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Two glass towers to replace modernist cinema

08 of August '23

Two more towers are to stand in Kielce. Investors and architects are outdoing each other in designs for twin skyscrapers scattered in different parts of the city. This time it's the very center and the plot of land today occupied by the modernist Romantica cinema. The building is to make way for a project by local studio Kaminski Bojarowicz Architekci.

We have written about the plans to build two towers in Kielce twice before in 2023. The first time was due to the planned blocks between the highway-sized Świętokrzyska Street (an exit from the city towards Lublin) and Solidarności Street, on a degraded area with a predominantly industrial and warehouse function. The project was designed by the Detan studio from Kielce. Twenty-one floors will house between 120 and 170 apartments, no services are planned, and the first floors adjacent to the warehouses will also be occupied by apartments. The project is to be built on the basis of a housing spec.

Widok z lotu ptaka

bird's eye view

source: lex developer application, proj.: Detan © Kielce City Hall

Read more: Scrap metal scrap yards, lubricant wholesalers and skyscrapers, or the new Kielce city

The same mechanism, i.e. the provisions of the lex developer act, wants to use another investor in the design of a housing development, the dominant feature of which is to be two 72-meter-high towers. Their twisted silhouettes are to stand near the iconic PKS Station, on the other side of the railroad tracks. The proposal was submitted by BC&O Poland, with Kielce-based Jarbud Group studio responsible for the estate's design. The skyscrapers are to have exactly the same number of floors as those designed by Detan.

Widok lotu ptaka

bird's eye view

design: Jarbud © Kielce City Hall

Read more: Crooked towers in Kielce

two towers in the city center

At the end of July, the concept for two more towers saw the light of day. This time designed by the authors of the Kielce PKS station reconstruction, Kaminski Bojarowicz Architekci office, the buildings would occupy an exposed plot in the city center. Located in the vicinity of the railroad and bus stations, today partially occupied by the modernist Romantica cinema building, it is a tasty morsel for any investor.

© Kaminski Bojarowicz Architects

But is the very center of the city, with its historical part and historic silhouette of, among others, the Baroque Palace of the Bishops of Krakow, a good place to locate such tall buildings? An argument in favor of the presented proposal is certainly the excellent transport accessibility of this space. It is difficult to find a place in Kielce better connected both with other parts of the city and the region. Situated in the vicinity of train stations, an important public transportation hub and bicycle infrastructure, the skyscrapers will offer very good conditions, especially for people who are able to give up their daily car trips.

Revitalization or gentrification?

This area of downtown Kielce is also a somewhat degraded area, despite its central location. Life is being sucked out of it by, among other things, shopping malls located near the center. But do the two towers have a chance to revitalize this part of the city, or will they only deepen the processes already taking place there? It's hard to say—much will depend on the profile of tenants and the ratio of services to apartments. These, in turn, are severely limited by the provisions of the special law under which the investment is to be carried out. Indeed, the developer's lex allows a maximum of 20% of service units to the area of apartments, which in the case of the project in question makes almost half use of the first floor. A certain solution, the designers point out, is to locate services in a separate lower part of both buildings on a total of six floors. No less important will be the space around the buildings, the shape of which has not yet been fully determined.

Ulica Czarnowska w Kielcach, w głębi widoczne Kino Romantica

Czarnowska Street in Kielce, with the Romantica Cinema visible in the background

© UM Kielce

The plaza itself between the towers will probably be a natural extension of the catering functions we would like to locate in the adjacent first floors of both towers. Much depends on the public discussion, which we intend to listen to carefully. We would very much like it to tie in and crown the existing pedestrian penetrations to Sienkiewicza Street, along the neglected office building next to the hotel lot that needs intervention, and (more significantly) the gateway passage on the eastern side of the former cinema lot, leading from Czarnowska Street all the way to the bus stop interchange at Zytnia Street. I hope that this shortcut will live to see the city's revitalization intervention. It will also be important to determine the nature of the redevelopment of Panoramic Street itself and the possibility of linking it to the planned square and perhaps also to the forecourt of the office building I mentioned above. Only the mix of these dependencies will give us an answer to the question of the character of the square and the surrounding space ," says Marcin Kamiński of Kamiński Bojarowicz Architekci studio.

Inconsistent with standards

In order for the investment to come to fruition at all, however, more mobilization and political will be needed than is usually the case when projects are being processed on the basis of the housing specs law. This is because the proposed project does not meet local urban planning standards, which limit the height of buildings in the area to 11 stories. Their change would have to be voted on by the Kielce City Council, motions to change them were filed by both developers involved in the project. This, by the way, is in itself a very interesting case of two unrelated entities working together to realize a coherent architectural complex. But won't the spatial coherence of the city on a broader scale lose out from the change in the standards just passed? In Poland, there is a lot of discussion about the lack of continuity in planning, so are changes in standards that were supposed to set the framework for developers' actions, forced by their own needs, a good way to go?

