We are here to challenge
Dominika claims that if she had not become a designer, she would be a chef. Paweł, when he doesn’t design, he travels (though he would have preferred the opposite). Together they form the Buck Studio – and they know everything about how to design to make it… tasty..
By Dorota Stępniak
Photos: Bartek Barczyk
DOROTA STĘPNIAK: Is everything in your life designed?
DOMINIKA BUCK: Absolutely not! However, I don’t mean that designing life is bad, because it is important to have dreams, to have a plan and to know what you want to do. However, I think that spontaneity and openness to what life brings, are equally important.
PAWEŁ BUCK: I agree – although our projects are implemented very consistently according to the plan. But life is not, and the space we spend time in – isn’t either.
So what are your private spaces?
DB: They are the result of what Paweł always iterates about the design of private interiors…
PB: Space is the background for the user.
DB: When someone asks us if we would arrange the interior of an apartment or a house, we usually reply, that private space should be functional, but its appearance should have the character of a person, who lives there. We treat our places the same way, whether private or work spaces. At the beginning there is always a simple functional space build with natural, unfussy materials.
PB: Such base – functionally adapted to our lifestyle and work over time, overgrows with things we personally like, bring and collect. Not objects that are supposed to look pretty, only things that make us happy and inspire us.
Should an investor also identify with the interior?
DB: Of course! The investor must first and for most identify with the place, really feel it and understand. Obviously, it is always a challenge to adapt the concept to the personality of the investor, not to force somebody to accept something s/he doesn’t want. We are not interested in designing for the design itself: to create fancy visualizations, to use the most fashionable materials and furniture, to take part in a grand opening, to take nice photos, to show them off on Instagram and in six months see how the project turned out to be a nice shell that went bankrupt.
“We are not interested in designing for the design itself: to create fancy visualizations, to use the most fashionable materials and furniture, to take part in a grand opening, to take nice photos, to show them off on Instagram and in six months see how the project turned out to be a nice shell that went bankrupt”.
How do you work on your projects?
PB: A good example is the Argentinean restaurant Campo, which we designed in Wrocław – for us, the most important, except the above-imposed gastronomic profile which was steak-house, was the fact that in the project was involved Dieter Meier, musician from the band Yello, a Swiss, who went to Argentina and started to breed cows there. We tortured him and his associated with questions about Argentina, the farm, and his lifestyle. Thanks to this, the South American atmosphere has become more authentic for us, because it was described from the perspective of the person who actually lives there. And we’ve transferred this spirit into the project and how it functions not only in terms of the interior, but above all atmosphere and service…
DB: Another great example is Nanan in the Wrocław Old Town… A pastry shop famous for its extremely refined offer that is simply delicious, great-looking cakes. It was very important for us to put them in the center of attention so we new that the place itself should be minimalist. Which, of course, is a challenge because minimalism can be difficult in reception especially if we wanted the whole thing to be a cozy, dreamy landscape. Also the place is small so the acoustics were very important. When Paweł found – searching for references to the project – acoustics screens, we decided that all walls would be soft, plush and… pink – what was a quite controversial solution at the time because nobody had heard of the millennial pink yet Pantone announced pink to be color of the year a few months later.
PD: Apart from the fact that we had to persuade the investors to pink, it was very important to us how the customers would feel at this place. The shop has a long, free standing counter – an island that can be walked round from each side, looking at cakes and the shop assistant stands by and…
DB: …advises, describes tastes. What is more like attending a sweet, decadent feast than waiting in a queue to buy take-out cakes.
Such seemingly insignificant things have great importance to you?
DB: We believe that originality begins where comparisons end. I think we are known for that we are able to persuade investors and contractors to adopt non-standard and untypical solutions, and thus also above-average commitment. We believe that energy and time devoted to it are coming back. The key to the distinctive commercial interiors is consistently implemented concept, which is also manifested in a number of individually designed and made elements that are actually dedicated to the given project. The role is played by the furniture and lighting we design, made individually by local producers or craftsmen.
How do you persuade investors to your ideas?
DB: I think we have passion we can infect, and good portfolio (laugh). And seriously, we have a strong conviction that investors trusts us not only because we have experience and we can propose solutions with a twinkle in the eye. I think that this is mainly due to the fact that at the core of our projects there are not the latest trends or that we like something at that very moment, but the fact that everything we design and propose to investors always has a solid justification in the whole concept of the place.
