“I believe in people.” Future Builders talks to Przemo Łukasik

The main thrust of the second Future Builders session was the notion that the architecture of the future will have to be characterized by responsibility, pragmatism, and moderation. Piotr Żabicki, PhD, talked to Przemo Łukasik, co-founder of the Medusa Group collaborative studio, in a wide-ranging conversation that addressed environmental, social, and economic issues, with an added touch of philosophy.

Przemo Łukasik, Future Builders’ second guest

The second session of the Future Builders series was held on 23rd September, with Przemo Łukasik as the guest. A graduate of the Silesian University of Technology’s Faculty of Architecture and the École d’Architecture Paris-Villemin, Łukasik gained experience working in key architectural companies in Berlin and Paris, where he also taught at the École Spéciale d’Architecture.

He co-founded Medusa Group with Łukasz Zagała in 1997 and has been strongly invested in Silesia ever since. These days, Medusa is one of Europe’s largest architecture practices. The projects Łukasik has worked on, either alone or with his team, include the German Embassy in Warsaw, Plac Rady Europy (Council of Europe Square) and the .KTW complex, both in Katowice. As far as interiors are concerned, the Nobu Warsaw Hotel and the Bridge Hotel - MGallery Wrocław are just part of his portfolio. Counting all the awards and accolades his designs have received would be a daunting task.

An architect of the future

Piotr Żabicki opened the conversation by asking Łukasik about how he thinks architecture will change in the future. As Łukasik sees it, context is vital. There was a time when architects created works for pharaohs and kings. Now, they work for developers and private individuals. As such, the direct approach remains unchanged. It is technology, trends and potential that are constantly evolving. Some concepts have become seriously outdated and are unusable in today’s realities, while others are making a comeback several decades after they fell from favor. Architecture always has to adapt to change and also anticipate it to an extent.

Łukasik regaled the audience with a recollection:

I remember a consultation and conversation with Paul Virilio coming up for two decades ago. He explained to us that the future will be built on two realities, the real and the virtual. Back then, it sounded abstract. Today, it’s become our common reality.

He went on to say that architecture and the construction industry are one of the few fields where automation and digitization have not wrought significant changes. Technological developments are still tools for experts, making it possible both to streamline some activities and processes and to exclude errors.

Summing up his thoughts on the topic, Łukasik said, “Artificial intelligence can’t replace everything. I believe in people”.

We’re right on trend in world architecture terms”

As the conversation moved on, Łukasik expressed his conviction that Polish architecture yields to world architecture in nothing. He referred to his student years in Poland and France and to the fact that he saw no difference in the quality and level of the education in the two countries. One element that he singled out as a pivotal tool is regeneration. He also emphasized that it is crucial to design for the long-term and to build spaces for people. Even if our generation will not feel the effects of those changes, the next generation, the children who are just beginning to become part of the urban fabric, most definitely will. This is why the economic and utilitarian aspect cannot be the sole determinant of a project’s ‘profitability’. There also has to be a focus on how a development is going to function over the course of several decades.

As Łukasik put it, “The most ecological, green building is a building that hasn’t been built. One that’s already been constructed is the runner-up”. Although not every building can be salvaged and regenerated, bringing people into post-industrial spaces and, in the future, even into post-commercial spaces, is the future of urban development. In a nutshell, he sees it like this: “Regeneration is a tool for responsible design. On a great many levels”.

Who is going to be influencing the cities and towns of the future?

This was an easy one for Przemo Łukasik and his response came straight back. “People. That’s what I think” Though it is not the municipal overlords, the urban planners, the architects, the institutions, and the social movements that he sees as the primary decision makers, but the ordinary residents going about their daily lives in a given place. Local authorities no longer give all their consideration to economic development, but are also turning their attention to the well-being of residents and to how they feel in their city or town. However, they are all different, in terms of their origins, former destiny and history.

Łukasik reached for a particular example as he expounded on the topic:

In Silesia, the cities and towns sprang up against the backdrop of huge factories and they were often built with great responsibility. There’s one example that we’re really proud of... our beloved Nikiszowiec*, which wasn’t planned by the city, but by an industrialist.

Continuing the thread, Łukasik said that an architect is therefore responsible for more than the client’s and developer’s assumptions and the budget. Above all, they should think about community and context and, if necessary, be prepared to explain that thinking, justify it and defend it.

Let’s talk!

Piotr Żabicki asked Przemo Łukasik why he had joined ALUPROF SA’s Future Builders initiative. The reply was unhesitating:

I believe that all the problems in the world spring from the fact that we don’t talk to each other. To me, Future Builders is a platform where we can share our experience and thoughts. I’m not for a moment suggesting that we know best about everything. But there’s no better way of explaining to the public what building and the construction industry are. Architects don’t build. Our job is to work with our imaginations. And for that, we need wise and responsible developers who aren’t afraid to trust us. Next comes the contractor, who has to wrestle with our ideas. And finally, we can all be proud of the results.

He added that the key thing in life, professional and private, is building mutual respect and understanding. Only this approach, along with being open to new experiences, will enable us to succeed.

A recording of the conversation is available at https://future-builders.com and on ALUPROF’s YouTube channel, https://www.youtube.com/c/ALUPROFALUMINIUMSYSTEMS/videos. There is also a podcast version on the Future Builders official Spotify channel, at https://open.spotify.com/show/....

Coming soon! More Future Builders sessions

There are several guests still to come on the Future Builders program. One of them is Zbigniew Maćków of Maćków Pracownia Projektowa, a Wrocław-based member of the Polish Architects’ Association (SARP) and designer of buildings featuring outstanding energy self-sufficiency parameters. Another is Bogdan Zaha, lead architect at the legendary Zaha Hadid Ltd, and the line-up also features Álvaro Siza, winner of numerous awards, including the Pritzker Architecture Prize, and an author published in the world’s most important architectural journals.

All the Future Builder events are free and available online. For more information and to register for the events, please visit https://future-builders.com/.

* Nikiszowiec was a district built for industrial workers in the early twentieth century. It is now part of Katowice and has been designated a historical monument – ed.