Electronic Journal of Polish Agricultural Universities (EJPAU) founded by all Polish Agriculture Universities presents original papers and review articles relevant to all aspects of agricultural sciences. It is target for persons working both in science and industry,regulatory agencies or teaching in agricultural sector. Covered by IFIS Publishing (Food Science and Technology Abstracts), ELSEVIER Science - Food Science and Technology Program, CAS USA (Chemical Abstracts), CABI Publishing UK and ALPSP (Association of Learned and Professional Society Publisher - full membership). Presented in the Master List of Thomson ISI.
Volume 20
Issue 1
Environmental Development
DOI:10.30825/5.ejpau.19.2017.20.1, EJPAU 20(1), #01.
Available Online: http://www.ejpau.media.pl/volume20/issue1/art-01.html


Renata Gubańska, Janusz Gubański
Institute of Landscape Architecture, Wroc³aw University of Environmental and Life Sciences, Poland



For many decades, the countryside of Greater Poland (Wielkopolska) has been composed not only of peasant farmsteads and charming little churches, but also impressive mansions with economic facilities. Residential buildings of former farm employees make a part of such manor and farm complexes and are characteristic features distinguishing the villages in Greater Poland. It is due to their specific location in the rural landscape and architecture that is simple, but unique in its expression.

Residential buildings along with small economic facilities assigned to them, arranged parallel to the road or grouped around separate courtyards, have formed and continue to create one-of-a-kind residential colonies. The post-war period and, above all, the subsequent ownership changes have contributed to degradation of those complexes. In the recent times, all kinds of renewal and renovation works turned out dangerous for those buildings because they show conservation ignorance and more or less conscious ignoring of the conservation rules by the renovation crews. For this reason, it is important to raise awareness among the residents of such establishments and show them that it is possible to adapt the historical residential complexes to modern needs and expectations of users whilst respecting the historical value.

In this article, we use an example of a complex in Chwałkowo, situated in the Gostyń District in Greater Poland Province, to show that a neglected common space may be made attractive to all inhabitants.

Key words: design concept, positive conversion, restoration, rural landscape.


For centuries, the residential and farm complexes have appeared in the rural landscape of Greater Poland. These establishments were composed of the presentable part, serving the function of land owner's residential premises and surrounding garden or park as well as typically economic part, serving inventory-storage, and frequently industrial function, directly related to processing of manufactured products (e.g. breweries, distilleries, sugar refineries, etc.). Very often, simple houses of farm workers were built within the boundaries of these complexes, or in the immediate vicinity [1, 2, 4]. Most frequently, they were situated along the road leading to the farm on one or two sides. Sometimes, they were gathered around a separate housing courtyard. Still, they always formed a colony of worker houses.

These buildings were given simple, uncomplicated shapes and were mostly founded on rectangular layout, without basements, placed on the ground as single-storey structures, usually with gabled roof. Several independent dwellings were grouped under one common roof <footnote 1>. Usually, they consisted of two rooms, the so-called hall and chamber, in which the entire life of two- or three-generation family was going on. There were also dwellings with two chambers [1, 6]. In most cases, the external walls were decorated with simple but tasteful architectural details, such as cornices, decorative window and door trims or statues of saints placed in the central part of the façade, at the top of the building or in the corner of the walls.

These homesteads were erected in a similar, and sometimes even in the same architectural style. They had similar volume, façade, interior arrangement, and even arrangement of the immediate surroundings. In their neighborhood, there were not large facilities performing the economic functions, the so-called “storerooms” that were always located at the back of the residential building. We can talk about a standard layout, i.e. a line of several workers' houses with their longer façade set parallel to the road that had small economic facilities at the back <footnote 2>. Depending on the locality, such arrangements can be found on one or both sides of the road. It also happened that the groups of residential buildings and economic facilities for farm workers were located around separate courtyards of various shapes. In this way, small residential colonies were established, which also formed components of the residential and farm complexes.

In today's rural landscape of villages in Greater Poland, the residential complexes of former farm workers make extremely valuable and unique cultural elements, because of the spatial composition and characteristic, repeatable architecture. For this reason, they should be protected, and any renewal and renovation work should be carried out in accordance with the good conservation practice. The point is not to deprive them of their unique appearance. They should continue to provide exceptional value to the village in which they appear.

Unfortunately, the state of conservation in this group of buildings is diversified. The ones that stand out due to their good condition, usually as a result of conducted repair or renewal work, have undergone significant alterations. In turn, those that have retained their original appearance are generally in poor condition. Therefore, in this article we will present a concept to manage a selected housing courtyard to show you that it is possible to adapt historical space to contemporary needs of users, whilst respecting its historical value.


