WROCLAW – Devastated during World War II, Wroclaw is now an architecturally diverse city – the biggest in the west of Poland – with a mixture of styles influencing the local infrastructure. Named after a word with origins literally meaning ‘from the egg’, the OVO is a bold, contemporary building with an amorphic form that bloats and regresses to suit the special requirements of the multi-functional accommodation schedule. Gottesman-Szmelcman designed the mixed-use building – comprising corporate offices with conference facilities, high-end retail spaces, 180 luxury residences and a similar number of five-star hotel suites – to co-exist under one bulging skin.
‘Contrast is celebrated here,’ explains the project’s architect, Asaf Gottesman, ‘and it is the inherent openness and curiosity of the city that spoke to us.’ Together with its neighbour, a historic post office, the OVO takes up an entire urban block. Other than sharing a party wall, however, there are no physical connections between the two buildings.
The firm uses certain aesthetic characteristics of the existing building to create a dialogue between the two contrasting structures: ‘if the post office is a solid mass, defined by hard edges and a classical, static façade, then we have [with the OVO] introduced motion and dynamism, with a softer and more ambiguous contour. While the post office is dominated by the deep richness and detailing of the red brick, we have played with light and shade by using white Corian. The result is, I believe, typically Wroclavian: a manifestation of plurality, contrast, openness and dialogue.’
The architect explains that Corian is one of three key products that are integral to the design of the OVO: ‘it enabled us to translate our architectural vision in the most effective way, without the compromises that might otherwise be necessary with more obvious materials like plaster. Basic panels – 2600 x 1500 mm, with a thickness of only 12 mm – are used where a single curve is enough. The rest of the surfaces are thermoformed to accommodate double curvatures. Corian is also resilient and easy to maintain, which makes it the perfect solution.’ Additionally, Glass Fibre Reinforced Gypsum (GFRG) continues the structural form of the exterior into the internal spaces and strips of thin walnut veneer introduce a warmth to the key indoor areas, while still following the fluid movement.
The combination of accommodation schedules enveloped in one distinct amorphic structure would have been a lot more complex to realize had it not been for the availability of CAD programming. ‘I cannot imagine us developing a scheme of this sort without the aid of 3D CAD software,’ comments Gottesman, ‘so I believe it is important to recognize the role played by our design tools and how they are transforming the construction industry.’
Plan – Floor 3 Offices/Floor 6 Residential