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Assoc. Prof. Jarosław Szewczyk, PhD, DSc, Eng. of Architecture: “The wooden architecture of the future will be shaped by architects from Bialystok University of Technology”.

30-11-2021
Prof. Jarosław Szewczyk

A team of students from the Faculty of Architecture at Bialystok University of Technology designed a temporary exhibition of Podlaskie Province – Xylopolis as the part of a World Expo 2020 in Dubai. It is based on the symbolism of the tree. The architecture students from Bialystok explore the secrets of contemporary wooden building design. “They understand the need of the times and it is they who will shape the architecture of the future,” says Assoc. Prof., PhD, DSc, Eng., from the Unit for Urban and Spatial Planning at the Faculty of Architecture of Bialystok University of Technology.

The tree is a universal symbol

– The idea of presenting the Podlaskie Province with three trees is to create symbols that are universal, recognisable, up-to-date and which will be even more up-to-date when the exhibition in Dubai takes place,” says Assoc. Prof., PhD, DSc, Eng. from the Unit for Urban and Spatial Planning at the Faculty of Architecture of Bialystok University of Technology.

A researcher in the field of wooden architecture shares with us his thoughts on the work of the students of the Faculty of Architecture of Bialystok University of Technology on the project of a temporary exhibition of the Podlaskie Province, but also presents a handful of reflections on the future of wooden architecture and the role that graduates of Bialystok University of Technology can play in shaping the urban planning of 21st century cities.

“The design of the Xylopolis temporary exhibition is great aesthetically and obvious ideologically with reference to the idea and aesthetics of the tree and wood,” says Assoc. Prof. Szewczyk, PhD. DSc, Eng. – This project addresses the needs of the coming times. The students of the Faculty of Architecture of Białystok University of Technology, who win international design competitions, were fully prepared to present in Dubai what they have the best. We are proud of our students.

Assoc. Prof. Szewczyk, PhD. DSc, Eng. emphasizes the universalism of using the tree as a leading symbol of Xylopolis.

– The tree is recognizable – says the architect. – The trees are huge. A year and a half ago, the whole world was talking about the forest fires in Australia. More and more people will talk about forests, about trees, about wood as a building material. We are entering a period in which modernity is associated with wood, and pointing to wood and the tree as a symbol is an introduction to new times, to new ideas and will perfectly allow foreigners to associate our region with ecology, nature, modernity and people full of enthusiasm.

The tree has a positive association

We need clear associations of the Podlaskie Province, and the range of associations with which we want to be identified must be positive. These must be positive, optimistic messages. We live in a world in which there are more and more problems – health problems, environmental ones, and in other dimensions. Therefore, the use of Expo 2020 in Dubai to give Podlaskie Province such an atmosphere of ideas and associations is an incentive for all those who want to have any business, tourist or emotional contact with our region, an incentive to want to stay with us for longer. We want businessmen, investors, specialists in digital technology, information, media and all those who will shape the vision of the future of our whole world to be with us for a long time.

Jarosław Szewczyk humbly gives priority to nature in relation to most of the buildings designed by architects.

– An architect can be proud if he can boast of completed projects of buildings that have several floors and which are a place, a symbol and a carrier of ideas in the city centre – says Assoc. Prof. Szewczyk, PhD. DSc, Eng. – But please note that in case of these several-storey buildings, with fifteen floors it is about 45 meters. And what height are the tallest trees on the Earth, and even the tallest trees in Poland? 60–meter spruces and hemlock-spruces planted few decades ago in the south of Poland – they are 60-65 meters tall, and the tallest trees reach 110 or 111 meters. Therefore, even if the architect does not realize it, he/she will always have a complex of wildlife and a complex of trees and a complex of nature that is stronger, often more beautiful, but on the other hand, trees and wood give us a building material that carries previously unknown possibilities. Because we are talking about glued timber and cross laminated timber (CLT).

Wood as a new material and an inspiration

These new types of building materials give the possibility of creating any form, interestingly, resistant to fire. And for ten, maybe twelve years, cross-laminated timber buildings have pushed architecture on a whole new path and have given architects a whole new set of possibilities, tools and inspiration. The best architects, in addition to designing with CLT, also draw inspiration from ancient historical techniques and building structures. The combination of new wood-based and wood materials, new technology and the entire legacy of the use of wood for several thousand years of civilization from different countries, create new possibilities and new horizons for the development of architecture.

Wooden cities – a vision of the future

From historical reports we know that formerly the cities in Poland were wooden. They were famous for their flammability, they were unstable. Houses, and in fact entire districts, were destroyed by fires.

– Today we are discussing again the possibility of building wooden cities, but in new technologies, with new security, new forms – says Assoc. Prof. Jarosław Szewczyk, PhD, DSc, Eng. – We are talking about high cities, with high and high-rise buildings.  A few years ago, a book of several hundred pages was published, first in German, then in English, “Handbook for the design of high-rise wooden buildings”. If there are technical manuals for building such constructions, if we have materials, if we have technologies, and we are also beginning to have legal regulations in many countries allowing such construction, if we are discussing ecology, and wooden construction is included in this ecological thinking for several reasons, then what prevents the current, even a little utopian discussions in the media and among architects, at exhibitions, competitions and during lectures and academic lectures, so that these ideas can be materialized? Sometimes you need a little bit of funding, sponsorship, but people willing to sponsor new, great, supporting ideas are already there. We already have the first such attempts to mariage sponsors, large companies and architects designing super high wood structures in the UK and Japan.

Students of the Faculty of Architecture of Bialystok University of Technology give us a chance to develop wooden architecture

For several years now, a large number of the students of the Faculty of Architecture of Bialystok University of Technology have been studying two university courses. In addition, a large number of students move to another country for a year or six months under the Erasmus + programme.

– It is fascinating that these people, with incredible motivation, studying several courses at once, traveling around the world and really good at design, are able to get enthralled with modern wooden constructions, understand the ideas, understand the need of the times and they are the ones to shape the architecture of the future – emphasizes Assoc. Prof. Szewczyk PhD, DSc, Eng – I think it will be architects from Białystok.

Assoc. Prof. Jarosław Szewczyk, PhD, DSc, Eng. of Architecture

  • graduated from the Faculty of Architecture of Bialystok University of Technology in 1996
  • graduated from Warsaw University of Technology in 2006 (the doctoral dissertation: “The role of computer techniques in the valorization and revitalization of regional architecture, in the example of selected villages in the Podlaskie Voivodeship”, under the supervision of Prof. Stefan Wrona, PhD, DSc, Eng. of Architecture,
  • habilitation awarded in 2012 at Warsaw University of Technology.

Scientifically passionate about:

  • regional and indigenous architecture (vernacular);
  • wooden constructions, clay constructions, untypical materials and ways of building;
  • gardening art, landscape architecture, rural settlements;
  • “the culture of fire”: stove manufacturing, folk stove construction.