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Artificial ruins are on the rise. Sad cases in the Old City

15 of February '23

More and more ruins of fresh date surround Poznan's Old Town. The latest and largest is the former city hospital, which haunts next to the Old Market Square. Reconstruction of the former clinic has barely begun, and the investor has withdrawn from the project. Only one building of the hospital complex has been given new life, two others are under reconstruction. The future of the gutted remainder looks dark.

Today Poznań can serve as the setting for post-apocalyptic movies not only thanks to the intensive and poorly coordinated rebuilding of downtown streets and the Old Market. It is also gaining spectacular ruins perfectly visible from the streets surrounding the strict Old Town. The former synagogue and the exposed corner building at the Old Market, which have been deteriorating for years, have now been joined by a sizable complex of the former city hospital between Szkolna, Podgórna and Kozia streets (we wrote about it, among other things, here).

Dawny szpital przy ul. Szkolnej w Poznaniu

Former hospital on Szkolna Street in Poznan

photo: Jakub Glaz

as after the air raids

The complex of historic buildings of the former clinic has had no luck with investors for years, but now one can even speak of a disaster. Hardly has the French company Orpea, which owns the building, finally begun to rebuild it into a modern "senior care center," and the work has been halted. Orpea has decided that it will no longer build new care centers in Poland, and intends to sell the embittered investment. So much so that - in preparation for the adaptation - it managed last year to remove much of the interior walls, ceilings and roof, as well as parts of the facade. The building looks like it's from wartime air raids - wrapped in green netting for safety. It seems that this view will take some getting used to. However, it is difficult to get over the circumstances of such a situation.

Dawny szpital przy ul. Szkolnej w Poznaniu

Former hospital on Szkolna Street in Poznan - View of the site from Kozia Street, after demolition and tree cutting. On the left - the northern elevation of the new/old Kamienica at ul; Podgórna, Opposite - the new steel structure of the Vienna Tenement House (behind it - the preserved facades)

Photo: Jakub Głaz

We described the details of the would-be investment at the beginning of last year, when, after much turbulence and delay, Orpea finally began work. Just to remind you, earlier the magistrate went along with the investor. The predecessor of the current owner, Medi-System, bought the vast complex from the city in 2016 for the relatively small sum of 40 million zlotys. This is because the potential redevelopment was subject to restrictive restrictions by the Office of the Municipal Conservator of Monuments and the services responsible for greenery. Thus, most of the trees in the sizeable courtyard could not be cut down, part of the buildings standing there could not be demolished, and an underground parking lot could not be built.

Dawny szpital przy ul. Szkolnej w Poznaniu

The former hospital on Szkolna Street in Poznan - Podgórna Street. View of the hospital site. In the middle, the completed building at 9 Podgórna Street (designed by Easst Architects).

photo: Jakub Głaz

the one and only

After the sale, however, the city's historic preservation officer changed her mind, citing unspecified new analyses. The city also agreed to cut down greenery. Protected buildings were demolished, and of the more than 50 trees the only one left standing was a natural monument - a mature plane tree. Orpea also got permission for underground parking. Before it began work on the redevelopment, it sold two more tenement houses on the corner of Szkolna and Podgórna Streets that were once part of the hospital. Today another investor is creating in them the so-called Vienna Ten ement intended for apartments (we wrote about it here). It should be added, however, that of the old corner buildings only the facades remain, behind which a brand new structure is being built.

Północna pierzeja ul. Podgórnej w Poznaniu, wizualizacja Dawny szpital przy ul. Szkolnej w Poznaniu

Northern frontage of Podgórna Street in Poznań, visualization - This is how the "Viennese Tenement House" is to look like, view from Wiosny Ludów Square, on the right: Szkolna Street proj. SPA Biuro Projektowe | Former hospital on Szkolna Street in Poznań - Corner of Szkolna and Podgórna Streets. "Viennese tenement house" under reconstruction. In the depth on the left - completed tenement house at 9 Podgórna Street (proj. Easst Architects).

source: STUDIO Z | photo: Jakub Glaz

The same happened to another building in the complex, which - as the only one (the owner here is another investor for a long time) - has lived to see a new life. We're talking about the just-completed building at 9 Podgórna Street - built completely from scratch behind the preserved historical facade (only the appearance of the first floor, which is now used for services, has been changed), according to a design by Poznan's Easst Architects.

Dawny szpital przy ul. Szkolnej w Poznaniu

Former hospital on Szkolna Street in Poznan - Completed building at 9 Podgórna Street (designed by Easst Architects).

photo: Jakub Glaz

Nearby, another building is to be constructed from scratch in place of a completely demolished tenement house (we wrote more about the turbulence associated with this investment here), but - despite construction announcements - for now it can only be seen in numerous advertisements.

A ruin for collection

How much does Orpea now intend to sell the hospital complex for? Poznan's Gazeta Wyborcza reported a few days ago that it could be about 70 million zlotys. Combined with the profit from the sale of the corner lot, this far exceeds the cost of buying the property from the city (even if one takes into account price increases and the cost of the project and demolition work). A new buyer, so far, has not been heard of. It is also unclear whether the complex will not be sold off piece by piece. The new Old Town ruin may therefore continue to haunt for a long time to come, as the preservationist does not seem to have the ability or determination to force even a temporary roofing of the walls.

Dawny szpital przy ul. Szkolnej w Poznaniu

Former hospital on Szkolna St. in Poznan - Senior center in former city hospital on Szkolna St. In Poznan - visualization

proj SPA Design Office © ORPEA

The sad examples of the former synagogue (operating until 2011 as a swimming pool after German alteration during the war) and the crumbling stately tenement house at the Old Market (corner of Szkolna and Paderewskiego streets) prove that buildings still in as such condition a dozen years ago can haunt the Old Town for decades. One can only console oneself that a potential new investor will, perhaps, do a redesign of the hospital's facade along Szkolna Street. After all, the design made for Orpea by SPA Design Bureau did not restore the successful forms of the second half of the 19th century, proposing instead a compromise of poor aesthetic quality.

Jakub Głaz

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