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Nest Boxes, Zakopane, Poland by Superhelix Pracownia Projektowa - Bartłomiej Drabik

Project name:
Nest Boxes
Architecture firm:
Superhelix Pracownia Projektowa - Bartłomiej Drabik
Zakopane, Poland
Bartłomiej Drabik
Principal architect:
Bartłomiej Drabik
Design team:
Interior design:
Built area:
390 m²
Site area:
1500 m²
Design year:
Completion year:
Civil engineer:
Structural engineer:
Environmental & MEP:
Tools used:
AutoCAD, Autodesk 3ds Max, V-ray,Adobe Lightroom, Adobe Photoshop
Concrete, Wood, Aluminium Cladding
Residential › Single Family House

Superhelix Pracownia Projektowa - Bartłomiej Drabik: This is a story not only about the project but also about the time in which it was created and how it affected the building. It sometimes happens that what is built somehow differs from the original design. This is not necessarily a bad thing. This is normal and happens in a complex construction process, which is affected by many external factors. It is worth talking about it more openly because it can help many architects get rid of the enormous pressure to create an unquestionable and definitive work.

It was a month after Covid hit, April 2020. The mood in the industry was not the best. They were hailing a great recession. Nothing would be built, they said. The worst part, however, was the uncertainty. You just didn't know what to expect, and on top of that, how do you design in time of a crisis?

The client called and sent the video. Site in Zakopane, the capital of the Polish mountains overlooking Giewont - the most iconic peak of the Tatra Mountains. This area is special in the country. Plots are hard to buy and those with scenic qualities are at a premium. Of course, if you manage to buy them at all. Highlanders are unwilling to sell them. They are very attached to the land. Rare, very valuable, unique plot that required a special project even in spite of the times of Covid.

The area where the houses were built has a steep slope, the property boundaries are very irregular. This forced the location of the buildings close to each other. There is very dense development in the neighborhood, and in this case it may seem intense, but this project uses only half of the allowable development ratios set by the local building code. In this case, the final floor area did not matter. More important was respect for the site.

The buildings were designed in the spirit of local tradition, taking into account the factors of the mountain climate. The roof slopes are very steep, which allows for quick disposal of snow. Huge eaves protect balconies from rain and the entrance and walls from snowdrifts. These, however, are designed a little differently. Thanks to the undercut, they retain their functionality, but take less space and provide better access to the sunlight in the winter.

The roofing was designed with wooden shingles, a material strongly associated with the region. Hence the name of the buildings, all wooden, detached from the ground, resembled nest boxes. Here, however, some difficulties arose. The Covid was not ending, and it was difficult to find contractors even before the pandemic broke out. Unfortunately, the hired contractor, who was also one of the few specialists in this type of roofing, died. Another company that was supposed to make the wooden covering went bankrupt. As if that were not enough, war started in Ukraine, across our eastern border and the building market in Poland experienced another shock. The client decided to change the roofing. The final material is also rooted in the tradition of Zakopane - standing seam metal cladding. The color is black, the same that wooden shingles turn after a few years.

The living area is located on the first floor. It was necessary to make the best use of the panoramic view of the Tatra mountains. To achieve this, the corners of the building were completely glazed and to remove mullions or any connecting elements the glass was curved. The overhanging of the second floor, balcony and eaves created a terrace canopy, enlarged the living area and blurred the boundary between inside and outside. On the other two floors, the sleeping area is located.

When I met with the developer on the first project, I was told that I could design whatever I wanted, but without windows with curved glass. Then he repeated this a few more times. After eight years and a dozen joint projects, I finally managed to convince him of this solution. Too bad about the wooden shingles roofing, though. Maybe someday... just like with the curved glass.

By Naser Nader Ibrahim

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