For me research and solid preparation for each project is also extremely important. Paweł always laughs that I collect a million useless information when I am looking for one. But this is what I understand by research – it doesn’t last 15 minutes and it isn’t about preparing one board on Pinterest, but it is about searching for traces, sometimes distant ones, that finally build the concept.
PB: We always say that if we don’t believe that the project will succeed, we simply don’t take the job. We’ve learned that if we feel at the very beginning that cooperation with a given person might not be good, we don’t decide on this cooperation. This is often happening at the stage when we explain to clients that good things take time and that one must not only have, but above all, be able to wisely spend money. The project won’t take a week to built, because somebody has spontaneously decided to open a restaurant and spend a large sum on it. Designing is a process that takes time.
“Good things take time and one must not only have, but above all, be able to wisely spend money. The project won’t take a week to built, because somebody has spontaneously decided to open a restaurant and spend a large sum on it. Designing is a process that takes time”.
DB: And designing public spaces for gastronomy or retail is in fact designing a business. It requires, above all, a strategy and very good planning.
And what is your key when choosing coworkers to implement your projects?/strong>
DB: We managed to gathered great people who already know us and know how we work and that we are sticklers for detail. If something goes not as we wish, we will try until we succeed. We respect real craftsmen and people who work at the interception of manual talent and technical knowledge, because the quality of our interior designs depends on them.
Are you happy to leave computer work for the work of your own hands?
DB: Both, Paweł and I are from this generation – although I don’t want it to sound as if we were that old – where at the university was cultivated drawing by hand, and in some classes it was even forbidden to use a computer. When we consult our work between us or we work with our team, we explain a lot with drawings. What is more, we try to train our team so that not everything is drawn on the computer.
PB: Though it can be difficult. That’s why we are all equipped with sketchbooks, which lie on desks. There is also our favorite obligatory fine-tip pen – Uni Pin 0,3.
Together: 0.4 doesn’t work. (laugh)
I see that you complement each other perfectly …
DB: We always design together and together we also generate the atmosphere and work culture of our studio.
PB: We even answer emails together. (laugh)
DB: We met at Wrocław Technical University where Paweł was starting his PhD and I was in the fifth year of architecture studies. From the beginning, we understood each other perfectly, although we are completely different. Our tastes and perspectives differ, but we have similar sensibility. By the way, it’s interesting to observe how during these 11 years, I have adopted Paweł’s various features, and Paweł mine. At first I was very enthusiastic, Paweł was worried for both of us. Now, he is letting go and I am more dutiful. Paweł also has a “focus”, that I always admire in him, to be consistent – so that everything should be logical, to stick to the concept. I, however, sometimes like to drift away.
PB: I have certainly learned to let go. But we are still complementing each another with different features and I think it probably wouldn’t work out otherwise.
Did you know from the beginning that you want to “specialize” in designing for gastronomy?
DB: Very quickly, because after a year of working together we understood that we want to deal with gastronomy. Travel, table culture and food are very close to our personal interests and passions, so it was quite a natural choice. I also had experience working in an international advertising company, in the strategy department. I left there with a strong conviction that the marketing tools I have learned to use there can be of great use in architectural design. Paweł, in turn, after few years of experience working in a large practice in Wrocław, missed own smaller-scale projects and work on detail.
You also studied in Great Britain, in the famous Saint Martins Collage.
DB: Yes, during my studies at the Wrocław Technical University I had a gap year, I went to London. Two years of studying architecture in Poland had exhausted me. On the one hand, I lacked freedom and creative energy, and on the other hand, I felt that these studies should teach observation of the world, analysis and thinking, and not only sketching successive forms. I still feel and think more as a designer than an engineer and architect. Paweł, too. We both have a problem with architecture universities in Poland – on the one hand they sell the cult of starchitects, “demiurges” with exaggerated egos, who uncompromisingly implement their spectacular visions; and on the other, there is simply an engineer, a craftsman designing single-family houses to the catalogue. I couldn’t find myself in that dichotomy, so I went to London and I started attending courses in criticism and art exhibitions design at the Central Saint Martins. It was great for me because it perfectly taught analysis and research and the atmosphere at the university itself was very inspiring. I also met great people there, including my friend, who at the same time graduated from the iconic London Architectural Association School of Architecture. Thanks to this I got to know the environment of the school. It also changed me. I came back to Poland with the decision that I would adapt my studies to my needs and not the other way round, which ended with a diploma with SARP distinction, defended at my home university for a …D (laugh).
