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Demolish, build, plan. Poznan's Malta is changing in a strange sequence

23 of February '24

Things are on the upswing at Poznan's Malta. The cherished shopping mall is being crushed by bulldozers and there is no talk of any re-use. Instead, an unwanted hotel will be built. And the new local plans, which are supposed to put things in order, may only be ready in a few years.

It's strange to read the word "cherished" next to the phrase "shopping mall," because usually such facilities have poor forms and one often dreams of them disappearing from the city's landscape. There are exceptions, however. In Poznan, in addition to the iconic and successful Stary Browar - the Malta Gallery also enjoyed recognition. It enjoyed, however, for a short period of less than fifteen years. Opened in 2009, the building stood on the south side of Lake Malta, which lies almost in the city center, on Baraniaka Street.

północna elewacja CH Malta - widok z brzegu jeziora

The northern elevation of CH Malta - view from the lake shore

photo: Jakub Głaz

For more than a week its demolition has been underway, which we wrote about in July last year. The owner, the Beichun company, got permission to demolish and cut down trees in July, and closed the building for good in December. In doing so, he made no attempt to adapt the block to new functions. In February, bulldozers moved in and began demolition on the side of the multi-story parking lot. This is not the first demolition of a shopping mall in Poland. However, this is the first time a building so young and in such good condition has been demolished.

rozbiórka Galerii Malta w Poznaniu, 21.02.2023

Demolition of Galeria Malta in Poznań, 21.02.2024 - demolition of a five-story parking lot, view from the west

photo: Jakub Głaz

only the footbridge will remain

Thus, a simple, slightly too massive, but timeless block with good proportions designed by offices is disappearing from the landscape of the city and Malta: APA Wojciechowski from Warsaw and Pracownia Architektoniczna Ewa i Stanisława Sipińscy from Poznań (investor: Neinver). In doing so, it did without the tacky ornamentation typical of many shopping centers. Instead, the facades were enlivened with successful sports-themed graphics on concrete and glass. A spacious green square with dozens of new trees was created between the mall and the street. With the lake shore, the space in front of the gallery was connected by a footbridge over busy Baraniaka Street. The arched crossing, suspended from a characteristic pylon, was a successful counterpoint to the perpendicularity of the gallery (the footbridge, fortunately, will survive).

rozbiórka Galerii Malta w Poznaniu, 21.02.2023

Demolition of Galeria Malta in Poznań, 21.02.2024 - footbridge between the mall and Lake Malta over Baraniaka Street; view from the east from the lake wharf (behind the frame on the right)

photo: Jakub Głaz

Inside, the assets included wide bright passageways illuminated by a fair amount of natural light, as well as a food and beverage area on the second floor, from which - through an 850 sq. m. glass wall. - offered an attractive view of the lake and the city. Despite its sizable size (160,000 sq. m. of total area, 170 stores and establishments), Malta was also a shopping center that did not overwhelm in scale. And, while it certainly, along with other galleries, contributed to "sucking" commerce out of downtown, it at least offered in return a decent standard far from the fair or merely utilitarian interiors of other shopping centers. It is with this restraint and honesty of form, without striving for uniqueness, that it seems to have won the appreciation of Poznań residents.

CH Malta w Poznaniu - opustoszały food court z widokiem na jezioro Malta i panoramę miasta z katedrą

CH Malta in Poznań - a deserted food court overlooking Lake Malta and the city skyline with the cathedral

photo: Jakub Głaz

strolling between galleries

Malta, however, lost the competition to the even larger than it and architecturally much inferior Posnania mall, which opened less than a kilometer away in 2016 (investor: Apsys; design: RTKL). All in accordance with city planning documents. After all, in 2003, city councilors earmarked areas lying next to each other for large-format retail, with the site for Posnania being new to the mix. The land on which Posnania stood had been planned for trade and services since the 1970s. Malta, however, was built earlier. By later favoring the construction of Posnania, the authorities were unaware of the problem. One of the vice-presidents at the time even spread visions of people walking between the commercial giants and... enlivening the neighborhood in the process.