Panorama Kielc

panorama of Kielce

© UM Kielce archive

Recalled in the question, and established by a special law, local urban planning standards should not really be called „urban planning,” because they have little to do with urban planning. But they are not entirely meaningless. Personally, I think they should be formulated not centrally, but individually at the level of municipalities, and the range of tools available within their framework should be flexible enough to adapt them to local specifics. They are intended to constitute local law... and like any legislated law, should be subject to the possibility of modification. Nothing can be decided forever, because the world is constantly changing, and we with it. On the other hand, looking at it, architecture is a creative field and as such does not like restrictions... unless the creator himself imposes them. This is also our sacred right and our personal responsibility. There is no clearer answer to the question asked—Marcin Kamiński.

ideas from decades ago

The argument for a change in standards in this particular case is the unrealized plans from years ago, which envisaged the appearance of tall buildings in this place—the projected skyscrapers are supposed to refer to this idea. The concept is known only from photographs of mock-ups from the archives of Edward Modrzejewski. Architects speculate that the planned high-rise dominant may have been related to the concept of a pedestrian promenade or square parallel to Sienkiewicz Street, the designed building would close an important compositional axis of the center. Reading from the proportions, it can be assumed that it was to count about twenty floors. The contemporary designed skyscrapers will be shifted slightly to the north in relation to these plans, but this location is supposed to be more favorable, which is to be confirmed by the conducted view analyses.

© Kielce Investments

The location of the dominant building in the foreground of the bus station is relatively spatially neutral and acceptable from an image point of view. Among other things, this is why within the GKUA we indicated this place as one of the areas with the potential to introduce an elevated building height. Of course, we were already able to deepen our preliminary studies as part of the work on the building concept. We are working in situ, on a simplified 3D model in terms of the quarter, using a drone and utilizing a virtual 3D model of the city with satellite mapping provided on a local geoportal. Currently, the City, responding to our request, is also analyzing the issue on its own. We are waiting for the conclusions and decision of the office, " Marcin Kamiński.

modernist cinema to be demolished

Ulica Czarnowska

Czarnowska street

© MHKi

The Romantica Cinema, which currently exists on this site, was for years the largest and most modern facility of its kind in the city. Designed by Roman Dudkiewicz and Jan Korzeniowski (authors, among others, of the defunct "Kosmos" cinema in Lublin), it was opened in 1963. The cinema operated until 2004, when, after the opening of a multiplex in the area, it ceased operations and was adapted for commercial purposes and a climbing center. Architecturally, it follows the trends prevalent in the design of cinemas in the 1950s and 1960s. The edifice, lowering and narrowing into the lot, is a simple block, with a slightly receding side wall in a darker color, which—along with a light-colored frame—added lightness to the building. The gable wall from Czarnowska Street had a „perforation” in the form of a row of eleven round windows. The first floor was very open and shaped almost pavilion-like. On the side wall of the ground floor a small mosaic, now invisible, was placed in a niche.

Kino Romantica

Romantica Cinema

Source: MHKi/ „Tectonic Movement,” K. Kępinski, NIAiU 2023 edition.

A few years later, a complex of blocks of flats and a commercial pavilion by Edward Modrzejewski , a legend of Kielce architecture, was built in the neighborhood. The open character of the lower part of the complex, its transparency and composition harmonize with the entrance zone of the cinema. Unfortunately, the building's fate is a foregone conclusion, the designers of the new development at the site argue:

It is difficult to expect a building with an extremely different function and dimensions to draw directly from the stylistic language typical of a cinema building. A compact and closed body, practically devoid of window openings, a form strongly subordinated to the function—this is not the right inspiration for the architecture of a high-rise building with a service and residential function, let alone a dominant building of the assumed dimensions. I'm not saying that we didn't try to follow this pattern as well, but the results were, to put it mildly, unsatisfactory. We prefer more subtle parallels.

Hol kina

The lobby of the cinema

Source: postcard from private collection / „Tectonic movement”,, K. Kepinski, published by NIAiU 2023

The authors do not exclude some references to the architecture of the cinema, but mainly in the design of the interiors of high-rise buildings:

Romantica seems to me to be more of a sentimental value and not strictly architectural. [...] Although in comparison with such cinemas as Kraków's Kijów, or at least Łęczyca's Górnik, our Romantica fell short, it is still worth commemorating and we will certainly find traces of it in the interiors of the designed buildings. We assume that they will be strongly inspired by cinema. We will strive to preserve at least the side mosaic (if it is still there somewhere) and perhaps some gadgets from the interior (if they have survived)—Marcin Kamiński.

