circle. The challenge was to adjust such a shape of the interior to the needs of the disabled, assuming the least possible surface. We managed to do it by slightly deforming the entrance zone.
Thanks to that the projection of the facility resembles a drop of water. This suggests an immediate association with widely understood environmental protection, renewable energy as well as the concept of sustainable design. A transparent glass roof allows appropriate further illumination of the interior at daytime and thanks to energy gains – support of the heating system. We were concerned that the facility should be built using recyclable materials. That is why we chose steel and glass as basic materials, and we suggested composites with ecology certificates for trimming the interior.
The base of the toilet is a steel frame construction. It is supported on a slab foundation. The whole is surrounded with panels of patinated sheet metal in rusty color and suggests an association with raw ship hulls in neighboring shipyards. Moreover, the shade of patina sparkling in the sun looks like gold of the north – amber. However, that color formed background for the ribbing of acid resistant steel surrounding the body. The ribs are polished and a slight deformation of their shape makes it possible to park bicycle wheels between them. The idea of a multifunctional piece of city furniture became reality. The polished side of the ribs reflects the immediate surroundings, thereby drawing on the context of the neighbouring vicinity in full reflections. Yet the reflected world is not accurate.
The slight deformations, bends make the reflected fragments a coloristic and vivid reference rather than a photorealistic repetition. Thereby the facility partly disappears, while the reflections of greenery blur the edges making the whole seem to be transparent and melt against the historical development. We tried to emphasize that effect by the distinctive bevel of the facility’s roof, and the ribs extended beyond its edge are a metaphor of the tops of the old tenements of Gdańsk. As a result, this quite explicit form does not impose itself and does not try to predominate the surrounding vicinity. Instead it remains in constant dialogue with it, with a lot left unsaid. It suits our city in each of its parts at any time of the year and day. It is a city’s jewellery – modest and at the same time stylish. We are proud of that design. Architects: Schleifer & Milczanowski Architekci Location: Gdańsk, Poland Text: Stefan Schleifer