rozbiórka Galerii Malta w Poznaniu, 21.02.2023

Demolition of Galeria Malta in Poznań, 21.02.2024 - demolition of a five-story parking lot, view from the west, from Maltańska Street, on the left two residential houses from 2007

photo: Jakub Głaz

What will be built instead of Malta? Preliminary and vague predictions indicate that it could be housing and services. Such a possibility is provided for in the Spatial Development Conditions and Directions Study, updated last year, which also allowed for the sensible conversion of the so-called first-generation shopping centers of the 1990s (the so-called tin malls) into housing. However, a local plan in line with earlier versions of the Study is still in effect for the area left by the dismantled Malta Gallery. It allows for the construction of a shopping center, with no mention of residential housing. Meanwhile, the councilors have not even decided to start work on amending the Local Plan to take advantage of the new opportunities provided by the Study.

too good a location

For the next year, therefore, the onerous (there were protests from residents!) demolition of a building in excellent condition will continue. What happens after that - it is not known, although it is difficult to count on the high quality of the new investment. The site is located too ideally: one kilometer from the Old Town, on the route leading to the pedestrian and bicycle crossing over the Warta River, called Berdychowski Bridges, which is currently under construction (to be ready next year). In such a location, investors usually rely on the simplest solutions, because they will sell everything on the spur of the moment anyway. Stanislaw Sipinski, co-author of the dismantled shopping center, who was interviewed last Saturday by Maria Bielicka in Gazeta Wyborcza, is of a similar opinion:

I believe that no upscale architecture has the right to happen there, because such a project will not break even financially.

At the same time, Sipinski pointed out the waste of materials, strength, time and resources, which is manifested in the demolition of a solid and still new structure. It's also hard not to agree with the opinion that the building could have been partially or fully adapted for new functions, in the spirit of re-use, also - in cooperation with the City (had the magistrate been willing to demonstrate such a will).

appealed its own decision

The City Council, however, shows no such creative inclination. Several months ago, we described the controversial plans to build a hotel on Lake Malta, this time on its eastern end. In November, the City gave permission for the erection of a building whose location and scale could adversely affect the use of recreational areas on the lake. However, the construction is allowed by a very liberal and imperfect local plan from 2002. The decision to build was criticized by residents, community members and city councilors. They did so forcefully that the magistrate appealed... against its own decision to the governor. A strange move, to say the least, and , as it turned out , ineffective. The governor dismissed the appeal, the investor can put up a hotel.

Hotel nad jeziorem Maltańskim w Poznaniu, ul. Wiankowa, proj.: ACE ODA i Studio BOAA, wizualizacja

Hotel on Lake Malta in Poznań, Wiankowa Street, design: ACE ODA and Studio BOAA, visualization

proj.: ACE ODA and Studio BOAA, visualization: © AESDE

And, only when the milk had spilled (although Tomasz Nyczka of Wyborcza wrote about the problem with the hotel as early as three years ago), at the beginning of February, councilors decided that work had to begin on a new, better-designed local plan. It will protect the valuable Maltese site from further controversial investments. The plan is also to cover the forested areas of the eastern green wedge, including the Wielkopolski Zoological Garden.

jezioro Maltańskie, Poznań

Lake Malta, Poznań - view of the grandstands, the judges' tower at the finish line of the track (left) and the slope on the Freedom Mound (right); a hotel is to stand in front of the slope

photo: Jakub Glaz

Within this plan, however, the area after the Malta gallery will not be included. What councilors and planners will decide about its boundaries and provisions is still unknown. One can only guess that a corner skyscraper at the intersection of Baraniaka and Jana Pawła II streets (where a low car showroom stands today) will be allowed in the immediate vicinity of the demolished gallery. After all, this kind of proposal has appeared in past years in the analyses of the City Urban Planning Studio.

Jakub Głaz

The vote has already been cast