Lately, more or less all of us have contemplated the idea of making an escape. But getting away from it all generally also involves returning to it all. Classical music enthusiasts know this, with the theme of a fugue, say, undergoing all sorts of different twists, turns, and convolutions before it returns to the original melody. But it’s possible to find different ways to escape the grind besides the classic weekend in the country or at a spa – which always include a return home. There’s an escape that involves going somewhere else, living somewhere else, and leading a more-or-less normal life, but doing it in a windmill.
Living in a windmill doesn’t necessarily mean giving up modern comforts. Michał Kucharski worked with Tomasz Padło on developing this idea and then coordinated the project with Mateusz Piwowarski from o4 architekci. As a structure created to turn wheat into flour using wind power, the windmill in question needed an ingenious reinterpretation to properly fulfill its new residential function.
The origins of the project lie in the international competition Contemporary House 2014 – Village House. Tomasz Padło’s and Michał Kucharski’s entry was awarded first prize in Poland and, a few years later, attracted the attention of an investor from the Lublin region who owned an old windmill. The initial concept then underwent various changes to meet the needs of the client as well as to adapt to the conditions of the site and various technical aspects. The result was a full-fledged restructuring of the building to adapt it to its new use.
Besides turning the windmill into a residence, the design was intended to make the home blend into its rural setting. Like all of Eastern Europe, this architectural form is well known in the Polish tradition, with windmills once bringing their distinctive appearance to many towns and villages up to the time of the industrial revolution. Windmills were a bit like skyscrapers are in today’s cities: iconic elements that shape the skyline.
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The old windmill has taken on a new life and a new appearance thanks to the work of o4 architekci. Fortunately, though, it hasn’t lost its original expression or form. The challenge facing the architects was to meet the needs of modern life within an “obsolete” structure.
Given its previous function, the building was mainly developed vertically. Reusable elements were cleaned and restored. Reinforced concrete floor, walls, and ceiling were built in the lower section, with old beams from the original building used to create a half-timbered finish on the inside of the exterior walls. The windmill has a gable roof with a wooden truss.
The ground level is enclosed within the exterior dimensions of 21 x 21 feet (6.5 x 6.5 m), while the rooms have been created on three aboveground floors plus an additional mezzanine level. To obtain more living space, the design includes an underground section, comprising a garage, utility room, and a large entertaining area. Buried under earth, this reinforced concrete structure supports the main body of the building. A terrace has also been created that extends out from the basement. The living area is at ground level, comprising the kitchen and a reading room with large windows that overlook the garden. Upstairs are bedrooms with en suite bathrooms, and, on the mezzanine floor, a workspace with views of the surrounding fields. An opening between the upper floors made it possible to install a historic millstone inside the home.
A curiosity about the project is that the investor wanted to use old railroad sleepers as posts to fence off the property.
Location: Lublin region in Poland
First idea: Michał Kucharski, Tomasz Padło
Conceptual Project: Michał Kucharski, Mateusz Piwowarski
Building and executive project: Michał Kucharski, o4architekci Mateusz Piwowarski, Sylwia Ciesielska
Mechanical installation: Kozmik Projekt
Technical support: Arkadiusz Szałyga
Photography by Rafał Chojnacki Fotografia Architektury, courtesy of o4 architekci