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The only prototype shop of its kind! Old Paper Mill for artists and students

10 of March '23

Students and artists will revitalize a neglected section of downtown on the outskirts of the Old Town. The University of Arts in Poznań (UAP) is beginning the adaptation of the Old Paper Mill. It will house a unique prototyping room. And towering over the whole is the chimney once occupied by Joanna Rajkowska.

The task faced by the art college is not an easy one. The urban context is difficult, and the post-industrial buildings—degraded and not easy to adapt. The old paper mills occupy an area on Szyperska Street, on the site of a river port that has not existed for decades, right next to the through street Estkowskiego. The latter is one of the biggest urban mistakes of the communist era. It is part of an expressway that functionally cut apart historic parts of Poznań in the 1960s and 1970s: Śródka, Ostrów Tumski and the northern outskirts of the Old Town (the Old Paper Mill is located there).

Stara papiernia, ul. Szyperska/Estkowskiego, Poznań

Old Paper Mill, Szyperska/Estkowskiego Street—in the middle of the photo, with the chimney. General view from the intersection of Garbary and Estkowskiego streets.

Photo: Jakub Głaz

As in the Middle East

The scaled-back road project not only divided the once-dense urban fabric, but also exposed outbuildings, substandard buildings and blind walls left by tenement houses demolished for the arterial road. This is also the case with the Old Paper Mill. From the side street of Szyperska Street, it presents the interesting brick facade of the main building from before the First World War. But from the exposed Estkowskiego Street it echoes with a high wall and a blind wall, bordering the parking lot and access to the discount store that has taken over the neighboring buildings.

Stara papiernia, ul. Szyperska/Estkowskiego, Poznań

Old paper mill, Szyperska/Estkowskiego Street, Poznań—View from Estkowskiego Street

photo: Jakub Głaz

Instead, an interesting accent is the factory's chimney—the tallest of the three preserved in this quarter of the development. It also has an interesting history. In 2009 Joanna Rajkowska planned to transform it into... a minaret, introducing an unobvious accent into the city space on the axis of the former synagogue—cathedral. She wrote about the paper mill and its surroundings as follows:

The chaotic layout of the buildings is somewhat reminiscent of buildings in the Middle East, especially the two blind side walls of the buildings standing sideways to the street. [...] If the Minaret stands, it will change the character of the entire neighborhood in a surreal way. The familiar will become alien. The red brick buildings, blank walls, the wall around the buildings and large-format advertisements will look different.

"Minaret," however, was not built. Despite the fact that it was not supposed to serve a religious function, the authorities and councilors did not like it very much. The chimney is therefore still a cell phone station hanger.

There was paper, there will be furniture

Adapted by UAP, the buildings on Szyperska Street include a former paper mill and—quite different from them—a representative mansion from the 18th century, which until the middle of the previous decade housed communal tenants.

Stara papiernia, ul. Szyperska/Estkowskiego, Poznań

Old paper mill, Szyperska/Estkowskiego Street, Poznań—Eighteenth-century manor house on Szyperska Street

photo: Jakub Głaz

Since then, both the mansion and the former factory, which had been closed, have stood empty. After unsuccessful attempts to install a grassroots initiative called the Makerspace Plant (shared workshops that had to move from the former printing plant in Jeżyce) in the paper mill, the city sold the buildings with a 99 percent discount to the University of Arts in 2020. The university decided to arrange in them a prototyping room, unique in the country, which is also the university's digital center, where, as we read in press materials:

"students as well as UAP employees will be able to carry out their research projects with a particular focus on prototyping projects in the furniture and interior design industry—a recognized and significant branch of our regional economy, which is part of the so-called smart specialization areas of the Wielkopolska Region.

The contractor for the design and construction work was selected by UAP not in a competition, but in a tender with a design and build formula. It was won in February 2022 by DEMIURG, a Poznan-based design and construction company specializing in, among other things, the transformation and renovation of historic buildings. It based its design on the functional-utility program prepared for the university by architect Mikołaj Stępień (NMS Architekci).

