Townhouse under the Golden Shears

Krakow, Poland
2012 – 2022

Project: Extension of the historic tenement house from 1878 (oryg. project made by Nachman Kopald)
Authors: Jakub Turbasa, Wojciech Zagórski
Location: 15 Gertrudy Street, Krakow, Poland
Structural Engineering: Hodurek Czesław. Pracownia Inżynierska
Electrical installations: Studio Energetyczne’76 – Biuro Usług Projektowych i Elektrycznych Grzegorz Zych
Sanitary installations: mgr inż. Sławomir Gubała
General Contractor: Detal Remont – S.C. R. Zięba, Jacek Bogal + other subcontractors
Investor’s representative: Michał Zagórski
Interior design: Jakub Turbasa
Project: 2012-2016
Construction: 2018 – 2022
Client: private

– 2nd Prize of the Marshal’s Office of the Małopolska Region (Department of Culture and National Heritage) named after Stanisław Witkiewicz for the best, contemporary architectural projects conducive to the protection and shaping of the cultural landscape of Małopolska in the Residential Architecture category (2022)

The one-story townhouse house at 15 St. Gertrude Street was carried out in 1878 according to the design concept of architect Nachman Kopald. It is located in the historic center of the city of Krakow, in the immediate vicinity of the Planty Park (the area of the former city walls) and numerous monuments of Kraków. The townhouse offers a panoramic view of the aforementioned greenery, the Wawel Royal Castle and the baroque church of Saints Peter and Paul (design based on the Roman, Jesuit, church – Il Gesù). They are dominant architectural buildings and they left their mark on the new architecture of the townhouse house.

The project included the superstructure, reconstruction and extension of the townhouse for residential purposes with services on the ground floor – a renowned bespoke atelier. The historic character of the existing part and the identity of the place influenced the shape of the new architecture. An important issue was, on the one hand, appropriate insertion of the augmented part into the historical context, and on the other hand, its expression using the contemporary language of architecture. The architecture of the townhouse clearly communicates what belongs to the “old order” and what belongs to the “new order”. For this reason, the historic part clearly stands out with its deeply protruding cornice from the modern part.

The retraction of the superstructure in relation to the historical facade additionally emphasizes this distinction. It also has connotations with the shaping of Krakow’s historic buildings, facades of which have intermediate cornices dividing the storeys, masking withdrawals (resulting from the narrowing of the wall thickness with height) and are sometimes marks of the expansion of townhouses by new floors over the centuries. The division of the facade with intermediate cornices and recesses clearly communicates which layers are the oldest ones. The whole – just like the geological layers of the earth visible in the cross-section – shows the evolutionary stratification. As the height of the elevation changes, its detail tends towards a minimum.

The said clear withdrawal of the new part is also related to an unconventional proprietary solution. In the part hidden from the sight of the people outside, there are small porte-fenêtre windows with planters hidden in the cornice. Thanks to this procedure, it was possible to implement the floor-level windows, introduce more daylight into the interior and even more extensive opening of the apartments to the panorama of the Old Town.

The superstructure is also distinguished from the historical remnants by the texture of the finishing material, but their colors have been unified. The idea of leaving a visible structure of hand-formed brick in the upper part of the facade (ceramics is a material characteristic of the buildings of Kraków), and then its colouration, was culled from solutions used in the past. Among others, brick elevations with joints of the aforementioned church of Saints Peter and Paul were stained with bovine blood, which gave them a visually unified appearance.

Being open to the view is an important factor in the arrangement of the functional layout of apartments. Each of them has been planned taking into account the directions of the world and according to the zoning principles. The living area opens westwards to Planty. The sleeping zone is located on the eastern side, where the interior of the city quarter is located with its yard and greenery (quiet zone).

Jakub Turbasa