Eye-catching illustrations reveal glorious nuances of Wrocław landmarks
Depicting some of the city’s most iconic buildings in stunning graphic detail, four young architects have seen their work going viral after publishing a series of images capturing the beauty and diversity of Wrocław’s architecture.
Revealing the fruits of their project on their social media channel, Wrocławiaki, the idea was born whilst the friends were studying together at the Wroclaw University of Science and Technology.
Speaking to TFN, they said: “Originally, our graphics were created as part of a memory game for the urban science research group of which we were all members. After we finished our bachelor degrees, we decided to continue our work and share it on Instagram with short descriptions so that more people could learn about Wrocław’s architecture.”
Posting their first image just over a year ago on Instagram – the saw-toothed Hutmen metal plant designed by Jerzy Surma in the 1960s – the four have continued to update their Facebook and Insta pages over the last twelve-months.
Only recently, however, have they seen their labours find a wider audience after their work was re-posted by a string of lifestyle, design and news portals.
“Frankly we’re surprised to receive this attention,” they say. “I guess that there aren’t that many illustrative projects such as ours that showcase so many different buildings from one single city – or it could just be that we got lucky!”
That much is unlikely – collectively created by Weronika Dardzińska, Kuba Chrząstek, Weronika Kozak and Natalia ‘Krysia’ Torbiarczyk, their illustrations demonstrate the nuances of the city’s landmarks in the most eye-catching of manners.
Using a gold and deep navy blue colour palette, the results have proven fantastically compelling: clean and concise yet almost forensically detailed.
“At first, we tried ‘real-life’ colours, but we felt that was too complicated and did not really convey our attitude to those buildings,” they say. “Finally, we decided to go with these colours that you see as we felt they gave the graphics a bit of a retro-cosmic feel whilst highlighting their uniqueness.
“But even though the colour palette is playful and allowed us to view the buildings in our own way, the accurate depiction of the architecture was crucial to us as quite often it was these little elements that made a building so unique.”
Lending their work a charming and atmospheric sparkle, the style they settled for has paired well with the buildings they focused on.
“It is difficult to pinpoint the direct inspirations for our graphic style,” they say, “but it might well be rooted in our fascination with 70s architecture and the thought of how futuristic some of the projects must have seemed back in this time.”
Indeed, it is this post-war modernist era that is arguably the most captivating when admiring their work.
Designed by Krystyna and Marian Barscy, and built between 1964 and 1971, the Faculty of Chemistry’s auditorium is one such example.
“It was a part of a larger scheme that saw the creation of a modern academic district near Grunwaldzki Square,” they say. “The function of the object had a direct impact on its distinctive and dynamic form, and further evidence to its extraordinary quality is the holistic design approach.”
For the Wrocławiaki team, the 1960s and 1970s hold a particularly special place in their heart.
“The architecture was incredible, and that’s witnessed in projects such as Trzonolinowiec, Mezonetowiec and Manhattan to name just a few. Wrocław was in dire need of new buildings at the time due to the destruction it experienced during the war, but despite this the housing from that era remained innovative – even to this day.
“Simultaneously,” they continue, “this is the period which is in the biggest danger of being overlooked or criticised. As architects, we felt it was our duty to point out its advantages.”
Completed in 1973 to a design authored by Jadwiga Grabowska-Hawrylak, the aforementioned Manhattan estate continues to divide popular opinion to this day.
Occasionally nicknamed Sedesowce (‘the toilet seat estate’) due to the oval shape of its window recesses, this six-tower complex is, however, in the process of having its reputation rehabilitated after years of snooty mockery.
So far, 33 graphics have been created, but others are promised. “We have more on the way,” they say. “There is no maximum and we believe that the architecture of Wrocław is so diverse that we see no reason to stop drawing anytime soon.”
This diversity is arguably one of the project’s biggest strengths. For those casually familiar with the city, there are several buildings that will be immediately recognisable: opened in 1857 and built in neo-Gothic style, the main railway station is a case in point.
Crowned with a neon sign, and featuring pointy turrets and long, dramatic windows, what was once one of Europe’s largest stations has been exquisitely rendered.
So too the neo-Baroque Puppet Theatre and the opera building – drawn with illuminated windows and piercing shafts of light, one understands why this was once considered to be one of the most prominent opera houses in what was then Germany.
Lightly foxtrotting through the history of Breslau / Wrocław, it is hard not to feel joy when viewing the zoo’s main entrance. Designed by Richard Konwiarz, and debuting in 1935, it was a modernist answer to Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate.
Looking pleasingly precise, its signature neon of a cheerful lion adds an extra dimension that, say the Wrocławiaki team, “evokes childhood memories”.
Perhaps, too, another reason for the success of Wrocławiaki lies in the way in which it makes the city’s architecture feel understandable and accessible.
Faced with the UNESCO-listed Centennial Hall – once ranked as the planet’s largest dome – it is easy to feel a little overwhelmed. Almost dehumanising in its size and scale, seeing it in miniature allows for a digestible new appreciation of its intricately stacked layers.
Impressive as this is, there can be no summary of Wrocław’s architecture without visiting the buildings that came to define the post-communist years.
Symbolic of the period, we are treated to spectacular recreations of both its residential and commercial structures. Expressing the untamed excitement of the decade, we see the unpredictably wild form of Wojciech Jarząbek’s 1996 apartment block (a winner of a competition held that year to find the city’s Most Beautiful Building), as well as Edward Lach’s wacky multi-storey car park.
Of course, there is also the Solpol department store, a controversial carbuncle whose distinctive colours and jarring geometry made it the subject of love-hate discussion.
“At the beginning we were taken aback by its colours and shape,” say the team, “but in the end we came to love it. In fact, the debate about its touted demolition is what actually prompted us to create our social media account in the first place – but even though we dreamed of preventing its destruction, that went ahead anyway.”
But if they failed to thwart the dismantling of Solpol, the Wrocławiaki squad have at least helped cast a new perspective on the city’s patchwork of buildings.
“We have tried to show some of the classics that everyone knows,” they say, “but it was more important for us to present the buildings that have gone under-the-radar. We firmly believe that one of Wrocław’s strongest assets is its mix of styles and cultures, and we hope we’ve conveyed that through our graphics.”
Despite all four now studying in different cities – and the challenges that this has generated – their project has given a fresh and unexpected prism through which to view the city’s contrasts and contradictions.
To see more of the gorgeous illustrations click here: https://www.instagram.com/wroclawiaki/?utm_source=ig_embed&ig_rid=eda26692-529d-48d5-b5d7-ebda957adb3e