Stara Papiernia po adaptacji dla Uniwersytetu Artystycznego, wizualizacja, Poznań, ul. Szyperska

Stara Papiernia after adaptation for the University of Arts, visible superstructure, visualization, Poznań, Szyperska Street


As Gazeta Wyborcza recently reported—efforts to return the buildings have just ended in ultimate failure. The heirs of the owners of the plants nationalized after the war—the Krzewinski and Kręglewski families—wanted them back. The work (financed with EU support) therefore began last month and is expected to be completed later this year. Unfortunately, during the partial demolition of the outbuildings, a wall with one of Poznań's most interesting murals ("Racism" by Grzegorz Myćka) collapsed.

more meters!

So how will the Old Paper Mill and the historic mansion change? First of all, the main storey red brick building along Szyperska Street will be restored. What will be new about it, however, will be an additional fourth story with a contemporary form, so as to accommodate all the functions planned for the new UAP complex, including metal and woodworking laboratories and prototype shops, modern upholstery studios, virtual analysis laboratories, a photography studio or space for 3D printers. The area of the entire complex will more than triple to 3,000 sqm.

Stara Papiernia po adaptacji, wizuliazacja

The Old Paper Mill after adaptation, visually—View of the courtyard from the north. On the left—the main edifice, in front and on the right—the new outbuildings (the facades, contrary to the illusion, will not be made of corten, but of fiber-cement panels).


Architect Wojciech Blazejczak explains the design intentions:

Respecting the historic elements of the building, some of them will be restored, and some will be recreated like the original. Taking into account the existing character of the building, as well as its original and new function, the emphasis is [...] to create an industrial, industrial and modern building.

Stara papiernia, ul. Szyperska/Estkowskiego, Poznań

Old Paper Mill, Szyperska/Estkowskiego Street, Poznań—The main paper mill building behind scaffolding, on the right—an 18th-century manor house in the lowering of the site

Photo: Jakub Głaz

The new lots are to be dominated by glass facades or facades finished with fiber-cement panels. The lower and less valuable outbuildings, which together with the main building will border a small courtyard of the whole establishment (the outbuildings will grow to three stories), will also be expanded in a contemporary style. This courtyard is to become the living center of the complex, especially since the already mentioned historic mansion is adjacent to it from the north. However, its adaptation and revaluation has been postponed by the university. The picturesque, sprawling building with a high mansard roof is to be used for exhibitions. The monument, described as a rare example of late Baroque suburban mansion architecture, also envisions a café with a terrace in the preserved part of the former garden.

need to patch up further

The adaptation of a former factory and mansion by a public university is a very favorable solution in a neglected part of the Old Town. True, new residential and office buildings have been built in the neighborhood in recent decades, but the post-factory quarter is still a chaotic cluster of buildings of different scale and quality (there is also no local development plan!). The other part of the former paper factory (not owned by the university), accessible from Piaskowa Street, is also asking for transformation. Even more important, in turn, is the creation of a sensible northern frontage of Estkowskiego Street. True, the city held a competition in 2007 for a project to „enclose” the quarter with a new building, but nothing practical came out of it. For now, a mural with a poem by Stanislaw Baranczak will return to the blind wall of the paper mill. The visuals, unfortunately, do not show the return of the graphic design by Myćka.

Stara papiernia, ul. Szyperska/Estkowskiego, Poznań

Old paper mill, Szyperska/Estkowskiego Street, Poznań—Partially demolished wall with mural by Grzegorz Myćka, view from parking lot on Estkowskiego Street

photo: Jakub Głaz

Finally, the intangible result of the project also matters . Unlike Adam Mickiewicz University, UAP has not moved out of the center to the distant outskirts and is expanding its base in the city center (an investment is also underway next to the university's headquarters on Marcinkowskiego Avenue). Thanks to this, the now declining center will not lose some of its young and creative people, whose presence and activities are strongly city-forming.

Jakub Głaz

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