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Street Furniture Gets A New Lease On Life As Art in Poland

Most small architecture interventions in cities require a well-trafficked area to actually get implemented. But the enterprising experiments of NO studio, which is a collaboration between Polish designers Magda Szwajcowska and Michal Majewski, brought attention to forgotten corners in the city of Wrocław during the Lower-Silesian Festival of Architecture. It's a reminder that good design can create demand for urban locales as well as control it.

One of the most memorable 'microinstallations,' which was created for a different festival called ARCHIBOX, was a series of bright-blue sunbeds installed on a little-used embankment staircase on the river Oder. Meanwhile, a modular, multi-use 'pavilion' called The Base was used as a gathering space and even for spontaneous parkour sessions. The BRAVE festival zone is similarly customizable; passersby can rotate the geometric forms to for a variety of uses and sit, stand or lie down on them.

Szwajcowska and Majewski's 'micro' budget ended up being a creative prompt for them, controlling the scale of their projects and helping them choose their site. They have referred to some of their projects as 'City Patch,' such as 'Waiting Space,' a staircase for the unusually shaped intersection between two streets and a social area for the top of a garage. These are spaces for which "the city or the owner has no idea/money," removing some of the pressure for the space to perform in any expected way.

"Small, temporary architecture doesn't have boundaries that normal ones have and it take much less time to go from design to realization. Additionally you can control all aspects of it and even take part in production. That is the most amazing thing," said Ms. Szwajcowska.

"Temporary ones are even better as you don't need to think about restrictions connected with the time. For example even with only cheap material you can make the project look really good. [These] days nobody really thin[k]s about building buildings that will stay for ages." Plywood saves the day here, and the pair have given it many creative finishes that add a unique look to each project.

Other ideas that the duo hope to implement at future urban festivals include a vertical museum of street art that could be built inside a chimney or silo and a platform built above parking spaces that reclaims them as public space for pedestrians without eliminating the parking. Szwajcowska and Majewski hope to collaborate with more architecture festivals in the future.

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