People and spaces create the essence of a city. Architecture, unusual places and objects, strange nooks, well-known paths, emotions, and memories. In our cycle PURO Q&A we ask those who inspire us about their ways of creating and experiencing cities. Artists, designers, and creators of the contemporary urban world.
The first chosen one is Franciszek Sterczewski*, an architect and animator of the social and artistic tissue of the city. With his body and soul between Poznan and Warsaw.
The way I experience the city is…
Conscious. I pay attention to the width of streets, the number of green areas, the height of buildings, and the quality of architecture. I examine the extent to which space is user-friendly. I also tend to experience cities more instinctively. It’s because every city has its distinctive scent, appearance, and texture of a surface. Namely, the whole range of characteristics and impressions that stand for its individuality. I wonder whether a city fulfills its role of a frame for all life in it.
When I feel like meeting people…
and I’m in Poznań I go to Kisielice, Meskalina, Dragon, or Winiarnia Pod Czarnym Kotem. When I happen to be in Warsaw I visit Plan B or barstudio. I am aware these are the main tourist places, but we need to have places in every city where we can accidentally, at any time, meet someone we know.
When I want to relax…
I’m biking. To the places I haven’t seen before. It’s a perfect way to get anywhere in a relatively short time; additionally, while on a bike saddle a city can be viewed in its minutest detail. If I happen to find some interesting places on my way (a park in summer, a café in winter), I stop, sit, and look at other people. I observe their behaviors: are they conversing? are they quarreling? are they rushing somewhere? An amazing city theater with a café’s window or a bench in a park playing the role of a spectator.
The surprising thing is that this year I’ve been rediscovering cities I already know. In the summer I went to the Architecture Biennale in Venice, the city I visited four years earlier. The city so unreal, as if taken from a dream. At times wild, overwhelmingly full of tourists and schlock souvenirs, Venice changes to a calm(no cars), mysterious, and orientally beautiful place the moment we enter a side street. The possibilities of taking a postcard photo are limitless. Once, when I got lost in the maze of streets and canals, I encountered a square surrounded by old buildings and a simple, late Gothic church. I was observing the elderly hiding under trees from the sun and children playing football. The most unusual thing was the fact that the gate of the church played the role of a goal. It seemed that a vicar would suddenly open the gate from the inside and save a penalty kick just like that.
A month ago, on the other hand, I went to the Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven – the city I got familiar with 15 years ago on a school exchange. Now, I was capable of seeing it in a new, more mature way. But that’s the material for another story… ☺
Nevertheless, I will surely come back to both Venice and Eindhoven! Even though my plan for next year is to discover cities I haven’t seen yet. Copenhagen is a sure thing, Istanbul - that would be a dream come true.
Poznań – my hometown. I associate it not only with my mother’s cuisine but also with pork chops; and it is common knowledge that the best pork chops in the solar system are being served at 7 Szkolna street, in the “Tylko u Nas” restaurant. Filip Springer once described this culinary work of art as “enormous like a lumberjack’s hand, thick, and succulent. Hiding the mixture of eggs, cheese, parsley and ‘pure goodness’ under a crisp and ideally browned coating.” Undoubtedly, this pork chop is the reason why Poznań is worth being visited.
Besides, Poznań has become abundant in coffee shops over the last few years. Among the places to sit and sip a cup of excellent coffee are Kawiarnia Stragan, Taczaka 20, La Ruina, or Piece of Cake. And if anybody prefers a coffee-to-go, a perfect place would be the Bigfoot Coffee Shop. For those on bikes, I’d advise checking out the Bike Café. Coffee for pilots and divers is in preparation ;)
Warsaw’s menu is slightly more diverse. Not only are there milk bars such as ‘Bar Bambino’ or the fashionable ‘Prasowy’ bar, but also places serving Asian cuisine – the Wietnamese ‘Au Lec’ on Chmielna street or the ‘To Tu’ restaurant on Niekłańska street with their Chinese dumplings that always satisfy my hunger. Pasta aficionados will find their ‘heaven on Earth’ in the AÏOLI canteen or in the ‘Socjal’ restaurant. Additionally, Warsaw boasts a wide range of lunch offers. It’s a pleasure to eat in the ‘Kafe Zielony Niedźwiedź’ restaurant (the restaurant of the year 2014 according to the capital newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza) a two course lunch with a dessert for 20 zlotych only, a price students can afford.
When it comes to coffee, Warsaw is no worse. Apart from those well-known and popular coffee shops, namely ‘Café Relaks’, ‘Café Filtry’, or ‘Wrzenie Świata’, it’s delightful to see the openings of new places like ‘Forum’ or the recent Café Stor with a perfect view of Tamka street. .
Things I always keep in my backpack are…
A black sketchbook to write down everything worth remembering or sketch sloppy drawings. Next, there is my camera, laptop and a book. The last one was Beata Chomątowska’s book entitled “Prawdziwych przyjaciół poznaje się w Bredzie” (published in Polish only). It’s living proof of Bo Diddley’s lyrics: ‘You can’t judge a book by the cover’.
*Franciszek Sterczewski - an architect and graphic artist. The animator of various city events such as “Piknik na Placu Wolności”, the “Pstryk” action, “Pogrzeb Zimy”, or “Kino Grunwald”, which doesn’t really have a tourist function, but are more of a commentary on the state of the city’s social and architectural tissue. The co-organizer of “Otwarte” - the cycle of debates on themes related to a city. Nominated for the Man of the Year 2012 award by Głos Wielkopolski (a major newspaper of the Wielkopolska region). If you want to know what is going on in Poznań or Warsaw, just look at Franek's FB!
photo: portraits of Franciszek by Magdalena Gołda; photos of Eindhoven and Venice by Franciszek Sterczewski