We selected an area in the village Chwałkowo to develop a design concept that is an example how to manage a small housing courtyard. This yard, resembling a trapezium in its shape, is limited by a multifamily building from the road, a dairy that has not been used for years from the back, while its shorter sides are designated, on the one side by decaying storerooms, on the other by the rear façade of the farm buildings. These buildings are dated to the second half of the 19th century and clearly designate the boundaries of our development area. 

The methods of study and research have been in a way imposed by the specificity and character of this development. We began with finding and collecting starting materials (mainly from conservation services), in order to find out the history of the place, time of building and possible functional and spatial conversions that occurred in the facility. We have also obtained planning materials necessary to start the design work. The next stage of work consisted in making the field inspection that comprised the survey of the existing condition and basic analyses of primarily the functional division in the buildings and the area, communication, vegetation and conservation status of each element present within the boundaries of the development.

The apartment building is located in a total of 16 apartments, with 8 on each floor (ground floor and first floor). They are now inhabited by individuals and families of all ages: children, the young, adults and the elderly. With representatives of each age group were interviewed about their needs and expectations for the future development of the courtyard. Children naturally want to "coolest" playground, youth dreams of a somewhat "isolated" meeting place, while adults and older – areas of common "meeting". All participants saw the need for planting ornamental plants, and the need to improve the aesthetics of the place.

Only based on these analyses and conversations with residents, and our conclusions, we proceeded on to design the development concept of the selected place.

The purpose of this study is to show that a functionally designed common space, planned in accordance with the needs and expectations of the residents, can be attractive and usable to its users and aesthetically attractive.


Chwałkowo is located ca. 25 km to the north-east of Rawicz, by the local road linking Rogowo and Potarzyca. Gostyń, which is the district town, is situated 18 km away from Chwałkowo in the northern direction.  It is located 90 km to the south of Poznań and 93 km north of Wrocław (Fig. 1). Administratively, it belongs to the municipality of Krobia in the Greater Poland Province.

Fig. 1. The location of Chwałkowo (drawn by J. Gubański)

The multi-family residential building together with economic facilities for former farm workers was situated in the immediate vicinity of the farm, at its western side; and on the south side of the route from Rogów, coming up to the main intersection of this locality (Fig. 2, 3). 

Fig. 2. Chwałkowo, messtischblatt – the map from 1940 year (source: http://amzpbig.com/maps/4268_Pempowo_1940.jpg; downloaded: 10.06.2014)

Fig. 3. Chwałkowo, the plan of village (drawn by H. Kubicka)

An outline of the history  
The history of the residential plot of former farm workers, which has been selected for this study, is closely linked with the history of the manor and farm complex in Chwałkowo. The first historical mention of this locality dates back to 1399. Its landowners changed in different periods of history. We know that the largest expansion and modernization of the farm buildings took place during the reign of the Neugebauer family in the second half of the 19th century and majority of buildings preserved till today date back to this time. Further, the palace along with the magnificent gateway leading to the presentable part of the estate also dates back to this period. The buildings situated within the boundaries of the development also came from the second half of the 19th century [5, 8, 10]. They include a magnificent residential building (1), high annexes added to the former dairy (2) and terraced warehouse and economic spaces (3, 4) [2, 11].

After 1945, the former mansion was nationalized, becoming the property of the Polish State Treasury. A State Agricultural Enterprise was established in place of the former farm, working up to 1990s. Following the successive formal and legal transformations, since 2003, the custody over the estate has been held by the Polish Agricultural Property Agency [2, 11]. Currently, a Nursing Home is situated in the palace and in the adjacent park, while other residential and economic buildings have been partially privatized and partially still remain under the supervision of the Agricultural Property Agency.


The residential plot of the former farm workers (Fig. 4) is located in the eastern part of the village, on the western side of the farm buildings. The only entry into the development area is situated in the north-eastern corner of the plot. Its trapezium contour is closed on each side by buildings or the boundary wall. The northern boundary is designated by the massive residential building (1) of former dairy workers <footnote 3>, and now residents of the village. In contrast, the southern boundary is designated by the high wall of the former dairy, which has been abandoned for decades now (for some time, in the post-war period, it was used as milk bottling plant). Directly to that wall, in its central part, ancillary rooms were added, which are located within the boundaries of the plot, but their condition is bad. On the west, the area is enclosed by charming, but much damaged storerooms (3). In turn, from the east, the area is enclosed by powerful walls of the granary and cowshed, to which the entry is from the farm courtyard. In addition, the eastern part of the yard is divided by the second complex of storerooms (4). An old wall is the southern boundary of the separated space between the storerooms (4) and the rear walls of the post-farm buildings [3, 9].

