A decade and a half was enough for Łukasik and Zagała to develop a firm capable of holding its own on the commercial market while pretty well maintaining the idealistic spirit of their formative years. As with most architectural practices, the early days were not easy, especially in an atmosphere in which practically the only accepted reaction to the grey and depressing late-socialist architecture of the 1980s was a cheap historical pastiche and a very shallow game of nostalgia. From the very beginning, medusagroup's architecture pursued different values: simplicity and honesty, the most efficient solutions to problem, forms and spaces without any formal pretension. It may sound banal, but it is an important characteristic of Łukasik and Zagała: no matter what is happening around them, no matter what is hot in the architectural media, they continue to make their own architecture.
The undoubted turning point in the firm's history is Przemo Łukasik's own house. It is emblematic of the duo's appraisal of Upper Silesia and a starting point for many projects, not just their own, but also those of many other architectural practices in Poland. At the turn of the century, when Łukasik was thinking of building a house for himself and his family, he came across an old, disused structure in his native Bytom: the changing room of the former Bolko mine.
Located in an industrial setting and surrounded by other abandoned buildings, the structure, raised high above the ground on thick concrete columns, was a complete ruin. By attaching an external staircase, painting the exterior black and just cleaning up the interior and adding a few partitions, the architect converted it into what is popularly considered to be Poland's first loft dwelling. Named after the mine, the Bolko Loft was widely reviewed in the Polish media, drawing attention not only to the architects, but also to the possibilities of seemingly worthless architecture. Suddenly Poles discovered that such older buildings possess great potential. Shortly thereafter similar but bigger conversions, designed by major developers, started to pop up elsewhere in Poland.
Over the years medusagroup has become a strong entity. With their office located in – where else – a converted brick structure previously used for some industrial purpose (see A10 #29
), with credibility among their clients, great popularity among architecture students, good marketing skills and a growing capacity, they developed a style that could even be called an attitude. Boxy geometry, simple and untreated materials, honest exposure of elements (such as unfinished concrete or electric wires) that are usually concealed by finishing materials – these have been the key features of medusagroup's work. Certainly in Łukasik and Zagała's architecture there is none of the immediate and strong poetry of Nouvel's production or of the craziness to be found in Decq's projects, but there is always an echo of Upper Silesia's unconventional beauty and particular, impressive atmosphere, something that is so difficult to achieve in contemporary buildings. Bolko Loft is the most spectacular example, but this is not the outcome of the design, but rather of the already existing condition. All their buildings – no matter if they are from this or the previous century, no matter if they are designed for commercial or private clients – speak this same language: good and modest, rugged and therefore truly uncompromising.
In their work, medusagroup strike only a few chords; they are not trying to be inventive solely for the sake of inventiveness. Houses, apartment buildings, office buildings, but also interiors, industrial and graphic design – all demonstrate a recognizable quality which has not been repeated by any other firm in Poland. As for the office's name – it remains a mystery what this delicate jellyfish is doing in the context of the raw Silesian architectural panorama and why it should have been chosen to represent an architecture of hard edges and unpolished surfaces.