February 20, 2014

Memo from Warsaw: New Builds

Ever since the Warsaw Uprising, when German forces destroyed 85 percent of the city, Warsaw has been in a constant state of feverish building, from the painstaking reconstruction of Old Town in the 60s to the skyscrapers erected seemingly overnight following the fall of Communism.

Every step of the way, controversy has surrounded each major building project, particularly those that sit at the heart of Warsaw’s city center—a cacophony of aesthetics that includes the Stalinist grandeur of the Palace of Culture, the Brutalism of the central train station, and the capitalist aspirations of the Marriot Hotel (Warsaw’s first skyscrapper), just to name a few. And now, several new buildings have entered the fray, surrounded by as much controversy as their neighbors have endured over the years.

In 2013, Zota 44 and Cosmopolitan Twarda 2/4 became the second tallest residential skyscraper in the European Union and second tallest residential building (after Z?ota 44) in Warsaw, respectively. Located next door to the Palace Culture (the tallest building in Warsaw), Z?ota 44 was designed by the Polish-born American architect Daniel Libeskind, who is most famous for designing the Freedom Tower, also known as One World Trade Center. Though construction for the 54-story building began in 2007, financial and permit problems put the project on hold until 2011. Emblematic of Libeskind’s deconstructivist style, Z?ota 44 boasts 251 apartments with breathtaking open floor plans and incredible views of the city designed by an army of interior designers led by Jonathan Clarke, Principal of Interior Architecture at Woods Bagot in London. While some see it as a welcomed departure from the corporate architecture that has defined Warsaw’s skyline since the late 80s, others complain that it’s just more of the same.

Meanwhile, people are also talking about the demolition of Warsaw’s smallest skyscraper, the Ilmet tower, which was built in 1997 and is slated to come down this year. In its place, a 188-meter high building will be erected, with construction slated for completion in 2016. The new building was designed by Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects, who won the 2011 competition over eight other designs. Ground hasn’t even been broken on the new project and Varsovians are already debating as to whether to the project is a wasteful use of resources of a welcome addition to its rapidly growing skyline.

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