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Partisan Hill can't wait any longer!

19 of January '21

Wroclaw's Partisan Hill (named so in 1948), surrounded on two sides by the city moat, is located in the very center of the city, on the route of the Old Town Promenade, closing the axis of Teatralna Street leading from the Opera House building. It has existed since 1867, when the idea of the founder of the entire hill development Adolf Liebich, a local merchant, entrepreneur and social activist, was realized. In honor of his prematurely deceased brother Gustav, he developed the site of the former city fortifications - Sack Hill. The design of the entertainment and recreational structures, located about 45 meters above street level, was made by architect Carl Schmidt.


The buildings were described in the "Lexicon of Wroclaw architecture" by Agnieszka Tomaszewicz and Adam Żurek:

At the foot of the hill, on the side of Piotra Skargi Street, was located a peristyle pavilion housing a square pool with a fountain decorated with a marble copy of the sculpture of Ariadne of Naxos. On both sides of the pavilion, a wide single-run staircase was designed, leading to level 1 of the terrace, the center of which was occupied by a circular pool with a fountain. From the east, the terrace was bounded by a semicircular loggia with stairs leading to the belvedere. The belvedere was a central building of a tower-like character [with a gloriette - note BS] [...]. All buildings were styled after the Italian Renaissance, the peristyle pavilion served as a pump room for water, and the belvedere was used as a confectionery.

Wzgórze Partisans Hill on a 1908 postcardWzgórze Partisans Hill on a 1908 postcardWzgórze Partisans Hill on a 1908 postcard

Partisan Hill on a 1908 postcard

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Liebich's Hill - that was the name, in honor of the founder, given to this picturesque place in the nineteenth century - made it to post-war Polish times impoverished, but not completely destroyed. In 1945, during the siege of Festung Breslau , the glorietta was blown up as a dangerous dominant (32 m) - an easy target for bombing raids, and this building has not been rebuilt to this day. Other buildings that are part of the establishment have been revalued several times "in an attempt, so far unsuccessfully, to restore [...] their former significance"¹.

Thus, by virtue of its location and history, the Hill is a prestigious place, but for the past dozen years or so it has been rarely visited and is evidently deteriorating. The promising transfer of the site into private hands turned out to be a fiasco. In 1990, the Retropol company leased the entire complex for 40 years and, after initial commercial success, led to its demise. A restaurant, a businessman's club, a casino, a disco, a nightclub - the Hill slowly underwent functional degradation, and the premises lost their reputation. Few remember anymore the super shows and opera performances held on summer evenings on the terrace in front of the colonnade. As the status and clientele changed, the architecture was also deteriorating. In the end, city officials, aware of the progressive ruin of the building, decided to save what was left of it. After a lawsuit with Retropole three years ago, the city reclaimed the site and took appropriate corrective measures.


A program of two-phase renovation and modernization of Partisan Hill was adopted, proceeding under the supervision of the conservation office. The first project did not meet the requirements for historic buildings. The final documentation was prepared by APA Linea, whose owner and chief designer is Anna Morasiewicz.

I did the replacement construction project and the detailed design, but limited to the peristyle pavilion, the colonnade and the square in front of it with a fountain, in close connection with the staircase. This is the scope of the first stage," the designer explained.

{Image@url=,alt=przekrój through the Hill area,title=section through the Hill area}

cross section through the Hill area

© APA Linea

When asked what main issues had to be solved in the project, Anna Morasiewicz mentions:

The main problem that plagues the facility is the moisture in the walls and ceilings. Although the ground water is at the level of the moat, but all the facilities are covered with soil and rainwater seeping into the ground dampens the walls. They, therefore, must be dug up and insulated. German designers admittedly tried to do this back in the nineteenth century, designing, for example, proper ventilation of the walls, but not all their ideas passed the test, as you can read in various archival studies. The problem has been solved in the project - its implementation will certainly be costly, but hopefully effective.

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destroyed ceilings

© APA Linea

Also a major challenge was the project to restore the splendor of the peristyle pavilion, which once had, following the example of Roman architecture, an opening - compluvium- in the middle of the roof, and a pond with a fountain - impluvium- on the floor, surrounded by a peristyle. The pavilion originally housed a pump house, then an elegant colonial store, but before World War II commercialism won out and a carpet store was established there. The opening in the roof was bricked up, arches appeared in the openings and the pavilion lost its original character. It is now planned to house a luxury restaurant with full kitchen facilities.

