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Atrium disappears from the map of Warsaw. Is this a good thing?

Kacper Kępiński
24 of January '23

Less than three decades after its completion, the demolition of Atrium International has begun. Part of the successful post-modern urban design will be replaced by another glass skyscraper. But is it a change for good?

In a 1995 plebiscite announced by Życie Warszawy and Architektura-Murator, the Atrium office buildings, designed by the Kazimierski and Ryba Architecture Studio, won the readers ' Favorite of Warsaw award. It was the complex, located on Jana Pawła II Avenue, that Warsaw residents found to be the most interesting thing built in the capital after 1989. Architecturally, the Atrium is in line with the main trends of the era - references to historical architecture, a link to the dimensions of the surrounding, Socialist Realist buildings. The architects here used pink stone, blue glass and salmon-colored windows, giving the historicizing facades a contemporary twist. Varying building dimensions, interior atriums, plazas, a variety of forms - all of these treatments made the office buildings take on a human scale in the previously inhuman space of airport-sized avenues.

city-making

Although today it's easy to criticize the Atrium's aesthetics and its shabbiness, it still looks surprisingly good against the backdrop of the developments of the time, thanks in part to reasonably good finishing materials (which were often a pain in the building industry at the time). However, the biggest contribution that Warsaw's postmodernism tigers' project has made to this part of the city is the city-forming urbanism - active first floors, commercial establishments. The office function plays a secondary role from a pedestrian's perspective - the entrances are withdrawn, and the exposed storefronts enlivened the dead space of the thoroughfare.

emptiness

Atrium

Atrium, interiors

photo by Kacper Kępiński

Unfortunately, for a long time one of the Atrium buildings, located at the intersection with Grzybowska Street, remained abandoned. It was revived for a short time by the presence of people who found refuge here, fleeing the war in Ukraine. We write more about temporary residence centers in Warsaw office buildings, including the Atrium, in an article dedicated to this topic. Recent months have brought a definite end to the service establishments operating here. With the start of the new year, demolition work has also begun. Atrium International is to be replaced by the Upper One skyscraper being erected by Strabag Real Estate, designed by medusa group and MHM architects.

generic

Upper One

Upper One

photo by Medusa Group / MHM

Upper One will consist of two parts - a 131-meter-high office building and a lower hotel section. The double glass façade will be somewhat sculpted and broken to break up the visually simple massing. The rather generic office architecture is something we've become accustomed to in Warsaw - the new office buildings don't offer very interesting, innovative architectural solutions, but rather are a product of current trends, the investor's budget and the technological capabilities of façade system manufacturers. The biggest controversy, therefore, is not about aesthetics, but about the dimensions and functions of the new project - as some of the commercial establishments will disappear, the entrance to the office building will become dominant in the exposed corner of the street, killing its evening and weekend life. Residents of the neighboring block, instead of a view from their windows of a slightly lower building and the sky, will get instead a huge glass wall with corporate employees almost at arm's length (or certainly a glance).

responsibility

Of course, such building dimensions are allowed by planning regulations, the architects and the developer merely took advantage of the opportunity created by the city authorities. However, in the context of the professional responsibility of architects, but also the discussion of reuse and the environmental costs of demolishing and erecting new structures, it is difficult to move past the destruction of fully functional, relatively young buildings. In the neighborhood, there would be several other empty lots within a kilometer radius waiting to be developed - do we really need to demolish to build new?

reuse

Atrium

Atrium, interiors

photo by Kacper Kepinski

The consolation in this situation is that some of the materials from the demolished office building will be used both in the building that will replace it and in other projects. Among other things, the developer promises to use marble cladding in the Upper One lobby. Through the BRDA Foundation, which implements the OKNO Project for Ukraine, some of the ironwork will go to the needy.

According to Zofia Jaworowska, president of the BRDA Foundation:

About 200 windows will go from Atrium to Ukraine. The remaining components and materials will go to the store. - The elements to be sold, however, will be a small part of the recovered parts of the building, Jaworowska adds - even a partial sale of the acquired objects will finance the transport of the windows to Kiev. We come out at zero financially, fewer things end up in the dumpster, quality and functional windows go where they are needed.

construction second hand

Atrium

Atrium, interiors

photo by Kacper Kepinski

Thesecond-hand building materials store - BUDO - is a new initiative of the BRDA Foundation, born in cooperation with the National Institute of Architecture and Urban Planning, among others.

We want BUDO to operate along the lines of Belgium's ROTOR DC, where the materials, furniture and lighting on offer are attractive to the designer and designer," explains Zofia Jaworowska.

So not everything will go into the store, but only carefully selected materials evaluated for their sales potential, their attractiveness to female designers. Profits from sales are to finance the foundation's further aid activities.

Careful and careful creation of the store's offerings, is necessary not only because the project is new and somewhat experimental, but also because of the foundation's logistical and financial capabilities. Demolition is a cost. Transportation is a cost. Storage space is a cost. That's why we are starting slowly, with optimism that demolition materials, properly selected, described and prepared, will become an increasingly attractive alternative, " adds Zofia Jaworowska.

Sourcing materials from Atrium is possible through cooperation with the developer and demolition contractor, and requires a bit more effort from all involved than standard demolition, but allows the project to reduce environmental costs.

Atrium - wnętrze

Atrium, interiors

photo by Kacper Kepinski

 

Kacper Kępiński

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