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PURO Q&A: Hugon Kowalski

28.02.2017 People

People and spaces create the essence of a city. Architecture, unusual places and objects, strange nooks, well-known paths, emotions, and memories. In PURO Q&A we ask inspiring artists, designers, and creators of the contemporary urban world about their ways of creating and experiencing cities.

Hugon Kowalski* swept the world of architecture off its feet with his graduation project – deemed the best architecture diploma in the world – and an exhibition presented as part of Venice Biennale of Architecture. Even though the world invitingly keeps the door open for him, Hugon has been continuously devoted to Poznań and the local. In this one-of-a-kind interview, he talks to us about the gems of Poznań architecture and the bright sides of… taking a tram.

When I want to meet people…

I go to the park vis-à-vis the Grand Theatre. I love spaces designed on an axis (although I’ve heard only idiots and men like them :)); here, the composition of the land dampens the hustle and bustle of the city, while sycamores only strengthen the feeling of quietude. The park has two areas: first, there is the more public and open space with a lane around the park, which provides a shelter from the sun. Second, there is the fountain that cools the entire space during the day and, when its surface becomes flat and still at night, emphasizes the axis on which the park and the theater are designed. The theater itself creates a unique atmosphere thanks to its opera-enthusiasts, book lovers in the park, tourists gathering in front of the building, and the music resounding off its walls.

When I want to calm down…

I take a tram or a bus. Public transport makes you feel carefree by giving you the opportunity to tune out and feel the coach-like atmosphere of summer trips. To me, it simply gives time to come up with new ideas and search for solutions. The moment I enter my office I sit down and draw, putting them all on paper.

photo: 1. The view on "Bałtyk" from Maciejewski's Park, 2. The example of "urban framing" - on Śródka in Poznań and Venice, 3. UGO architecture design studio

I discover urban treasures…

…by raising my head up! It is really worth doing it once in a while in order to find a treasure. Recently, I was waiting for a bus on Rolna street when it struck me – I noticed an extraordinary building! My discovery was made possible thanks to the winter aura and leafless trees which, had it been summer, would have hidden this fascinating construction entirely. A series of four brick buildings of various sizes paralleling the street creates the composition of terraced blocks strikingly similar to one of David Chipperfield’s buildings. I am also a huge fan of surprising changes in perspective. It is worth taking Bałtyk as an example of a building whose shape changes depending on your position. It happens that a specific terrain makes it look slender while the other does quite the opposite. You can look at the building from a very interesting perspective if you happen to be in Maciejewski’s Park – there is a crack between the music hall and a new university building that frames Bałtyk perfectly. Another example of a surprising change in perspective takes us to the Old Town where, sitting on an outdoor restaurant terrace, you may spot the ‘crown’ of Okrąglak. There are perhaps one or two tables where you can sit and enjoy this kind of view.

I experience the city…

I love watching the light play on buildings’ facades. Light reflections often allow us to spot the beauty of the seemingly ordinary materials. If we are lucky to be in the right place at the right time, the matter comes to life and transforms into something more noble. For example, Winiary apartment blocks (Piątkowska 65) may seem to be the simplest large-panel blocks. However, their eastern facades are finished with the mosaic, which reflects the light at dawn in a very peculiar way and resembles the flickering surface of water.  While experiencing the city I also take pleasure in trying to solve the “what the designer had in mind” puzzle, i.e. to find the idea behind an object or a particular space. It’s also fun to try to spot spatial qualities in various, less obvious places. Recently, I was standing under a canopy above the entrance to a store on Małachowskiego Street when I noticed how beautifully the line of the roof framed the view of the cathedral. This made me think of the views I’d witnessed in Venice. Besides, the contrast between the function and the aesthetic of these two buildings offered something interesting in itself.

One thing I always have with me…

My daily planner – it’s easy to get lost when you’re a young architect with a lot on your mind.

I travel…

With Madzia – my girlfriend, a pen, and paper.

*Hugon Kowalski is an architect and founder of the UGO architecture design studio located in the Jeżyce district of Poznań. He works as an assistant at the Faculty of Architecture and Design at the University of Arts in Poznań. Kowalski is the winner of the first prize in Archiprix International – the competition that recognizes the best diplomas in architecture all over the world. He is the author of the project Let’s talk about garbage showcased as part of the main exhibition at 2016 Venice Biennale of Architecture. Even though his achievements have brought him worldwide recognition, Kowalski remains a local patriot and continues living and working in Poznań. In his projects, he goes beyond the conventional schemes and universally acknowledged standards. In a conversation with us, he tells us how to discover the beauty of architecture while simply strolling around the city.

text: Zuza Mielczarek
photo: studio and portrait - courtesy of Hugon Kowalski, the view on Bałtyk - Zuza Mielczarek

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