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What's next for Cepelia's Warsaw pavilion?

04 of March '21

The Cepelia pavilion on Marszalkowska Street in Warsaw was to be transformed into a McDonald's, meanwhile the building is falling further and further into disrepair. The monument is deteriorating, but the conservation council has once again rejected the reconstruction project by the MAAS Projekt studio.

lost functions of monuments

We've been talking about monuments that become McDonalds or Ladybugs quite a bit lately. Those that have been waiting for years for this infamous transformation are quickly forgotten. In Poland, one can get used to the sight of deteriorating buildings that could get a new function, but instead are useless historic vacant buildings falling into disrepair. Who is to blame for this?

modernist pearl

The Cepelia pavilion is one of the Warsaw buildings completed as part of the "Eastern Wall" commercial program. "Fallen", covered with scribbles, hung with advertisements and posters, the building in the heart of the capital, in the vicinity of the Dmowskiego traffic circle, gives the impression of a barracks destined for demolition. And while many people won't believe this surface of posters and plywood, it is a late-modern architectural gem and in 2017 was entered in the municipal register of monuments.

The building was built in 1966 and was designed by architect Zygmunt Stępinski (in collaboration with Andrzej Milewski and engineer, Alexander Haweman). It stood right next to the Metropol Hotel, also designed by Stępinski, built a year earlier, and the Marszałkowska Street residential and commercial development, which was under construction at the same time. It has a lightweight steel structure and almost entirely glazed facades, and its mass with a withdrawn first floor and overhanging first floor gave the impression of floating in the air.

In its original version, the pavilion was almost completely transparent. A neon green rooster was visible on the side elevation, facing Nowogrodzka Street, and also shone on the roof. The distinctive font mimicked handwriting with a cockerel, alluding to village culture. The neon sign was designed by graphic designer and poster artist, Jozef Mroszczak.

The project was a continuation of the concept of an urban pavilion merging with the street space - analogous to the original concept realized in Warsaw at the Chemistry Pavilion, erected a few years earlier to a design by Jan Boguslawski and Bohdan Gniewski. Today, on the site of the Pavilion of Chemistry today stands the Vitkac Fashion House, meanwhile, the Cepelia building has become overgrown with contemporaneity: colorful advertisements, billboards, plastic windows and storefronts. With the end of the 1990s, Cepelia was no longer synonymous with luxury, and the idea of idyllic life among handmade decorations died for a while.

A new tenant - hope or doom?

In 2018, the building found a new tenant - the McDonald's chain . The project for the modernization and adaptation of the pavilion fell into the hands of the Warsaw studio MAAS Projekt.

We are committed to preserving all the architectural qualities of the building and making it fit harmoniously into the landscape of the center of the capital," she declared in January 2019. Anna Borys-Karwacka, director of corporate affairs for McDonald's Poland, Gazeta Wyborcza reported.

photo visualization by MAAS Projekt

The pavilion was to regain its former glazing and architectural lightness. Architects from the MAAS Projekt studio also proposed creating an urban square around it. Meanwhile, provincial conservator Prof. Jakub Lewicki suggested from the very beginning that the pavilion should be taken over by the city and given museum or exhibition functions.

In July 2019, McDonald's Poland applied for a redevelopment permit. With the support of the opinion of the Provincial Council for the Protection of Monuments (its expert advisory body), the provincial conservator of monuments halted the investment, because the project envisaged, too much interference in the historic substance of the monument, including: changing the function of the building from retail to catering, changing the layout of the premises, introducing five elevators, installing the investor's logo, in place of the original neon sign.

no room for interference

Shortly after the conservator's negative response, McDonald's Poland appealed to the Ministry of Culture. The ministry overruled the conservator's decision and ordered a reconsideration. On February 18, 2021, the Provincial Council for Historic Preservation reconsidered the subject of the pavilion. The session was held online, and invited to it was architect Henryk Laguna of MAAS Projekt, who presented a revised concept for the adaptation of the Cepelia pavilion, and one that takes into account the conservator's comments.

It turns out, however, that the architectural interference in the monument, including in this new project, amended by the architects, is still far from the expectations of the conservation council.

We believe that this building is phenomenal, so valuable that we cannot agree to a radical transformation of the interior, especially the staircases and partition walls, but also the facade, on which a large McDonald's logo is planned," says Prof. Jakub Lewicki. He gave the new concept for the reconstruction of the Cepelia pavilion to Prof. Waldemar Baraniewski, an expert in modernism, for review. "The author negatively evaluated the aforementioned project, stressing that due to the special value of the pavilion as one of the most original realizations of Warsaw's architecture of the 1960s, any design work should be aimed at preserving and conserving the existing substance, and in the case of poor technical condition - faithful restoration of the original forms. The author of the opinion pointed out, among other things, the need for faithful restoration of the staircase, window woodwork and display windows, as well as, taking into account the value of the object, the development of the placement of inscriptions on the windows, the restoration of "Cepelia" signs and the pavilion's surroundings. In addition, the author drew attention to the fundamental issue of the future purpose of the pavilion, expressing a negative opinion regarding the placement of a fast-food function in the pavilion." - writes Prof. Jakub Lewicki in the information sent by the preservation office to Gazeta Wyborcza.

In this sad wait for new functions, we are left to exercise vigilance and sensitivity to the deteriorating historic vacant buildings around us.

Marta Kowalska

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