Sports hall, Cracow
CRACOW (PL) - The semi-sunken sports complex designed by Lewicki Łatak does not obstruct views of the surrounding area.
Almost every new development in Cracow, a city saturated with history, involves a big architectural challenge and a lengthy bureaucratic procedure. A large number of listed buildings, an old urban fabric, protected streetscapes and quite low building density all make for an exercise in tact and architectural ingenuity if one wants to erect a modern and relatively big structure in the city.
Such was the case with the Cracovia Sports Hall, the subject of a recent architectural competition won by a local studio headed by Piotr Lewicki and Kazimierz Łatak. The hall's site is located pretty close to the old city centre, between three totally different spaces: the Blonia, a huge greenspace that serves the inhabitants of the city in a variety of ways, a small river bordered by a pathway, and an area of small-scale housing. Of all Polish architects, Kazimierz Łatak is probably the person best acquainted with this particular site as he lives in a small house only 200 metres from the future sports hall and wakes up every day to a view of the surrounding hills and churches. It was this view that became a starting point for Lewicki Łatak's design proposal.
The building's programme was neither too big for the site nor too complicated, consisting only of a sports hall with areas of spectator seating and changing rooms, and a hotel. The architects used the triangular site very specifically, both horizontally and vertically. From a horizontal perspective, they put the building in the north-east corner of the site, very close to the existing housing. From a vertical viewpoint, they put the structure half underground, using the excavated soil to create earthworks, which partly separate the site from the riverbank while also contributing to the formal image of the sports hall. This way the whole intervention becomes a kind of landscape in which the building is the climax of the topographical composition. A climax – it must be said – that is fully transparent, with three huge glass walls opening it up to the surrounding views. Also thanks to this transparency and to the building's semi-sunken aspect, the structure does not ruin anyone else's view.
Besides the glass, the material palette is simple: concrete in the interior, Cor-Ten steel in various formats, thicknesses and porosities on the exterior. As always with the architecture of Piotr Lewicki and Kazimierz Łatak, the end result will be modest, silent and balanced on the one hand, and on the other very poetic, instantly covered with a patina and as such well adapted to a city that appears to be suspended in time.
January | 2009 | Poland | Roman Rutkowski & Lukasz Wojciechowski