Q&A with Projekt Praga

by Robert Such

Working out of the Soho Factory, a converted factory of offices and studios for creative firms on Warsaw’s right bank, Marcin Garbacki and Karolina Tunajek make up the young architectural firm Projekt Praga. Their interests include stripping down buildings to a state ready for a refit, at which point Garbacki and Tunajek then work on designing the cleaned up interiors for a new purpose.

Emergency Room – pavilion – Wroclaw 2011 European Culture Congress

RS: How and when did Projekt Praga start up?

Marcin Garbacki: We  started our own practice in summer 2010, when we got the commission to design a number of space interventions on the post-industrial areas of Minska street in Warsaw, now called Soho Factory.

RS: How did the 2010 commission come about?  Was it the result of an open competition?

Marcin Garbacki: The 2010 commission came as a result of Marcin Garbacki’s  former work focused on the idea of transforming the postindustrial site of the Polish Optical Company in Warsaw Praga into new cultural and residential lofts space. The new owner of the post-industrial areas of Minska street in Warsaw appreciate this work and invited us to work on his site.

The project of the new space of Leto art gallery and the Piktogram magazine was one of the revitalizations made on this site. This project gave us new clients, probably because they liked the space we created.

RS: What had you been doing before that?

Marcin Garbacki: Before we started our own practice we were working many years in the architectural office Fiszer Atelier 41 in Warsaw. It is an office of Polish/French architect Stanislaw Fiszer. We were working on many projects of which the main projects was Renovation and transformation of Kubicki Arcades to the main entrance to the Royal Castle in Warsaw, and multifunctional project in Gdynia consisting of three buildings: theater, mediateque , city art gallery and public town square between the buildings.

RS: What do you get out of working together? What keeps you together?

Marcin Garbacki: The first thing is we simply like to work together. The second – we have similar space sensibility. And although we think and create in various ways, we have great understanding, which lets us sum our different points of view, creating a new quality.

RS: What would you say all of your projects have in common?

Marcin Garbacki: The leitmotif of our work is revitalization and the dialogue between past and the present. We design buildings of various sizes and functions, interiors and intimate public spaces. We work for both the private and public investors.

RS: How has the current economic situation affected your work load and types of projects?

Marcin Garbacki: We are often dealing with low-budget projects. Such a situation has the one negative aspect which really doesn’t help in our work – low budget always means little time for project. But low budget is also a challenge – it enforces the simplicity and responsibility of the project and building process. Thanks to it we appreciate the beauty of simple, cheap materials and love the idea of up-cycyling.

RS: What are you working on now?

Roofing of the court of the Bielsko Biala Museum

Marcin Garbacki: Several projects, among which the most important are two:  the revitalization and roofing of the court of the Bielsko-Biala Museum in the Sulkowski’s Family Castle, and the interior design of common areas of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Warsaw, which is actually under construction.

RS: Could you tell me more about the work you’re carrying out in the common areas of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Warsaw, please?

Marcin Garbacki: It is a project which concerns reorganization of the entrance zone. There are 3 elements of the project: reception zone whith reception desk, bookstore, and café/bar zone. The bookstore is already executed but we don’t have any photos. The bar and reception will be ready in January.

RS: You’ve said elsewhere that finding “the original character of a degraded space is the starting point for the question about what contemporary elements can be added to it.” How do you go about finding the original character of a degraded space?

Marcin Garbacki: This sentence explains mainly the revitalization project in postindustrial zone at Minska street in Warsaw. The existing buildings have been extensively reconstructed over the years, often in a quite barbaric manner. For this reason, the first task is to “clean” them spatially, to restore their original character and  find out how they were designed. The second task is to adapt them to a new function.

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