Up in the Sky: Polish Skyscrapers
default, Up in the Sky: Polish Skyscrapers, Skyscrapers in Warsaw, photo: Robert Neumann / Forum, center, wiezowce-warszawa-forum.jpg
Skyscrapers have become common landmarks in Polish city’s skylines. But high-rise buildings still spark intense emotions among citizens. Is it because of their architectural or aesthetic value? Culture.pl presents Poland’s tallest skyscrapers.
Stalexport Towers in Katowice
Skyscrapers are usually associated with the 21st century – we view them as the headquarters of powerful corporations. But tall buildings were also constructed under the communist regime, when the economy was far from developed.
The two towers built in 1981 in Katowice by Stalexport, a state enterprise, are a good example. They were designed by former-Yugoslavian architect Georgo Gruićić. He created towers that look as if they were hanging off of powerful steel ropes. At the time of their construction, the towers were the tallest buildings in Poland, outside of Warsaw, and even today they remain a prominent landmark in Katowice’s skyline.
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PAZIM in Szczecin
PAZIM, an office building constructed in 1992 for the Polish Steamship Company, is the tallest construction in Szczecin. It was designed by Miljenko Dumencić from former Yugoslavia.
PAZIM consists of two parts. One of them is a 92-metre tall office tower, which resembles a pointy cylinder. On the top floor, there is a café with a beautiful, panoramic view of the city. The other part of the complex is a hotel. It is not as tall, but bigger and is shielded from the street by a circular shopping pavilion.
The PAZIM building complex is still one of the most interesting examples of the architecture of the first period of the Polish political transformation.
Sea Towers in Gdynia
When the construction of the Sea Towers residential skyscraper began in 2006, the buildings were considered very controversial. Defenders of the modernist port city of Gdynia were outraged by the introduction of an ill-suited skyscraper in the city centre. The building also aroused interest as it was the first investment of this type in the country.
At the beginning of the 21st century, high-rise residential buildings didn’t exist in Poland. Some even claimed that if you went to the top floors of the building, you would be able to see all the way to... Sweden.
Sea Towers are two connected buildings, located on an extended platform. The towers are 141 and 125 metres tall, respectively, and house offices and commercial spaces. The buildings, designed by Andrzej Kapuścik, a Polish architect working in Vienna, stands in a prestigious area in the very centre of the city, only 14 meters from the shoreline of the Gdańsk Bay, in the vicinity of Kościuszko Square. To this day, the towers remain the tallest buildings in Gdynia (the second-tallest is only 55 metres tall!).
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Sky Tower in Wrocław
Many Polish high-rises are met with mixed feelings and criticism already during construction. Skyscrapers usually spark such emotions because they are visible from a distance and they strongly affect a city’s skyline .
Such is the case of the Sky Tower in Wrocław, which is despised by most locals. Designed by the FOLD Architecture Studio it clearly dominates the skyline. The building was constructed between 2007 and 2013, and is made up of three parts. The base of the building is a three-storey shopping centre. Above it is a 19-storey residential ‘sail’, a cascading wing of flats, and a 51-storey oval-shaped tower which houses both offices and flats.
Sky Tower was initially meant to be almost 240 metres tall, which would make it the tallest building in Poland and one of the highest in Europe. Plans changed during construction, however, but with its 205 metres, it remains one of the tallest constructions in Poland.
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Złota 44 in Warsaw
Although many skyscrapers built in Poland ruffle peoples feathers, none caused such an upheaval as Złota 44. The first thing that caused a commotion was the choice of the architect. The 192-metre building was designed by Daniel Libeskind, born in Łódź, a world-renowned designer, considered a deconstructivist, and the author of the famous Jewish Museum in Berlin. The choice was deemed controversial. In 2009, construction was halted at the height of 17 storeys due to the change of investors and objections of the residents of neighbouring buildings, and the concrete skeleton of the future skyscraper ‘decorated’ the city centre for the next several years.
Finally, the construction of the exterior ended in 2013, but the investor didn’t have enough money to finish the interiors, so the official opening of the building only took place in 2017. Although Złota 44 is certainly one of the most prestigious addresses in Warsaw, the building itself did not impress locals; it was criticised for its clunkiness. Despite all of the issues which surrounded the construction of the building, Poland’s famous and rich have bought luxury flats at Złota 44.
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Cosmopolitan in Warsaw
One may compare the Cosmopolitan to Złota 44, this luxury apartment building of similar height is not far from Złota. Cosmopolitan too was designed by a well-known architect, German Helmut Jahn, who created many skyscrapers around the globe – in the United States, Australia and South Africa. Most famously, he was in charge of designing Potsdamer Platz in Berlin.
The Cosmopolitan building has a simple and slender shape. While Daniel Libeskind tried to include various symbols in the shape of Złota 44 (from the sail, through the eagle, to the metaphor of the city rising from the ruins of war), Jahn didn’t bother to look deeper into Warsaw’s past and designed a classic, glass building, which reaches for the sky.
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Bałtyk in Poznań
Bałtyk, an office building in Poznań commissioned in 2017, is not actually a skyscraper – it is only 67 meters tall. It is, however, the fifth tallest building in Poznań. It is located next to the main railway station and the area of the Poznań International Fair, so despite its average height, it is perfectly visible from many places in the city. Due to its dynamic and irregular silhouette (designed by MVRDV, a Dutch studio), Bałtyk is also one of the most recognisable buildings in Poznań skyline.
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Olivia Star in Gdańsk
Olivia Star, the tallest building in the Tri-City (156 metres tall), was opened at the beginning of 2018. It soars above the new business district in the Gdańsk’s Oliwa, which has grown in recent years.
Olivia Star sticks out of a group of new office buildings, designed by the BJK Architects studio. Apart from its noticeable height, however, it is not all that special. The building, which is clearly visible from a distance, is unfortunately an example of poorly designed architecture. It’s a pity that the creators did not focus more on a unique shape when constructing the tallest building in the area.
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Warsaw Spire in Warsaw
In recent years, Warsaw's Wola district welcomed at least a dozen new high office buildings. Even more are currently under construction. So what makes the 180-metre Warsaw Spire stand out? Is it its streamlined silhouette? Or maybe the messages displayed on the glass façade (announcements, Christmas wishes,‘I love Warsaw’)
The surroundings of the building designed by Jaspers & Eyers Partners and PROJEKT Polsko-Belgijska Pracownia Architektury are even more interesting. The skyscraper stands beside a developing public space, Europejski Square, which is becoming a popular leisure spot in Warsaw. It boasts cafés, fountains, exhibitions, movie screenings and even an ice rink during the winter. It is a truly lively place, which attracts both office workers and other locals. This oasis in the corporate desert is a great example of ‘taming’ commercial architecture and incorporating skyscrapers into the life of the city.
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Basilica of Our Lady of Licheń in Licheń
The last building in this article does not look like the headquarters of a big company. But it might be considered a skyscraper, as it towers above its surroundings. While corporate towers serve as symbols of powerful enterprises, the 141,5-metre basilica in Licheń underscores the grandeur of the Church.
Construction of the church ended in 2004 – thanks to its soaring tower, it remains the tallest sacral building in Poland. It also boasts two observation decks (98 m and 114 m).The dome of the church is 25 metres wide and 45 metres tall (the St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican is only 2 metres taller). In comparison, the tower of the Basilica in Częstochowa is only 106 m tall
Originally written in Polish, Feb 2019, translated by AJ, Mar 2019
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