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From Manufaktura to Monopolis

25 of August '20

Fourteen years. In the history of architecture, that's not much, and yet it's a lot. The opening of the Monopolis office, entertainment and cultural center in Lodz prompts reflection on how the city has changed its relationship to its industrial heritage, and inevitable comparisons with Manufaktura, which was built a decade and a half ago.

(Not) long ago in Lodz

Fourteen years ago, Piotrkowska Street was haunted by chipped concrete cubes remembering the time when the city's mayor, Grzegorz Palka, performed the ceremonial opening of the first section of the promenade. Just three years earlier, the complex of Robert Biedermann's former factory, demolished in broad daylight, had virtually disappeared from the landscape of Lodz. The architectural heritage of the "promised land" was disappearing consumed by the flames of an accidentally ignited fire, dismantled by the skilful hands of scrap metal thieves, demolished with heavy equipment under the cover of darkness.

No wonder that when the grand opening of the Manufaktura shopping and entertainment center located in the former factory complex of Israel K. Poznański took place in 2006, the people of Łódź developed a sincere affection for it.

handlowo-rozrywkowo-usługowe Manufaktura

Manufaktura shopping, entertainment and service center

photo: Błażej Ciarkowski

Critical opinions were relatively few and mostly came from the architectural and conservation community. Strong words against the implementation coordinated by SUD Architectes were said by Professor Jan Tajchman.

The action carried out here tries to be called "revitalization," while it should be called devastation, he wrote. Some of the buildings have been demolished, while the interiors of others have been gutted, leaving only the exterior walls, but with varying colors of joints, among other things. Competing with the brick buildings are red pavements (left), whose contrasting divisions aggressively break up the plaza¹s surfaces.

These objections, otherwise valid, have not prevented Lodz residents and tourists from marveling at Manufaktura. It's hardly surprising. In a city where defunct factories were more often torn down than revitalized, there finally appeared an object to boast about. One that was "ours" and "world-class" at the same time.

here and now

In 2016, the competition for the adaptation and revitalization of the former vodka factory complex in Lodz was decided. As of recently, we can admire the result of the winning team's work - the studio Grupa 5 Architekci. This is only the first stage of the investment. Not everything is ready yet. Office buildings and an underground garage are still missing. The people of Łódź have not yet got used to the fact that a new place worth frequenting has appeared on the city map. Nevertheless, one can be tempted to formulate the first conclusions.

Częściowe obniżenie
terenu między budynkami pozwoliło na wykorzystanie piwnic oraz stworzenie atrakcyjnej przestrzeni.

The partial lowering of the area between the buildings allowed the use of basements and the creation of an attractive space

photo: Błażej Ciarkowski

Preserving the spirit of the place was one of the main goals of the designers and the investor. Those who remember the history of Manufaktura, where virtually nothing survived from the rich machinery, must be satisfied. Artifacts related to their past appeared between the buildings of the former spirit bottling plant: restored steel liquor tanks, the authentic rails of the former railroad siding suspended in the air. The brick walls of the post-factory buildings have been restored and cavities filled in (this is obvious), but without the irritating effect of "newness." The imperfections lend them authenticity and harmonize with the new details - thoroughly contemporary, simple and without pretentious styling.

Czy Monopolis wyznaczy
kierunek dla kolejnych działań rewitalizacyjnych w Łodzi? Oby…

Will Monopolis set the stage for future revitalization efforts in Lodz? Let's hope so...

photo: Błażej Ciarkowski

Looking at the scale of the entire complex, it is difficult to directly compare Monopolis with Manufaktura or Warsaw's Koneser (another comparison that cannot be avoided!). The intimate character of the whole establishment, on the one hand, seems more "human", on the other - closer to the truth of 19th century factory complexes than the huge market of Manufaktura.

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