Fig. 4. Chwałkowo, the plan of the housing plot (elaborated by S. Kupczyk)
1 – habitable building; 2 – extension to old dairy, now uninhabited house; 3, 4 – farm building

A two-storey residential building constitutes a kind of architectural dominant feature, and most certainly a functional feature (Fig. 5). It was built on the layout of an elongated rectangle of brick and covered by a high gable tiled roof. In two places, over the selected rows of windows, the façade was raised by one storey and this is the only element that adds variety to the longer façades, which are currently completely devoid of architectural details. Only the end wall displays inter-storey and crowning cornices and 6 rectangular “blends” <footnote 4>. The entire building and the immediate surroundings require restoration.

Fig. 5. Chwałkowo, the habitable building (photo: R. Gubańska, 2012)

From the side of the road, along the pavement, a line of coniferous shrubs in the form of Chinese juniper (Juniperus chinensis) has been planted in an effort to arrange vegetation. Under them, there is only grass. A bus stop has been situated directly in front of the building; therefore a waiting shelter has been placed just under the front façade.

The area within the boundaries of development, although kept clean by the residents, makes an impression of neglected and plunged in chaos. Buildings that have not been renovated for decades contribute to this state as well as use of different surfaces, such as earth, concrete slabs, fragments of asphalt and pavement slabs or concrete paving blocks. There are numerous, but accidentally erected, small temporary structures on the area, such as sheet metal garages or wooden sheds (Fig. 6). As for vegetation, there is relatively little greenery and it is completely random. It comprises small scraps of lawn, single fruit trees or small beds of ornamental plants. Self-sown plants predominate.

Fig. 6. Chwałkowo, the fragment of the housing plot (photo: R. Gubańska, 2012)

Most certainly this area requires an intervention as soon as possible to increase its attractiveness, but above all, to improve the comfort of using by the residents.


First of all, to enhance the comfort of living for the residents using the discussed plot, it is necessary to arrange the site (Fig. 7). For this reason, four main areas have been separated such as presentable, entry, parking and relaxation area <footnote 5>

Fig. 7. Chwałkowo, the concept of development of the housing plot (elaborated by S. Kupczyk)
1 – habitable building; 2, 3 – farm building; 4, 5 – garage, P – car park

The presentable area is a strip of pavement, on which there is a bus stop with street greenery. It occupies the area in front of the northern (front) façade of the residential building. This part requires the smallest interference, because it is only necessary to replace the existing waiting shelter to a newer, lighter, more aesthetic design. It is also necessary to turf the spaces devoid of vegetation under the line of Chinese juniper (Juniperus chinensis).

The entry area is situated in the only possible spot, which is the north-eastern part. Both in the past and now, the entrance to the site has been situated there. It has buildings on both sides. It was also suggested that the solid waste should be stored in this place, due to proximity of the road and thus availability to the cleaning services and the possibility to mask with vegetation.

Definitely more radical action is required to manage the eastern part of the developed area that is intended for garages and parking spaces. After removing the existing little aesthetic spaces and annexes serving garage and warehouse functions, 13 brick garages have been designed (4, 5), one for each family and 8 parking spaces (P). Throughout the entire area the surface has been replaced to hardened surface made of one material, e.g. concrete paving stones.

The biggest change will be made to the area bounded by the buildings on four sides that forms the common part for the residents and is intended for the relaxation area. Above all, the existing garage-sheds will be removed and ancillary rooms added to the building of dairy. Their removal is possible due to poor technical condition of the feature. In this way, the obtained space in the form of a trapezoid is limited by the multi-family residential building (1) on the north, by a powerful wall of the dairy (g) on the south and storerooms on the east and west (3, 4). All these buildings will undergo renovation and modernization, aimed to enhance the comfort of living for the residents and improve the aesthetic qualities (Fig. 8).