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current state of development on Partisan Hill

© APA Linea

Prior to the design, a technical expertise was performed on the ceiling over the peristyle pavilion and it was found to be in a catastrophic condition.

The conservation recommendation was to demolish the arches and go to a clean, original form, but with a closed roof, without returning to the opening with the pond. The drawing of the opening on the roof of the pavilion will only be hinted at with stonework, the architect says. - On the exterior walls, I have proposed large, frameless glazing, giving the impression of openwork between the columns. Architectural details will be restored in all the buildings, giving them a specific atmosphere, as well as the intense colors of the coffered ceilings, along with the Pompeian painting under the colonnade.

Another important topic was the accessibility of the facilities for people with disabilities. The architect lists all the steepness that must be overcome when driving a wheelchair to the top.

The slope on the hill is so steep that it is impossible to flatten it for the use of a ramp, so I came up with an elevator there, accessible from New Street. This is the solution already accepted by the investor, but it will be implemented only in Phase II.

The elevator for the disabled will not be the only elevator in the café-restaurant complex. There are already pre-constructed kitchen elevators, facilitating the delivery of orders to the various levels covered by catering - to the cafe in the underground section and to the outdoor cafe section in the colonnade.

In parallel, the historic public restroom standing to the side, in the form of a small brick building, should also be restored, Anna Morasiewicz adds. - This is necessary because when open events are held on the terrace in front of the colonnade, the toilets located in the cafe will not meet sanitary requirements. The toilet building will be included in Phase II.

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The object requires undertaking security works

© APA Linea

A separate major issue in the project is the paving of all terrace levels.

They are now paved with granite slabs, which get unbearably hot in the summer heat. So there was a conservation recommendation to restore the pre-war solution there - gravel, that is, the kind of surface that is most common on park paths, the architect recalls. - This changes the structure of rainwater drainage, drainage, etc. In the project, all these issues have been resolved so that there is no stagnant water, no wetting. The documentation also includes wiring for sound and illumination, which will be used during events and concerts. I have also restored the old lanterns (which used to be gas) on the balustrade of the colonnade, creating a crown of light and emphasizing the geometry of the entire architectural composition in the evening.

Future plans and their (questionable) realization

Ideas for sprucing up the Hill are plentiful, says the designer. - The investor is considering the form of restoration of the glorietta. Next to it is an early-century planetarium with a very nice detail inside, and farther away are the casemates, where there was recently a kitschy wax figure cabinet. These places also need to be renovated. Also planned is the construction of a pedestrian and bicycle bridge at the bend of the moat from Podwale Street, which will allow access to the hill from the east. This will be a good end to the Old Town Promenade.

What else is important - on the corner by the moat is a tiny building designed in the early twentieth century by Max Berg, the creator of Wrocław's Centennial Hall. The building was already a pump room for milk before the war, with the goal of popularizing it as a recipe for health.

The dairy, from the point of view of restoration, was taken care of by Anita Luniak of studio 33_03, preparing an excellent project called "Cafe Berg". In its center and on the terrace below, by the water, customers will sit as they used to, drinking coffee (and maybe milk) while looking at the canoe landing, which is nearby. All these functions are to be restored," adds Anna Morasiewicz.

An interesting detail of "Cafe Berg", which the architect points out, is the existing gas reduction station in the basement section by the moat itself, with historic technical equipment that is in great condition. They just need to be cleaned and exposed. This is also in the plans associated with the Partisan Hill.

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The current state of the interior of the Partisan Hill facility

© APA Linea

Unfortunately, all the mentioned activities require a lot of money. The cost of the first stage was estimated at PLN 18 million. In order to realize the set goal, the city applied last year to the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage for funding in the amount of PLN 11 million from the so-called Norwegian Fund - unsuccessfully. However, the local government is not laying down its arms, announcing that it will look for other sources of funding. For now, it has set aside more than PLN 2 million in the 2021 budget to begin the work envisaged in the project. This is a drop in the ocean - will it be possible to obtain the rest?

I am of good thoughts," says Anna Morasiewicz. - A tender for the contractor is to be announced soon, because it is necessary to begin as soon as possible the protection, salvage and reliable revaluation of the entire establishment.

Partisan Hill cannot wait any longer!

Beata Stobiecka

¹ "Lexicon of the city of Wroclaw," item 202, p. 331.

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