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Outgoings back @uni.li: Krakow

For his internship abroad, Johannes Peter Steidl, a student attending the Master’s programme in Architecture, found the “Wild East” an attractive option. A former classmate told him about the successful and experimental architecture firm BudCud in Krakow, which is also part of the Awangarda jutra? project.

For his internship abroad, Johannes Peter Steidl, a student attending the Master’s programme in Architecture, found the “Wild East” an attractive option. A former classmate told him about the successful and experimental architecture firm BudCud in Krakow, which is also part of the Awangarda jutra? project.


Why did you choose Krakow and this particular architecture firm for your semester abroad?

I originally planned to go to Amsterdam or Copenhagen – in other words, the key cities in terms of architecture. But something appealed to me about the former Eastern Bloc, or “Wild East”. I grew up in Oberpfalz, Germany, near the Czech border. Even now, 25 years after the fall of the Iron Curtain and the break-up of the Eastern Bloc, this border, which is also a kind of linguistic and cultural barrier, still haunts our collective memory. I therefore focused on cities in Germany’s neighbouring countries, the Czech Republic and Poland. I eventually opted for Krakow, after I had read an absolutely fascinating report written by a former Erasmus student about this great city.

But I first had to find a suitable firm specializing in architecture and urban planning. A former classmate of mine from Danzig suggested BudCud – a young, successful and experimental firm that is part of the Awangarda jutra? (the avant-garde of tomorrow) architectural project. We mostly communicated in English, although some German and Polish words and expressions were used in the office.
www.budcud.org



The Arka Pana – the building of this church caused a great deal of bloodshed.





















How did you prepare for your professional experience abroad? 

Obviously all the paperwork had to be taken care of, but that was actually relatively straightforward. Looking for a flat was also quite easy as the housing market has plenty to offer, so it does not take very long to get a lovely apartment in an old building in the heart of the city or ideally between Kazimerz, with its great nightlife, and the northern part of Krakow’s old town. So I only stayed in a hostel for less than a week before moving straight into a flat.


What did you look forward to the most? What was the greatest challenge?


On the one hand, the city and its people and simply the different culture, and on the other hand, the interesting projects at BudCud. I had the opportunity to design public spaces in Warsaw, to take part in a competition for social housing in Breslau and to help develop regeneration concepts for parks covering an area of up to 9.4 hectares. The cold weather and the smog were probably the biggest challenges. At first we did not have any conventional heating in the office (electrical and gas furnaces were installed later), which meant it was sometimes so cold that you could see your breath, and we really had to wrap up warm. Looking back, however, even this was a valuable experience.



The Hotel Forum on the Vistula – a remnant of brutalism.


The smog – caused by domestic furnaces burning wood, coal or, in the worst cases, household rubbish – gave the city a greyish atmosphere and a burning smell. The water was also heavily chlorinated, which meant it had to be filtered or boiled. Things like this make you realize the luxuries we enjoy here – clean water, fresh air and well-heated indoor spaces – everyday things that we take for granted and no longer even consider valuable commodities.


How were you received by the firm, and how did they support you in your work?

I was made to feel very welcome at BudCud, and I was therefore quickly able to fit in and feel like a fully-fledged member of the office team. I was able to work independently, develop my own ideas and discuss them and make decisions together with the team. Looking at the results, the collaboration was definitely very productive and also enjoyable. I also picked up lots of tips on day-to-day life and suggestions for excursions in and around Krakow, which gave me a completely different insight into Polish culture.

 


The postmodern monastery – an icon of Polish architecture.





















What was the best part? What can you take with you from this time abroad that can help you personally or with your studies?


Besides the projects at BudCud, the thing I liked best was the city’s vibrant atmosphere. The fact that there are many students and plenty of small bars and affordable restaurants means you very quickly feel at home in Krakow. 
I am therefore really pleased I made this step into unknown territory and got to know a new country. Crossing the psychological barrier left by the Iron Curtain has massively broadened my horizons.


You published the blog Ab nach Krakau (Off to Krakow) during your internship abroad. What was it about and what sort of reception did it get?

It was about daily life in Krakow as well as the local architecture – simply things you come across every day. The blog statistics showed me how many daily visits my blog had received. On average, it received 20–30 daily visitors, and there were three to four peaks when it received up to 80 daily visitors.




krakau.auslandsblog.de/


My former professor from the Ostbayerische Technische Hochschule Regensburg came across the blog while he was searching for architecture worth seeing in Krakow, which allowed him to pick some interesting sites and get in touch with me. Feedback like that is obviously very pleasing and makes writing regular posts worthwhile.


Following your professional experience abroad, you are now completing your Master’s degree. Do you already have plans for the future?


Completing a Master’s degree is obviously a key milestone in one’s life as it usually represents the intersection where education and professional life meet. Even though I am not yet sure exactly what I want to do next, I know I would like to dedicate myself to preserving the attractiveness of living in rural areas. Sustainable urban planning reduces the pressure on the housing market in big cities and helps combat the extinction of town centres in rural areas. 





Johannes Peter Steidl

– Home country: Germany
– Degree programme: Master of Science in Architecture (Sustainable Urban Design)
– Semester: fifth and final semester
– Resident of: Vaduz

Internship abroad
– Country: Poland
– Selected firm: BudCud
– Number of semesters: one
– Type of accommodation: own flat