Fig. 8. Chwałkowo, chosen ground section before and after land management (elaborated by S. Kupczyk)

Due to different age groups among the residents: from children, through young people and adults to older people, the developed area requires functional differentiation. Its central part is intended for one-of-a-kind playground, equipped with gaming devices (such as swing, sandpit with cover, “twisted yard” set with ladders and slides). Its unique character is made by the shape of the surface and material used to fill it. Looking from above, the square reminds a spilt ink blot in intensive blue colour such a look is possible due to using the CushionFALL surface, available in the form of technologically softened wood chips. It is safe for children and ensures long-term use.  Symmetrically on both sides of the playground, in the immediate vicinity of the high wall of the former dairy, covered terraces were proposed to be used as a meeting place for both young people and adults. A similar function is to be served by the fireplace situated in the south-eastern corner of the plot and surrounded by the greenery. Further, it was suggested to place garden swings on both extreme sides of the wooden terraces. Hardened, straight paths lead directly to the terraces. The individual elements of the relaxation area are connected by a wavy path made of grass concrete slabs and in three places enhanced by pergolas covered with flowering creepers. The whole development is completed by properly selected composition of greenery starting from shadowy plants (right next to the dairy wall), ornamental and flowering plants, through grassy surfaces, to fruit trees, which are a kind of barrier between the relaxation area and the pedestrian circulation-driving area, which is just next to the buildings.

This design concept is to not only improve the functionality and the spatial and aesthetic qualities of the yard but also to preserve the historic virtues of the place.


The above example shows that that functionality does not preclude aesthetics and aesthetics does not preclude functionality. Both of these issues can, and even should, complement each other.

The residential plot in Chwałkowo is a small space limited on four sides by the walls of smaller (storerooms) and larger structures (residential and post-industrial building). Currently, this area is dominated by accidentally raised small buildings serving storage and economic functions, and is almost completely devoid of plantings. In addition, the building façades have not been renovated for years and surfaces are made of various, even random materials [3, 9]. As a whole, we get a picture of an area that seems to be chaotic and untidy, although the residents, as far as possible, try to keep order on their yard.

The concept to re-develop the site as presented in this article [9] shows that with little openness to changes on the part of the current users and well-chosen functional program, adapted to all age groups of potential recipients, you can develop an interesting space that completely differs from the existing one. In this proposal, the primary emphasis was placed on proper division of the developed site to areas, in order to separate necessary zones in right places, i.e. presentable, entry, parking and relaxation area and proper management of them. All work is completed by professionally selected vegetation, which is supposed to extract the best qualities of the place and make staying in the surroundings a pleasant experience.

The design work presented above shows that in the current reality a bit neglected historical space can be adapted to the contemporary needs and expectations of its users. Further, these activities enhance the aesthetic virtues of both developed site and its immediate surroundings. Therefore, they affect the perception of this particular fragment, but also have a significant positive impact on the reception of whole Chwałkowo.


  1. Very often there were 4 dwellings under one roof, hence the name in Polish ‘czworaki’. This name has been commonly adopted in the popular naming of dwellings for former farm workers, regardless of the number of flats in the building.
  2. Storerooms were composed of several terraced, small single-storey premises, built on the layout of elongated rectangle and covered by a common roof. They were distinguished by a line of repeated door openings and no windows (if any, the windows were very small).
  3. To 1945, the premises of the dairy and adjacent area (including the residential building) belonged to the manor and farm complex in Chwałkowo. For this reason, the dairy workers were also the farm workers. 
  4. Blend (German origin) is the so-called “blind” window, which is a small recess in the wall imitating the window opening. It is also an arcade in the wall, and especially at the top of the Gothic building. According to [7, p. 40].
  5. The design concept to manage the residential plot in Chwałkowo has been described on the basis of the engineer thesis by S. Kupczyk, written under the supervision of the author [9].


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  10. Mycielski J., 1902. Księga adresowa wszystkich miejscowości w W. Ks. Poznańskim [Address book all locations in Great Duchy of Posen]. Wyd.: w Komisie Księgarni Polskiej (W. Tempłowicza), Poznań. [In Polish].
  11. Panek W.M., 1987. Karty ewidencyjne zabytków architektury i budownictwa dotyczące budynków mieszkalnych nr 5 i 6 w Chwałkowie [Record cards of architectural and buildings monuments about habitable buildings (number 5, 6) in Chwałkowo]. Archiwum MNRiPRS w Szreniawie. [In Polish].

Accepted for print: 17.01.2017

Renata Gubańska
Institute of Landscape Architecture, Wroc³aw University of Environmental and Life Sciences, Poland
pl. Grunwaldzki 24a
50-363 Wroc³aw
Phone: +48 71 320 1888
email: renata.gubanska@up.wroc.pl

Janusz Gubański
Institute of Landscape Architecture, Wroc³aw University of Environmental and Life Sciences, Poland
pl. Grunwaldzki 24a
50-363 Wroc³aw
Phone: +48 71 320 1878
email: janusz.gubanski@up.wroc.pl

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