Why do balconies matter?

Intensive urban densification, apartments with downsizing of apartment floor areas , extending time spent indoors are just a few factors that should make us think about how to better integrate the external space with the interior of the apartment. Also, the experience of social isolation during the pandemic has made us aware how important it is for the mental and physical condition to have an access to a private outdoor space. Balconies can potentially significantly improve the quality of a living space. Nevertheless, if they are supposed to substitute a backyard garden and limit residents moving to the suburbs, its spatial design challenges require deeper insight. The specific location of the balcony, in a private space, but visible in the public sphere, causes many tensions and may limit the freedom of use. Although the building law regulations do not require the apartment to be equipped with a balcony, the expectations of customers have made it a standard in newly built multi housing buildings. Balcony visualizations are often used as a marketing tool presenting the lifestyle of housing estates with an attractive space to relax, although in fact they also serve, for example, as utility facilities for the apartment, a playground for children, a home workshop. Despite the growing interest in private outdoor spaces, the characteristics of the typical balcony design have not been evaluated. Often, its form results more from aesthetic needs in terms of façade composition than from functionality. Its physical parameters such as size, type of balustrade or external environment, adopted social norms significantly affect the way the balcony is used. The intention of the project is to take a deeper look at the needs of users of balconies and design private outdoor spaces in such a way that they can be adapted to the individual and changing needs of residents. The project is part of the research work carried out as part of the Doctoral School of the Wrocław University of Science and Technology. The film uses some of the material collected during field observations and qualitative research with users of balconies in housing estates of different age, context and balcony typology. The 10-min video was selected during an open call for Łódź Design Festival (Poland) as a part of exhibition “Futoropolis”. The collected material is large and movie can be extended to larger format (20-30min) explaining deeply each or one of mentioned topic (size, balustrades, privacy, social norms, functionality). If the overall theme of the movie matches the festival, the film can be more tailored to expectations of organizators’’ of the festival. For further information and conclusions from balcony observations, see the article "The use of apartment balconies: context, design and social norms" published in Buildings and Cities.

  • Marta Smektała
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Short, Student
  • Runtime:
    10 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    May 6, 2023
  • Production Budget:
    0 USD
  • Country of Origin:
  • Country of Filming:
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
    digital Full HD
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • Łódź Design Festival

    May 27, 2023
Director Biography - Marta Smektała

An architect graduated from Architecture Faculty at the Poznań University of Technology and Delft University of Technology. Experience in studios in Barcelona, Poznań and Wrocław (Poland). Prepared several exhibitions, among others: for Gdynia Design Days and the Museum of Architecture in Wrocław. Coordinator of the Microgrants project, aiming making a a short film in cooperation with the residents from one of neighborhoods in Wrocław, and a resident of the AIR Wro Modernism program - a research project networking Polish, German and Georgian artistic circles. A Phd Candidae at the Doctoral School of the Wrocław University of Science and Technology. Field of research: spatial design of balconies by ethnographic study of their use, examining the possibility of balcony addition to the inside quarter facades of tenement houses Wrocław. Awarded with the first ex-aequo prize in the video contest “Why it Matters” for PhD Candidates explaining the significance of their research organised by Buildings and Cities Journal. A speaker in Edge Debate 136 with Building & Cities about Housing Adaptability.

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