“We both have a problem with architecture universities in Poland – on the one hand they sell the cult of starchitects, ‘demiurges’ with exaggerated egos, who uncompromisingly implement their spectacular visions; and on the other, there is simply an engineer, a craftsman designing single-family houses to the catalogue”.
I understand that architectural studies in Poland are far from perfect. And what about the practice itself?
DB: I think that it is generally getting better, although we still often meet with the fact that Poles consider an architect a necessary evil. Particularly in the case of small-scale projects – that is, the one who has the most impact on the landscape of our country – renovations of buildings façades, designing single-family houses, small multiuse buildings, shops or public interiors, where the model “DIY” or “my house, my rules” still prevails.
PB: Although, it has been changing for a couple of years, and in my opinion, Poles are becoming increasingly more aware of the benefits of working with an architect. I think that is because there was a new generation of investors appeared – those raised after 1989, who expect architects above all to be competent and creative, and not just obtain a building permit.
DB: In my opinion, this is due to the fact that in Poland there is currently certain snobbery for “having” an architect. We were saturated with goods accessible at hand and we started to need something more, than is tailor-made products and items, original and customized to individual needs. This category includes hiring an architect.
What problems have you encountered?
PB: An architect’s profession is a huge responsibility, it involves a lot stress. That is why we decided to deal with interiors; we felt that designing buildings from scratch is not a lifestyle for our characters and sensitivity. At each stage you have to fight, prove yourself, because each thing in the project can be undermined.
DB: Another important issue is the fact that architects in Poland don’t receive remuneration adequate to the amount of work and scale of responsibility. Unfortunately, It brings out various pathologies, connected with, for example, how architects decide on the selection of materials for their projects.
We often have to explain to clients that our services cost relatively more because we want to receive remuneration adequate to our knowledge, experience and commitment. In implementing a project we never decide on materials or other elements because of the benefits that are offered to us.
“Architects in Poland don’t receive remuneration adequate to the amount of work and scale of responsibility. Unfortunately, It brings out various pathologies, connected with, for example, how architects decide on the selection of materials for their projects”.
What else have you learned through all these years of work?
DB: I think, respect for our own time. This is incredibly important, because the lack of discipline in guarding the designated working hours – especially when your work is your passion – is a trap. Most people who run their own business fall into it.
Do you feel appreciated in Poland?
DB: I don’t think we need appreciation that much. The greatest appreciation for us is that our projects are successful and that they thrive. We are happy that Campo has constant overbooking; Nanan sells more cakes every month, and in Dinette queues for breakfast are getting longer (laugh). And it is also great that people from around the world, thanks to our projects, learn that there is a city like Wrocław.
PB: Every day we are happy that although we finish work on a given project, then we still keep an eye on its image and cohesion. For example, constantly working on the next elements of visual identity, or participating in new menu tasting and making sure that its evolution is consistent with the concept that we came up with.
DB: But I must admit that generally we have more inquiries about publications and projects from abroad. And that we are better known to agencies dealing with trends from London or New York than from Poland. We are very pleased with all foreign stories and phones calls from which blood circulates faster when representatives of large global brands call us with a question if we can come to a meeting i.e. in Paris because they are interested in working with us.
And you are supposedly moving to Warsaw!
DB: I have been living in Warsaw for a year. I also lived here a dozen or so years ago. I really like this city and I’ve always felt great here. For a long time we’ve also had a need to get closer to the capital, because it turned out that there is much more going on here. Regardless, Wrocław will always remain close to us because we appreciate very much that starting in a relatively small city, with the need to do something that will make the world around work a little better, we managed to implement so many projects and make a big jump ahead of us.
How do you see your future?
DB: Moving the entire studio to the capital would probably be madness, so we think more of it as “budding”, not in the case of Warsaw, but in many different places. We are also designing more and more usable products – furniture and lamps, and this does not require us to be constantly in one place.
PB: Although I will admit that while it gives us much satisfaction, it is also very difficult. For sure, it is a challenge for us, no less than interior design. I cannot quite understand it myself: how is it that one day someone comes up with an idea for an armchair like that. We design useful objects that respond to a specific project need embedded in situ. Dinette lacked a bar stool matching the concept and that’s why we designed a series of FINN stools for the Polish furniture manufacturer Fameg that, by the way, turned out to be quite a sales success, hence, it responded not only to our needs. (laugh)
DB: Yes, we definitely need challenges because we are here to challenge. When we do not face the necessity of doing something differently, from the beginning, better, when we do not have to overcome any obstacles, we start to get bored. Besides, what fun is it to deal with something that someone has done before?