Become an A&B portal user and receive giveaways!
Become an A&B portal user and receive giveaways!

The art of connecting - the best Polish revitalizations

16 of April '20

City lovers look with regret at older neighborhoods slowly declining. Sometimes buildings get a boost in the form of facade renewal - like the legendary tenement at Dietla 44 Street in Cracow, but inside they still remain the same. The real joy comes from revitalizations in the full sense of the word. Such change lifts spirits and stimulates urban development.

We live in a time of constantly changing urban space. This is directly related to investments in the last undeveloped properties in city centers, but also to the increasing revitalization processes involving deserving sites and buildings.

Therenewal of historic districts of large cities is a process with enormous economic and cultural potential. Activities carried out in many cities show that through revitalization, it is possible to improve the quality of public space, which goes hand in hand with preserving the classic, historic character of the place. It is also an opportunity to introduce new functions into the interiors of revitalized buildings, necessary to meet the current needs of residents.

In Poland we can already find many examples of well-conducted revitalization. The most representative examples are in the post-industrial districts of the largest Polish agglomerations. We can mention, among others, Kraków's Dolne Młyny, Łódź's OFF Piotrkowska Center, Katowice's Nikiszowiec, Gdańsk's Młode Miasto or most of Warsaw's historic districts.

Revitalization: renovation, renewal?

To begin with, it's important to ask a fundamental question: what exactly is revitalization? The expression often carries associations that are not quite right or do not fully reflect its definition. Revitalization is sometimes equated with renovation, so that its nature is perceived singularly - as the renewal of a historic building that has lost its charm, luster and color over time, and the reintroduction of residents to its thresholds. Reality shows that the process is much more complex in nature.

We should view revitalization as a totality of processes that aim to bring existing urban spaces back to life, such as the reconstruction or redevelopment of once vibrant urban areas that have been degraded by warfare or post-war devastation, neglect or demolition. It should also be remembered that revitalization is a concept that relates directly to the functioning of the urban organism in the economic, ecological, or planning and spatial spheres. Consequently, we should not view it as a purely architectural process.

Budynek dyrekcji
dawnej Stoczni Gdańskiej

Management building - Imperial Shipyard Development

photo courtesy of Ultra Relations

It used to be the practice to only renovate the facades of a building. Nowadays, it is increasingly common practice to radically change its original function. Examples include former factories or breweries being turned into cultural centers, meeting places, residential buildings and even business centers. Sometimes revitalization also includes entire neighborhoods that have a great history, but have been neglected for the past decades. In this way, historic parts of cities are given well-deserved new life.

Revitalization is increasingly a process that leads to improvements in the quality of public spaces. There is no shortage of successful investments that are a combination of four aspects - modernity, history, function and prestige. Polish studios are also increasingly demonstrating how great the power of revitalization is.

When undertaking the creation of a project, we always rely on an authentic story, so we reach for historical materials, but also visit open-air museums or obtain information about a particular culture. The peculiar combination of the old and the new requires a certain aesthetic sense - one should be very careful not to exaggerate and exaggerate such an interior, because this will create something like a theater, and people do not feel comfortable in such interiors. - says Lukasz Koziana, architect, founder of Iliard Architecture & Interior Design studio.

I am of the opinion that historical elements should be integrated into the new fabric. Preferably in a fresh, surprising function or relief. Of course, there are objects or details that should be protected like monuments. Masterful examples, in my opinion, of integrating new solutions into old buildings are by Norman Foster. This, for example, the British Museum or the reconstruction of the Reichstag," believes the CEO of the Sopot-based architectural firm Roark Studio.

The best examples of revitalization in the world

Such a synthesis requires from architects not only an aesthetic sense, but also great skills. After all, combining tradition and modernity is theoretically something like a meeting of two opposing worlds. Practice shows that this meeting is not only possible, but can also awaken dormant economic and cultural potential. It is not difficult to find examples of successful revitalization around the world

The Docklands port district in east London can serve as a model of successful revitalization. Destroyed in bombing during World War II and unable to accommodate larger ships, the docks were decided to undergo revitalization. In 1981, the character of the place was completely changed, and the most noticeable result was to be Canary Wharf, the largest office complex in Britain. Today, the site is home to some of the largest commercial banks and media companies in the world, making it easily rival the famous City of London for the title of London's business center. The old buildings have been used to carve out new functions that are beneficial to the development of the city and the country. This part of the city has also become a popular place to live, as best evidenced by the fact that the number of Docklands residents has doubled over the past 20 years.

OFF Piotrkowska

OFF Piotrkowska Center

photo courtesy of Ultra Relations

Revitalizations in Poland

A good example is also Warsaw, where the revitalization area covered more than 11% of the area, inhabited by nearly 31% of the city's population. The aim of the infrastructural and social measures was not only to restore functions that had been lost, but also to create conditions conducive to further development. Parallel to the renovation and construction work carried out, residents, associations, housing communities and entrepreneurs were involved. Revitalizations have resulted in many buildings and public spaces acquiring new functions, and residents can once again use their potential.

New investments involving the reinterpretation of history in Gdansk promise to be extremely exciting. One of the most noticeable results of revitalization in recent years is the creation of the Deo Plaza complex, located in the very center of Granary Island, in the place where historical granaries of strategic importance to the city's economy used to be located.

Also noteworthy is a newly emerging district of Gdansk - the Young City, which will include post-industrial areas located on the Dead Vistula River in close proximity to the Old Town. The revitalization of the Young City is to include 73 hectares of former Gdansk Shipyard land, including the historic management building. The use of the former shipbuilding halls and the construction of hotel, office and residential buildings are expected to make the new district of Gdansk a new showcase of the city, improving the quality of life in developing Gdansk, but also an important vehicle for promoting the city and a space attractive to tourists from all over the world.

An important harbinger of what will happen in the Young City area is becoming an investment called Chlebova, currently being developed by NDI Development. Sopot-based Roark Studio is responsible for the project. The modern apartment building will stand on the site of Germania Brotfabrik, the first industrial bread factory in Gdansk.

The investment under preparation is certainly a unique project. It is located simultaneously in the center of the city and on the outskirts ensuring intimacy. At the same time, it is a place of dynamic development in Gdansk, and therefore a great potential for increasing the value of the purchased property in the coming years. Direct contact with the waterfront will certainly interest all those who love water recreation. The nearby marina will allow them to fulfill their dreams of permanent access to water practically a step away from their place of residence. - says Bartłomiej Oset, vice president of the management board of NDI Development.

The inspiration of the former building will be seen not only in the building's surroundings, but also in its interior, which will be filled with historic elements recovered during demolition. These will include bricks, lamps, elements of the staircase, machinery and chimney. Each will be accompanied by interesting facts or descriptions that will highlight the historical character of the place.

Thus, there are many indications that large-scale revitalization processes, involving the adaptation of historic sites to the current needs of society, are currently one of the most interesting trends in contemporary urban planning. They are the result of bold projects that are intended to express a modern view of historic buildings and provide a utilitarian interpretation of them, in line with the requirements of the 21st century.

compiled by: ed. based on press materials

The vote has already been cast