Read also: Tectonic movement. In the Swietokrzyskie region, prehistory intertwines with modernism

historical gadgetry


Such a doctrine, manifested by preserving only the elements of the former buildings and the general spatial idea stripped of their context, has already been applied by the authors of the concept to the rebuilt bus station. The shape, part of the structure, one column, a piece of a bench and part of a wall remained from the old building. All the rest is a completely contemporary creation with all its apparatus of solutions—from rubbed plaster on previously stone-finished walls, through artificial flowers, strikingly resolved ceilings, colorful furniture and passenger information inscribed in the architecture, to a large empty square in front of the building and a glass wall of the main body of the station, reflecting the surroundings in its blue panes.

Read more: Attractive dummy PKS station in Kielce. Artificial flowers and a wow effect

save the birds

The dominance of glass on the facades of buildings erected (globally) since the 1960s, and popularized in Poland in the late 1980s and early 1990s, is primarily a result of the dependence of architecture on interior heating and cooling technologies, without which such buildings are unable to function. It's also a threat to birds living in the city—as it's estimated that annually around the world collisions with glass rank second among the causes of human-related bird deaths (the first being habitat loss). In the US, collisions are the second direct cause of bird mortality, killing between 365 million and 988 million individuals annually.

© Glass Traps Foundation

Let me take a little trip back a few years and bring up our project to rebuild the station and the development of the visible platform shelter structures and the diagonal grid on the glass façade so criticized by my colleague [author of the article—editor's note]. The shelters were built in to prevent birds from nesting in them, and the mesh was intended (in conjunction with the controlled translucency of the low-reflective glazing) to reduce the collision of birds with the facade. At the time, we did not yet have other systemic solutions to effectively counter this phenomenon. As far as I know, birds don't kill themselves over the facade of the station. Today, please answer the question: have we irrevocably destroyed the monument, or have we eliminated the threat to our flying friends?—Marcin Kamiński.

Kolizje ptaków z transparentnymi powierzchniami - kompendium wiedzy

Collisions of birds with transparent surfaces, a compendium of knowledge

© Glass Traps Foundation

In the case of the diagonal mesh, it is a structure made of steel cables, which the architects wove around the body of the station. At this point, however, it is worth noting that this is a heroically solved problem, but one that did not exist before. Indeed, the original facade of the station had fields that were completely opaque, clear articulation and a rhythm of muntins that had a much stronger visual presence in the perception of the building than the proposed, contemporary grid. In the case of the proposed skyscrapers, the glass surfaces are to be protected with appropriate patterns:

Bird collisions in contact with glass is a problem of our social sensitivity, but already has an effective technical solution. Birds are much more likely to die in contact with lower buildings. Skyscrapers are responsible for perhaps a marginal percentage of these incidents. Which is not to say that the problem can be downplayed. Today we have the phenomenon recognized, cataloged and normalized. We don't yet know whether we will use any of the patented products of the 4BIRD line on balustrades and balcony screens, or whether we will create our own unique pattern on the glazing, or perhaps decide on other solutions, Marcin Kamiński said.

climate? recycling is enough

But what about climate issues? When asked about this aspect of the project, the architects point out that glass is a traditional building material that can be recycled. But that's only part of the problem—and pointing to the recyclability of the finishing elements of a yet-to-be-designed building can also rally awareness of its short lifespan. This is, by the way, an increasingly pressing problem—for younger and younger buildings are disappearing from the landscape of Polish cities, being replaced by new, more profitable investments. If the pace of this acceleration continues, it can be expected that in the worst situation the lifespan of buildings will not even reach a decade (since we are already demolishing buildings thirty years old and even younger).

Climate issues don't spend our sleep at night either. Glass is perfectly recyclable. As a material it fits perfectly into the assumptions of the New European Bauhaus and the ideas of reduce/reuse/recycle. We leave the issues of reducing CO2 emissions or reducing the energy intensity of production to initiatives such as Fit For 55. Glass has been with us for centuries and will remain with us for a long time to come. To prophesy its end in architecture is certainly premature. All it takes is a little responsibility in design—Marcin Kamiński.


The interior of the demolished Atrium office building in Warsaw.

photo by Kacper Kepinski

Will the designed buildings be built at all? The architects point out that the visualizations presented are a very preliminary concept, designed to present a vision for the site. The presented concept is one of many that have been developed:

Several versions of the concept were created (with a more homogeneous and strong form, through an object oriented towards pro-environmental solutions—some less, and others more "transparent"). Preliminarily, all of them were presented to representatives of the Mayor's services, and a concept was selected, which (after modifications) is assumed to combine the expectations of the City (related to the broad urban context), as well as the imagined intentions of investors. We assume that this is the beginning of the entire design process, and not the final vision—Marcin Kamiński.

The future development of the plot in the center of Kielce is therefore still an open question, although the talks that have already begun with the City may indicate that officials should not put obstacles in the way of realizing these bold intentions.

Kacper Kępiński

The vote has already been cast