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Dworcowa Quarter - historic tenements in the center of Katowice will be vibrant again

14 of May '24

Revitalization is a process that promotes the development of cities and eliminates many of the problems affecting them. It activates urban centers and protects historical heritage. Sometimes, such as in the case of Katowice's Dworcowa Quarter, the role of revitalization in urban space goes far beyond simply restoring the luster of historic buildings.

Pierzeja wzdłuż Placu Dworcowego

The frontage along Dworcowy Square

© Konior Studio

For several decades, revitalization has been setting new directions for thinking about urban space. It restores the rank of historic buildings, saves deteriorating and abandoned historic buildings, and finally - it activates city centers and makes them vibrant again. After all, the idea of revitalization is to use the old urban structure to create a new architectural quality that meets the needs of modern city dwellers. At the same time, it proves that revitalized city centers can be an attractive place to live, while providing a practical answer to the problem of "desertification" of urban centers and "sprawl" of agglomerations. At the same time, it should be remembered that every historic building - a historic tenement, an abandoned factory or an old warehouse - has its own fascinating past, which makes it unique and gives it a unique atmosphere. Revitalization, by filling the old walls with life, creates an opportunity for this story to resonate in the present as well.

revitalization - good practice

In Western European countries, revitalization has been practiced successfully for many years. It fits perfectly into the idea of sustainable cities. In addition to countering suburbanization and improving the image of cities, it also has a social dimension - it reduces depopulation of urban centers and enriches them with new functionalities. The London Docklands waterfront, Vienna's Gasometer, Berlin's Kreuzberg, Confluence in Lyon or Hamburg's HafenCity are just selected examples of model revitalizations that have made depopulated and dilapidated urban spaces vibrant again.

Increasingly, investors in Poland are also recognizing the potential of historic buildings, adapting them for cultural, office, retail or service purposes. The fact that revitalization stimulates urban development and improves the quality of public space is confirmed by Kraków's Dolne Młyny, Katowice's Nikiszowiec, Łódź's Manufaktura, Bydgoszcz's Wyspa Młyńska or Gdańsk's Dolne Miasto. These types of investments show that the renewal of old neighborhoods or buildings has enormous potential, both culturally and economically.

A special role in the development process of modern cities is played by the revitalization of historic quarter buildings. This is because it restores traditional urban development with a grid of streets, squares and parks, as well as organizes the space dispersed by modernist planners, who replaced the compact urban fabric with mono-functional buildings. Quarter development fosters the creation of spaces that strengthen social ties and becomes a catalyst for urban activities, revitalizes interpersonal relations and reduces the sense of urban anonymity. Therefore, discussions between architectural postmodernists and neo-traditionalists, who are looking for new urban models, are still ongoing. In the latter aspect, revitalization of historic quarter buildings can play an important role. A great example of the return to quarter buildings is, for example, contemporary Copenhagen.

Dworcowa Quarter - revitalization of the historic urban layout

Shaping the urban landscape through revitalization requires architectural craftsmanship, but also an understanding of and respect for tradition. This is because it combines history with modernity, making the needs of residents the common denominator.

The Epione Group (with Hotel Invest Development as a substitute investor) decided to invest in a complex of historic townhouses located opposite the former train station in Katowice. Its representatives were persuaded by the attractive location, a chance to revitalize a prestigious but somewhat dilapidated part of the city center, but also by its revitalization potential. The eleven townhouses purchased by the Epione Group between 2015 and 2023 form the frontage of a quarter development between Dyrekcyjna and Mielęckiego Streets. Hence the name of the investment - Kwartał Dworcowa.

The revitalization of Katowice's Kwartał Dworcowa by Konior Studio is unique in many respects. This is because it concerns not individual buildings, but the entire historic urban layout. By restoring the devastated space to the residents of Katowice and designing new functions in the tenements, they will be filled with life again. At the same time, the continuity of urban structures of 19th-century origin will be preserved.

The revitalization of the Dworcowa Quarter envisages transforming the first floors of all tenements adjacent to the sidewalks and the square into commercial and catering establishments. By leveling their floors with the level of the sidewalk, they will be made more accessible and spacious. Basement and first floor windows will also be changed. The existing ones will be replaced by contemporary panoramic storefronts and entrances with awnings. As a result, the newly created commercial and catering establishments will be better illuminated by natural light, gain a modern character and visually "open up" to Dworcowy Square. In addition, the entrances to hotels and offices will gain a representative character, emphasizing the uniqueness of the historic tenements. Part of the worn-out substance, devoid of historic features, will be replaced with a new structure. In the revitalized and newly constructed buildings, the architects will make use of preserved historical stone, steel and wooden elements.

It is worth mentioning that the mansard attic of the unique tenement at the intersection of Dworcowa and Mielęckiego streets will be used to create a spa zone and high-class hotel apartments. In turn, an underground parking lot will be constructed inside the quarter, the entrance gate to which will be located in the first floor of the existing tenement on Mielęckiego Street.

Archival photographs showing the tenement located at the junction of Dyrekcyjna and Dworcowa streets, opposite the Monopol Hotel, show a characteristic dome topped with a spire. It was removed during one of the reconstructions of the historic building. According to the revitalization project, a rounded, contemporary superstructure will appear in this place, which will be a reinterpretation of an element of the historic architecture.

The design by Konior Studio also calls for practical use of the roofs. In addition to vegetation, there will be photovoltaic panels, which will be a source of "clean" energy, and on the side of Mielęckiego and Staromiejska streets - recreational terraces, thanks to which an impressive usable space will be created. In addition, there will be skylights to illuminate the covered courtyard and spa area.

Zabytkowa kamienica narożna, widok od strony Placu Dworcowego

Historic corner townhouse, view from Dworcowy Square

© Konior Studio

Beauty of historical detail

The charm of the historic townhouses located between Dyrekcyjna and Mielęckiego Streets is expressed not only in the harmony of their masses and the uniqueness of their urban layout, but also in the numerous decorative elements adorning their facades. Artful details, floral motifs and ornaments create eye-catching compositions with their aesthetics. For this reason, the design team led by Tomasz Konior placed great emphasis on the reconstruction of historical details. The basis for the restoration of missing or damaged elements was the preserved documentation and archival photographs.

Thus, the facades of all townhouses (stone blocks, plaster, brick, stucco, cornices) and the stucco details decorating them, as well as the sandstone plinths, will be restored. Among the restored elements of historic architecture will be cornices, sculptures, window frames, pilasters, spires crowning dormers and even balconies. The original corner rustications and window and door woodwork will be restored. Thanks to these procedures, the architects will restore the historic appearance of the Art Nouveau facades of the buildings.

The renovation will also include the interiors. For example, in the tenement at 3 Dworcowa Street, the walls, vaults and floors in the historic hallway will be restored, while the building at 1 Dyrekcyjna Street will have woodcarving and a coffered ceiling in the representative hall.

After the revitalization procedures, Dworcowy Square will become a friendly and functional public space that will enhance the attractiveness of the center of Katowice. It will not only restore the luster of the historic quarter buildings, but also create a place frequented by Katowice residents and tourists who want to get to know the Silesian capital better.

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