At last! After 52 years Kraków skyscraper finally nears completion
Nearly half a century in the making, one of Kraków’s most recognizable landmarks, a building that for decades has both haunted and dominated the city’s skyline with its menacing dimensions, has finally taken its final, finished form.
Originally intended to serve as the regional headquarters of the Polish Federation of Engineering Association (Naczelna Organizacja Techniczna), construction on what was originally known as the NOT Tower began in 1975 only to come to a crunching halt when the country’s economy imploded a few years later.
Having already topped out at 24-storeys, the shell of Kraków’s tallest building then stood empty for dozens of years, quickly earning the nickname of Skeletor after He-Man’s nemesis.
First designed in 1968 by a team of architects led by Zdzisław Arct, the original blueprints envisioned a futuristic skyscraper featuring conference facilities for 500 people, office space, an observation deck, café and hotel.
However, what would have become arguably the country’s most modern office block stuttered to a halt after an economy largely propped up by generous public spending and foreign loans collapsed.
Located a stone’s throw from Rondo Mogilskie, the structure instead became synonymous with the failed ambitions of Communism.
Over the years numerous solutions were touted for the incomplete building, among them turning the tower into apartments as well as its outright demolition.
Featuring as the backdrop for several films as well as the novels of writer Łukasz Orbitowski, such was Skeletor’s notoriety that in 2014 the Guardian shortlisted it as one of the world’s greatest skyscraper flops alongside such white elephants as North Korea’s Ryugyong Hotel.
Now, though, the wait has proved worthwhile with the 102.5 metre structure reborn as the Unity Tower – a name chosen to reflect the developer’s intention to unite those who have both loved and hated the building over the years.
Touting a leasable area of 46,000 square metres and a panoramic terrace, Kraków’s highest tower will be serviced by elevators that reach from top to bottom in under 25 seconds.
Presenting, also, an urban square, A-Class office space, adjoining apartments and in excess of 200 bike stands, the sustainable building has been created with the latest innovations in mind as well as an exterior aesthetic inspired by the inter-war Art Deco age.
Regarded as a modern showcase of Poland’s historic second city, the showpiece tower has been finished with so-called Nordic Royal aluminium sheets to lend it a golden glow on Kraków’s skyline.
Drawing comparisons to Detroit’s 1920s Maccabees Building, hopes are now high that Skeletor will become iconic for all the right reasons.
“If we consider what a facility intended as an icon of the modern business centre that the Krakow of today is should look like, we should at the same time remember its rich historic traditions,” says architect Marek Dunikowski.
He added: “This led us to the conclusion that it must be eclectic. Similarly, we wanted it to be subtly inscribed in the panorama of the city. It was meant to be both recognisable and proud, like the skyscrapers of New York.
“We wanted this exceptional edifice to establish a contemporary connection with the majestic modernism of the National Museum, the regularity of Feniks facade and the Cloth Hall, while drawing also on the delicate facades of Krakow’s tenements.”