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Architecture (MA)

Wiktoria Jarosz

Wiktoria is an architectural researcher and designer who is currently based in London. Her primary interests lie in user-orientated design, particularly interventions that work alongside and support women as well as the wider communities.

She completed her BSc studies at the University of Reading in 2020 and since has been intrigued by people's psychological responses to their immediate surroundings. Fascinated by this topic, she wrote her dissertation on the unconscious use of urban spaces and how this impacts the architect's role, for which she was nominated for the RIBA President Dissertation Medal 2020. Subsequently, she has looked for ways of expanding her knowledge of user-orientated architecture by getting involved in competitions and workshops.

Working for architectural firms in London, Wiktoria has continuously been working on several projects based in Soho, where she has gained insight into the importance of sensitivity when integrating contemporary architecture within contexts of delicate and complex heritage status, as well as a vibrant, outspoken community. 

An engraved perspective ceiling plan on black paper. Tactile experience of the space.

The ACT is an idea of a city, fighting against the status quo established after the Tribunal ruling which enforced extreme barriers to accessing legal abortions in Poland.

Through the investigation of initiatives boring during the protest which utilised the back rooms of Warsaw Cafes, this project seeks to provide women with points of collaboration and artistic resistance slowly inducing a permanent change in the public sphere.

A series of 30 locations was identified for the proposed fragmented network of plazas, located at most a 5-minute walk away from each other, around the Defiled Plaza, Warsaw, in the hopes that their total summation of them can offer an alternative to the use of Warsaw Cafes as a space for women to build resistance in the city.

Each site will compose of a semi-underground urban room with a city-facing primary function, with smaller rooms dedicated to the initiatives of the women’s movement. Designed to serve the city, meeting the criteria set in Warsaw2030 Strategy, the policy will be hijacked with the proposal posing as a Trojan horse in an area of high importance and visibility. The so-called roof of the urban rooms will be a plaza, a permanent stage in the city, whereby the simple ACT of entering the intervention, defines the position one takes above the ground, above the norm imposed by the city.

The All-Poland Women’s Strike is an ongoing feminist movement which works with initiatives such as The Samaritans of the Capital City and Abortion Without Borders, to counter the repression through protest. The movement was primarily organised online with the preparation for strikes and delivery of information happening in the back rooms of affiliated establishments.

This condition as well as government rhetoric and media campaigns, has fostered misinformation and hate which has put activists and many women at risk.  The project is not a protest, it is synchronous with the needs of the urban environment and a safe location for women to regain their autonomy and dignity. 

Four images of the alternative use of Warsaw Cafes by initiatives during the days of protest.
In stages, the image shows the alternative use of cafes by initiatives which supported the protests in Warsaw.
Mapping of central Warsaw around the Defilad Plaza exploring architecture and social interactions.
This mapping of Central Warsaw looks at the current architecture and infrastructure as well as charts social interactions within the area.
Sites extracted to create a linear route through all the sites under investigation.
30 sites located at most a 5-minute walk away from each other, graphically displayed as a linear route through the city.
Mapping of Defilad Plaza, with the selected 30 locations highlighted in black
In Warsaw, the main route of the strikes concluded at the Defilad Plaza, due to its high importance and visibility in the public eye. The proposal will be located around this plaza in order to use the social and cultural significance of the area to start to shape and alter the current narrative.
Stage of building up the design of the urban rooms and the plazas
To establish a coherent language between the plots, a set of rules was devised taking into consideration the size, visibility, the needed activity in the surrounding area, the topography of the plaza and access.

Each site differs in size and visibility. The project utilises the available space on each plot and orientates itself to disrupt or alter an established desire path.

Site 01- site plan indicating the access and black cinder block plaza
Site 01
Site 13- site plan engraved onto black card with details of cinder blocks laser engraved onto the surface.
Site 13
View of the plaza- changing topography created by the vaulted ceiling inside and constructed out of black cinder blocks
Site 13The plaza will be a bold statement made from black cinder blocks, where the use can be defined by the residents of the city; The plaza can be a stage, a gallery, a playground or simply a space of transition.
Underground plan view of 6 sites indicating activity and positioning on each site.
SitesThe open-plan urban room hosts the primary function which is in sync with the needs of its surrounding. The walls are placed in accordance with the beams with this pattern only interrupted by rooms which are placed between two vaults offering a semi-private space, from which the view of the vaulted ceiling is not obscured. The rooms are not closed by a door but through the use of an additional wall shielded from direct views from the main space.
Zoomed in plan showing the inhabitation of the semi-underground urban room. Showing distinction between main space and the pods.
Site 13The extended pods mirror the back rooms of Warsaw Cafes, where protesters were allowed to gather and prepare for the impending days of protests, out of the public eye. The extended pods offer privacy for the discussion of taboo subjects or space for the supporters of the women’s cause to collate their resources.
Zoomed in view of the vaulted ceiling highlighting the geometry of the cinder blocks.
Site 21The proposal will be constructed out of slag cinder blocks which are made from several elements which can be sourced through recycling: stone rubble; broken glass or expanded clay brick; shavings; sawdust; ash; sand. Due to their composition and the fact that laying the blocks required minimal building skills, slag cinder blocks used to be made at home and were prevalent in reconstructing Poland after the war.

The urban room is constructed from a series of barrel vaults, made from slag cinder blocks, of the same dimension and paced in the same pattern, however, the surface visible to the visitors is distorted with geometrical planes creating the illusion of a diamond vault. The height of the barrel vaults changes from end to end in a sequence which manipulates the topography above.

Perspective reflected ceiling plan, highlighting the open plan layout and vaulted ceiling of the urban room.
Site 15
An engraved perspective ceiling plan on black paper. Tactile experience of the space.
Site 01
Cross section of ramp leading into the semi-underground space
Site 09The access from ground level to the urban room is through a ramp which is offset from the main visible plaza. The ramp itself is treated as a designed object which offers a journey into the underground space.
Cross section of one vault showing the change in height from end to end.
Site 01 The edges which are visible above the ground are expressed instead of vertical. By slicing the end of the vault at a diagonal and installing windows, the stacking effect of the blocks which makes the vaults, is exposed.
Cross section showing the vaulted ceiling of the urban room. The extended pod is also visible
Site 01The curvature of the external wall emphasises the horizontal surface of the plaza and the vault inside.
Open plan view of the urban room
Site 01The urban rooms give women a place to reclaim their power; The bold nature of the plazas infiltrates the city landscape; As a network, the proposed project starts to overpower the Defilad plaza, a symbol of orthodox views in the city.