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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Warsaw. Modernization of the historic NBP building

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The reconstruction of the main building of the National Bank of Poland on Powstańców Warszawy Square, which is listed as a historic monument, is underway. In March, the institution's press office announced that “the works were designed with respect for the existing dimensions and architectural form”. Meanwhile, the naked eye can see serious interference in the structure. The capital's monument conservator assessed, in turn, that “the building has practically ceased to exist” and will probably cease to be a historic building.

The complex of buildings of the National Bank of Poland on Świętokrzyska Street began to be built in the late 1940s based on the modernist design of architect Bohdan Pniewski. The first stage of construction lasted until the mid-1950s. Less than 20 years later, expansion began. In the years 1971-1976, the so-called Pavilion Block A was built, located in the immediate vicinity of Powstańców Warszawy Square. Since 2019, the extension has been in the Municipal Register of Historic Monuments.

In March of this year, a comprehensive reconstruction of the Block A building began. The TPF architectural studio is responsible for the design of the modernized building. The reconstruction was necessary because employees were increasingly complaining about the poor technical condition of the pavilion. In the past, the National Bank of Poland considered demolishing Block A and building a skyscraper in its place. However, in the meantime, the building was transferred to GEZ and any interventions had to be agreed with the conservator of monuments.

“The works were designed with respect for the existing dimensions and architectural form, making only necessary changes in the scope of construction and finishing materials. This approach to the reconstruction and renovation is the result of design solutions and the requirements of the bodies that agreed on them, including the conservation services,” the NBP press office informed “Gazeta Stołeczna” in March. The investment is to cost over PLN 250 million.

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“The building practically ceased to exist”

After a few months since the construction work began, it is clear to the naked eye that the interference with the original is significant. Only the skeleton remains of the former pavilion. On Friday, a reporter from tvnwarszawa.pl visited the construction site. His photos show the demolition work that has advanced far. From the side of Świętokrzyska Street, the façade has been completely dismantled. About 20 workers are working on site. A crane and an excavator are working at full speed, removing rubble.

When asked by us to assess the state of the works, the Warsaw Conservator of Monuments, Michał Krasucki, stated that “the building has practically ceased to exist”.

– The demolition is dramatic. Its scope means that the building will probably be removed from the register, because it will no longer be a historic building. The scope of this demolition is practically complete – Krasucki noted in an interview with tvnwarszawa.pl.

The Warsaw Conservator of Monuments emphasized that the building, although controversial because many Warsaw residents assessed its appearance negatively, was entered into the register due to three basic values. – It was the implementation of Bohdan Pniewski's initial urban concept, i.e. placing a low operational building in front of the office buildings. The second issue was the elevation, which was controversial, but in the intention of the authors it was to refer to a closed bank vault. The third value was the well-preserved interiors of very high artistic value – enumerated Krasucki.

Project agreed by “tacit consent”

Klaudia Obrębska, spokeswoman for the Mazovian Voivodeship Conservator of Monuments, explained that the renovation project involving the demolition of a significant part of the building was agreed in 2021 by the so-called tacit consent, i.e. lack of a position. This decision was made by Jakub Lewicki, who was the provincial conservator at the time (removed from the position in February 2024).

– The reconstruction project included information on preserving the mosaic decorations. In June 2024, MWKZ received written assurances from the National Bank of Poland that the decorations would undergo conservation work under the supervision of a qualified conservator and, after the renovation was completed, would be restored to their original locations – Obrębska said.

She also informed that “the building's facade will be completely reconstructed as part of the ongoing works.”

Couldn't the demolition be stopped after the change in the conservator's position? – Due to the level of advancement of the investment and the involvement of public funds, it was not possible to stop the previously agreed investment, for example by entering the building in the register – explained the representative of MWKZ.

On Friday, we asked the NBP press office for a comment on the building's reconstruction. We asked about the actual scope of the work being carried out. We also asked for a visualization of the new NBP building (the architectural studio responsible for the project refused to provide us with these materials and referred them to the investor). By the time this article was published, we had not received a response.

Author:Darius Galazka

Main image source: Olek Klekocki/tvnwarszawa.pl

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