Warsaw loses lawsuit over return of Wola rotundas

Kacper Kępiński
01 of December '21

The District Court in Warsaw has dismissed a suit by the capital's City Hall for the return of historic gas tanks. Located in Warsaw's Wola district, the landmark rotunda will remain private property, despite years of neglect by the owner.

rotunda, coliseum, gas tank...

The two circular buildings on Prądzyńskiego Street in the vicinity of the Warszawa Zachodnia station were built in 1888. They served as a cover for the gas tanks inside. They ceased functioning after 90 years, in 1978. At that time local gas production ended, replaced by natural gas imported through pipelines.

Wnętrze budynku

photo by Marian Naworski / Wikimedia Commons

takeover and inaction

The historic rotunda changed its owner for the first time in 1991. At that time, the Warsaw-Wola Municipality, on behalf of the State Treasury, decided to sell the buildings along with the perpetual usufruct of the land on which they stand. The buyer was the "Exhibition Warsaw Fights 1939-1945" Foundation. It planned to create an exhibition there dedicated to the war period in the capital, and for some time the site was considered as a possible location for the Warsaw Uprising Museum.

However, five years after taking over the property, the Foundation decided to sell it to Marcin Biernacki. The new owner repeatedly changed his plans for the buildings, announcing new concepts from time to time. For two decades, however, he failed to realize any of them, nor to adequately protect the walls. The technical condition of the buildings deteriorated year after year.

Wnętrze rotundy

photo by Unfortunately Named / Wikimedia Commons

court battle

Warsaw City Hall, observing the landlord's inaction, decided in 2017 to file a lawsuit for termination of the perpetual usufruct agreement, arguing that the Biernacki family was not fulfilling its obligations. It wasn't until the lawsuit, as well as subsequent orders to carry out modernization work and fines imposed by the capital's conservation officer, that repair work began. Most of them were not completed until 2020. To prove compliance with the provisions of the contract, the owner organized several public events at the site, min. "Constancy in Transience" exhibition - a monumental art installation inside one of the rotundas.

rotundas will not return to the city

Judge Anna Lipinska issued an unfavorable verdict for the city on November 29 , dismissing City Hall's claim in its entirety. The court did not find that the perpetual usufructuary had used the land in a manner contrary to the use specified in the agreement. It pointed to a number of recent works - roof repairs, rebuilding of parapets and the drainage system. The investor's plans were also said to be relevant , which the court found credible.

Panorama miasta

Photo: Krzysztof Belczynski /


In the higher rotunda, Marcin Biernacki plans to create a Metamuseum - Technology Center. The facility would carry out didactic and popularization activities, aimed mainly at children and young people, allowing them to learn through play. However, there are no details about this project or how it would be financed. The lower facility would house an auditorium and concert hall. The verdict is not final, and City Hall will decide whether to appeal the decision after reviewing the reasons for the verdict.

Kacper Kępiński

The vote has already been cast

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