People in (and outside) glass houses

Koneser in Praga, the Norblin factory in Wola and Elektrownia in Powiśle – more and more of Warsaw’s districts have places with historic grounds, where both local residents and tourists can go to relax, eat or take part in events. Soon Wola is to gain another such venue

The Ogrody Ulricha gardens are situated next to the Wola Park shopping centre in north-western Warsaw. “They have a rich history that dates back to before the war, when Jan Bogumił Ulrich set up the first horticultural centre in Warsaw on this site. At its centrepiece were the iron greenhouses, where exotic fruit and tropical plants were grown. With the desire to restore the Ogrody Ulricha gardens to their former glory, we decided to create a new version and put it to new use,” explains Anna Bozhenko, the director of Wola Park. “It’s important to us that the renovated space resembles the gardens during the days of the Ulrich family, but that it also meets the needs of both residents and our customers, which were established through a public consultation process in 2018,” declared Artur Drączkowski, a project manager at Ingka Centres, as the work began in May 2021.

Lessons from history for the designers

The design concept for the Ogrody Ulricha gardens was drawn up by the WXCA architectural studio in cooperation with LAB3. “We begin every project with a thorough analysis, trying as best as we can to get a feel for the place, to reveal its soul. For the Ogrody Ulricha project, what was very important were the guidelines laid out by the regional monument conservator we were talking to, so that we could set out the goals for the project,” reveals Monika Lemańska, an architect at WXCA. She explains that the work concerned only a 2 ha area and involved the restoration of two parks: one historic and one more modern, as well as the greenhouses and their surrounding area. “Our task was to integrate this area so that it would be an attractive place to meet in Warsaw’s Wola district,” she adds. The garden will comprise the renovated greenhouses, Park Ulricha, the Ogród Codzienny park, Villa Ulricha and the wooden Zielona Chata building. “The aim of the investor, Ingka Centres, was to restore the gardens to their former glory and introduce subtle modern solutions in the spirit of sustainable development,” insists Monika Lemańska. From the outset, the studio’s architects wanted to embrace the heritage of the Ulrich family. “Our approach met the approval of the conservator, who issued a positive decision. The project was highly appreciated for restoring the compositional integrity of the historic and modern parks, resulting in a consistent green space with a square as well as the creation of a passage, which fits in with the original idea of a single consistent monumental garden,” explains Monika Lemańska. Furthermore, the new section of the park is to become an educational space for nature and relaxation, while the publicly accessible communal gardens have been laid out to foster a sense of community. The main square, with its fountain and flowering trees, is to be a venue for concerts, exhibitions, outdoor cinema screenings, performances and breakfast markets. The old greenhouses are at the heart of the concept and are to be converted for modern culinary and educational use. “During the design work, it gave us great pleasure to be able to retain the historic features, such as the shape of the roofs, the brick walls and chimneys as well as the white ironwork details. But at the same time, we were looking for sustainable solutions that would integrate the project with the modern world, including modern installation systems, a suitable choice of glass, reductions in heat emissions and improvements to the water retention,” adds Monika Lemańska.

The first tenants

Restaurant and café operators have already recognised the value of the project. “The first tenants include four premises: two restaurants and two bars,” says Anna Bozhenko. “These are street food restaurant Pasibus, Neapolitan pizzeria Ragazzin and also two central bars: Tap Bar and Botanic Bar, which will maintain the spirit of the centre,” adds Wola Park’s director.

On the building site

The general contractor for this project is Budimex, having been awarded the contract by Ingka Centres in May 2021. Budimex has been responsible for the work to rebuild and extend the historic Ulricha Greenhouses and Park Ulricha as well as the modernisation of the Villa Ulricha and Zielona Chata. Before all this could begin, work was undertaken to conserve the greenhouses by Revita Art. The assembly of Greenhouse B, which will contain the food section has been completed, while the work on constructing Greenhouse A intended for educational and entertainment purposes is ongoing. Work is also underway on the remaining buildings, including the Zielona Chata and Villa Ulricha, which are both intended to be premises for restaurants. Work is underway to preserve the wooden construction of Zielona Chata and in the villa restoration work is being carried out on the façade while the windows are also being replaced. “We are finishing the concrete and steel construction as well as the conservation work for the walls,” Michał Wrzosek, a spokesperson for Budimex, informs us. “We plan to close the greenhouse buildings by the end of April and then begin interior and conservation work,” he adds. “A lot of the work has to be very precise and done by hand, while its completion is completely dependent on the weather. Because the work involves uncovering the historic fabric of the buildings, problems arise that were completely unforeseen and we try to resolve them as they emerge with the design team and the investor. The speed of the work is also determined by the need to adjust the space for the needs of the tenants,” explains Michał Wrzosek. According to Anna Bozhenko, the project is on schedule and Ingka Centers will be able to welcome its first guests to Ogrody Ulricha at the end of the summer.