Up and coming: awards doled out for Warsaw’s best sustainable and urban renewal projects
As the curtain prepares to fall on 2019, the winners of the annual Architectural Award of the President of the Capital City of Warsaw have been revealed with concepts of urban renewal and sustainability featuring heavily in the city’s official rundown of favourite projects.
Announced earlier in the month, in all six winners were selected from a total of 17 nominations by an adjudication committee comprised of city councillors, architects, urban planners, critics and journalists.
Held for the fifth time, the competition saw two new categories spotlighting environmental solutions and accessibility added to compliment existing categories recognising Warsaw’s best public building, public space, revitalisation, commercial property, residential building and architectural event.
Stressing that their choice should not be interpreted as a “beauty contest”, the organisers were keen to underline the other criteria that figured in their selection process.
“Climate change and the accessibility of buildings and space are particular challenges that architects and officials face when developing Warsaw,” said Marlena Happach, one of the jurors on the panel.
“In the past we never stopped to think whether building materials had been procured locally or had travelled far,” she continued. “We didn’t think about the ecological cost. Now, though, factors such as this have all become important.”
Of the winners, few made a bigger impact than the city centre’s Zodiak structure. Scooping both the Audience Award and the prize for Best Public Building, the pavilion reopened last December having first been completed in 1968 to form part of the so-called Eastern Wall development that was built to counter-balance the immense proportions of the nearby Palace of Culture & Science.
Sensitively revamped by Kraków-based studio Gowin & Siuta (which, in more recent times, has been credited with remodelling the neighbouring Rotunda), what once served as the city’s first fast-food canteen has been revived as a place of “architectural dialogue” with its ground floor given over to exhibition and lecture spaces focused on acting as an “incubator for ideas relating to the future of the capital”.
Touting a spectacular neon sign and other retro touches such as a mosaic and a “suspended stairwell” connecting its three floors, it’s been universally hailed by critics since its unveiling.
Equally prominent on the roll call of winners was Centrum Praskie Koneser in the upcoming suburb of Praga. Earning prizes for Accessibility as well as Revitalization, this 19th-century former vodka factory left judges “impressed by its momentum”.
Spread over five hectares, the investment was 11 years in the making and saw new buildings seamlessly slotted in alongside historic industrial architecture to form one coherent whole.
Home to a Google Campus, the Polish Vodka Museum, a trendy hotel, as well as numerous on-edge food and drink units, swanky loft-style apartments and A-class offices, the committee praised it for breathing life back into the immediate area and appealing to both residents and visitors in equal measure.
The Grand Prix prize, however, went to Nowogrodzka Square, an energy efficient office building designed to harmoniously fit in with its pre-war modernist neighbours.
“Nowogrodzka Square shows how important it is to supplement urban tissue in a way that ensures the spatial coherence of the city,” said Mayor Rafał Trzaskowski. “Beautifully absorbed by the city, this fragment of Al. Jerozolimskie has gained a glow thanks to it.”
Of the remaining winners, the minimalist Witebska 6 (Best Residential Building) was lauded by the mayor for reaching artisanal standards on a moderate budget, whilst the Glass House Exhibition (Best Architectural Event), organised by the Wolski Centrum Kultury, thrilled the judges for its presentation of everyday life on the modernist housing estates found in the district of Koło.
Last but not least, Pl. Hallera’s Tężnia project was voted as Best Public Space. Funded by the capital’s participatory budget, the wooden structure helped humanise one of Warsaw’s less picturesque corners, simultaneously becoming a popular meeting spot for locals in the process. Such was its success, similar projects have since been rolled out across the city.
In an address delivered to the public, the mayor stated his desire not just for a beautiful Warsaw, but one that was fully functional and geared towards supporting social life.
“I am all the more delighted that in the finals of this year’s Architectural Awards,” he concluded, “that there is a variety of such projects.”