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Let’s create, not copy. Interview with famous Polish architect Robert Konieczny

Written by:
Zofia Malicka
Ola Woldańska-Płocińska

Architect and visionary, author of award-winning projects and founder of KWK Promes, studio esteemed in Poland and abroad – Robert Konieczny, for many years in jury of Bathroom Design KOŁO Conceptual Contest. In short interview, architect explains the educational value of this initiative and why he appreciates being jury member of KOŁO Contest. He has couple of advice for young architects participating in the Contest, who just take their first steps in architecture path.

We are meeting again on 23rd edition of Bathroom Design 2021 KOŁO Contest, organized by Geberit. Every year, You as a member of jury choose the best project from hundreds of registered projects. What is the level of projects? Is this choice difficult?

I am pleased to be member of jury of KOŁO Contest for many years and I truly appreciate this job though to big responsibility. On the one hand, it is easier to judge than taking a part in competition, but from the other hand – the choice of jury will be announced to the world. This is some kind of information proclaiming about us. That’s why we have to be sure of the quality of proposed solutions and fully convinced that one concept is better than the others.

The level of forwarded projects are differentiated in terms of the level, but I am convicted that participants did the their best working on the project. And that is great, even if they won’t win. We learn from our mistakes, on our losses, that’s why participation in contest is incredibly improving. It is hard to compare the projects from whole editions, because each edition regards to different location. Each year, we judge the projects which authors try to provide the best feedback for the topic of contest. At the beginning, each judge individually selects the best projects. Usually our choices mainly overlaps and the real debate about the winning project had begun. There is emotional, long conversation in fierce ambience. We must make our decision and give verdict which will be accepted by whole jury. I like to be judge, taking under consideration the ideas of young architects and analyzing their work and way of thinking. It broadens your mind and improve. I am waiting for this year’s projects with great passion.

Polish architect Robert Konieczny

Your work includes projects of public utility buildings, how the toilets does look like there?

It is no secret that toilet is the place when everyone visit. Deceptively, basing on the project of the toilet, we are able to draw a conclusion about the whole building and its architecture. Toilet is a piece of jigsaw, not less important form the other ones. I always pay attention for ergonomics and functionality of that space, simultaneously keeping aesthetical values. Lots of time in career I faced the situations when investor due to cutting the costs, was asking me to point out the least important interior of the building

when we could dispense with expensive materials. I have never pointed out toilet, it is very essential interior.

If You had to design the toilet for Tatra National Park – the partner of current edition of Bathroom Design KOŁO Contest, how would it look like? What are you going to search in projects created by contestants?

To create a good project, It is essential to do research, analysis of the place, environment. I was in Tatra Mountains but I didn’t take a look on them from the perspective of the project that’s why I am not able to immediately give a solution. Like in previous editions I will be looking for good and smart ideas and concepts skillfully plotted – noticeable, but regard to specific, natural environment not being on the forefront. The thing is creating something discreet and atemporal, utile and composed in beautiful landscape. That’s why like other judges, I encourage to take backpack, wear comfortable shoes and spend some time in the mountains and then start working on the project. The context should be well understood to provide proper solutions for strict mountain conditions and concept trouble free in preservation and exploiting – the building must fulfill the function for many years. I find this challenge very fascinating, because I love mountains.

Do You believe that these initiatives have real influence on awareness of young architects and whole society about socially engaged architecture? To put this simple, do these activities change the world for better?

Yes of course. Each year lots of people take part – nearly every young architect who apply for work in my studio, has participation in Contest included to résumé. One of winner, Aleksandra Kozłowska works in my office, that is genuine proof for shaping “architectural youth” by this initiative. By choosing interesting partners and location of the projects, media speaks loudly about competition, not only in architectural media but local as well. Local people – future users of public convenience engage into dialogue and educate themselves.

architect black and white portrait

Do You have any advice for contestants?

As I mentioned before – I advice to focus on the place that is main subject, spot on the local context, get familiar with history of that place, also take a look “here and now” and leave global trends. With no doubts it’s good to be aware of what architecture is up to, but not to forget that best projects come from what occurs around us. Plenty of young architects are “overfilled” of knowledge, I often say to them that they forgot what they knew, saw and liked. I strongly encourage to focus on solutions perfectly matched to environment. Only by this way designers are able to create something unique and inspirational for others. Contest should teach us how to create on our own – let’s leave copying and intellectual borrowings – I strongly disadvise this.


More information: KOŁO

Regulations of XXIII KOŁO conceptual contest "2021 Bathroom Design"

By Naser Nader Ibrahim

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