Witold Milewski died in Poznań at the age of 91. The architect became famous for the designs of the famous Poznań skyscraper Collegium Altum of the Poznań University of Economics and the Veteran’s House in Szeląg. In recent years, however, it was loud around another building under his hand – the Royal Castle on Przemysł Hill.
11 years ago, the reconstruction of the Royal Castle in Poznań began on the Przemysł Hill in Poznań. The Committee for the Reconstruction of the Royal Castle in Poznań fought for it in 2002. The building was to remind that during the times of Przemysł II, Poznań was the capital of the united Polish kingdom.
The castle actually existed in this place, but there are few historical sources on the basis of which it can be realistically recreated. Thus, the project proposed by Milewski was a variation on what could have been in this place.
When it saw the light of day, the building quickly divided the inhabitants of Poznań and gained the name of the “Gargamel Castle”. Even attempts were made to stop its construction. – As a last resort, we will conduct a demonstration. All opponents in Smurfs’ masks will approach the National Museum and the City Council, where we will hand out a petition – said Franciszek Sterczewski, then an architecture student, now a member of the Civic Coalition, to the portal Naszemiasto.pl.
He did not stop the construction of the castle. In 2017, after more than six years of construction, the castle will be opened. There is a Museum of Applied Arts in its premises, and an observation deck on the castle tower.
It was the last famous project by Witold Milewski. None of the previous ones divided the inhabitants in such a way.
He started by building … a lake
Witold Milewski was born in Poznań in 1930. The first job he took up in Poznań was the construction of Lake Malta. – It was then that the first rowing track was built. We were finishing what the Germans had started. I was employed in a construction office and I kept a construction log – he recalled in his book “Stories Worth Poznań”. The lake was put into operation in 1952.
His first independent project is a gymnasium at the school at ul. Fishermen. The building is still standing today.
Then he went to an old town studio and worked on the reconstruction of tenement houses around the town hall. – I designed several houses in the Old Market Square: Stary Rynek 28, 29 and 30 on the corner with ul. Wielka and Stary Rynek 52, at the corner with ul. Water – he mentioned.
There he met Zbigniew Skupniewicz, with whom he designed many buildings in Poznań in the following years. Together, they designed schools and, from the beginning of the 1960s, buildings for universities and student dormitories.
It started with “Jowita” Student House at ul. Zwierzyniecka, which was put into service in 1968. The original design assumed that two buildings would be built next to each other, facing towards ul. Zwierzyniecka. Each was to have 18 floors. – However, the central authorities did not agree to it. It was established in Warsaw that provincial cities cannot build buildings higher than 11 floors – said Milewski.
The building quickly became known as “accumulators”. This is due to the neon Centry, which was hung on the top of an 11-story building in the 1960s.
Then together they designed the “Eskulap” dormitory for the Medical University, and at the same time Milewski designed the building of a music school at ul. Solna.
Another project by Milewski was the Veteran’s House in Szeląg. Until today, the building is indicated as the European model of modernism.
He also designed the campus of the University of Life Sciences at ul. Wojska Polskiego and the buildings of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and the Faculty of Electrical Engineering on the campus of the Poznań University of Technology in Piotrów.
Milewski considered the Collegium Altum of the University of Economics, a skyscraper at the intersection of Kościuszki and Powstańców Wielkopolski Streets to be his greatest achievement.
The idea of its creation was born in 1968 after the plans to build a university campus in Plewiska were abandoned. The project was entrusted to three architects from the Higher Education Studio in Miastoprojekt: Zygmunt Skupniewicz, Witold Milewski and Lech Sternal. They had a goal difficult to achieve – on a relatively small plot of land, they were to build a building that would be able to meet the university’s requirements. Hence, quite an original trick to place students in a skyscraper.
The architectural concept of the building was ready in 1973. Three years later, the cornerstone was laid and the construction started, which was probably one of the longest in the history of the city.
There were problems from the beginning of construction. At first, the area turned out to be too boggy and the foundations had to be strengthened. Then, for financial reasons, work was suspended twice. As if that were not enough, there was also a shortage of materials.
This is what determined the color of the building’s facade. – A delegation with letters of recommendation from the Provincial Committee of the PZPR and the director of Miastoprojekt was sent to the “Florian” steelworks in Bytom. On the spot, however, it turned out that there was only a sheet of gray color. The other side was covered with red protective paint. We then decided to put it backwards and hence the color of the building that we can see today – explained Milewski in “Stories Worth Poznań”.
The building had 18 usable floors, three of which in the lower part of the building are double floors.
At the end, it was decided to put an antenna on the top of the skyscraper. It’s just that from the very beginning the building was designed to include the air raid zone at the Poznań airport in Ławica. With the mast, it was already too high. But the city authorities did not mind – the air raid zone was simply … increased. Thus, the building is 107.5 meters high.
The building was officially opened on September 24, 1991, although work was still going on inside. The lower part of the building was not ready until three years later and the library was opened in 1995.
In 1993, the largest advertising screen in Poland with an area of 193 square meters was hung on the top of the building on the west side. It was brought to Poland from Chicago in 8 containers, each weighing 3 tons. In total, the entire structure weighed 32 tons and consisted of 126,720 bulbs. The screen displayed advertisements as well as the current time and temperature.
In order to put the screen on the building, special scaffolding was built and the passage on Kościuszki and Powstańców Wielkopolskich streets was closed.
After a year and a half, it was dismantled – the high cost of advertising scared off interested parties and the screen was not profitable. Ultimately, it ended up in Moscow
– Collegium Altum was our best implementation. On the one hand, it is the most exposed building that I have designed. On the other hand, it was made as we wanted – said Milewski.
The architect died on September 29. He was 91 years old.
Main photo source: UEP archive, fotoportal.poznan.pl