The resurrection of Łazarz

On the edge of Park Wilsona in Poznań stands Betonhaus (Hala Betonowa) – an exhibition centre that dates back over 100 years and that for many decades was used as a college. The building was put up for sale ten years ago and eventually bought by an investor intent on restoring the entire area to its former glory

It’s difficult to count the number of renovation projects that have made a significant impact on Poznań’s urban landscape, some of which have become iconic symbols of the city. One such bold redevelopment was the vast Stary Browar shopping and cultural centre, which involved the restoration and repurposing of the former Hugger brewery. Although this is mainly located in the city’s old town, the brewery’s buildings can also be found in other parts of Poznań, while some, which neighbour Hala Betonowa in the city’s downtown Łazarz district, will form part of a new project being developed by Garvest according to a design by the CDF Architekci studio.

Old and new

Park Wilsona dates back to the 1820s, when a local urban beautification association established a tree nursery to supply plantings for nearby streets and squares. Now the park is a listed monument featuring the largest palm house in the country and is also a popular meeting and recreation point. On its edge lies Hala Betonowa (‘Concrete Hall’) or Betonhaus in German, as it was erected for the East German Exhibition of Industry, Crafts and Agriculture in 1911 (when Poznań was in Germany). “After the Second World War, it became a school of physical education, but, after a series of renovations, the interior lost its original look. Our efforts are concentrated on uncovering the original beauty of the building. The work has already succeeded in removing the paint and plaster from the decorative pilasters and the concrete reliefs that depict animals from across the world. Once the work on the building is complete, it will be open to all who want to visit the local café or the restaurant and it will occasionally be the venue for exhibitions and concerts. Our work should fulfil the intentions of the owner, who wants to restore this extraordinary building to as much of its former glory as possible,” insists Karol Fiedor, the CEO of CDF Architekci. This architectural vision is being realised by Michał and Jacek Korwin-Małaszyński, two members of the board of APP-Projekt. “The goal of the project is also to add new functions to the historic Betonhaus and the brewery building, while of course at the same time returning them to their original appearance. This is to be done by restoring the former viewing axis, demolishing the extensions to recreate the façade, rebuilding the steps to Park Wilsona, uncovering the original roofs, and replacing the wooden window frames, which should also give them a modern elegance,” reveal Michał and Jacek Korwin-Małaszyński.

For many years, Betonhaus stood derelict, so preparing it for revitalisation posed something of a challenge. To this was added the requirement of consulting with the city’s monument conservation office over everything that needed to be done. The renovation work only began a few months ago, so for the moment the contractors are rather tight-lipped about what the final effect might be. The attraction of Betonhaus for visitors will be not only its history, but also its aesthetics and such amenities as a restaurant and a biological restoration centre. It will also contain office space and apartments. “The modernisation work is currently underway on the building and it has been secured against the winter and the weather. Betonhaus could be a very successful renovation in that by using modern materials its historic beauty becomes more apparent,” claims Karol Fiedor.

Nature takes centre stage

The work also covers an area of over 1 ha. This was formerly the site of a perfume factory, from which the residential section takes its name: Perfumiarnia, which will comprise 140 apartments of between 46 sqm and 153 sqm. As Michał and Jacek Korwin-Małaszyński explain, the project has been designed to fit in with the surroundings of the park without dominating the area and to allow nature to interact with the city centre. “We’ve rejected the mania for concrete estates. The renovation of Betonhaus and the brewery forms only a part of the entire project. The investor’s plan is to complete the quarter between ul. Głogowska and the town-house on ul. Śniadeckie with a condohotel. along with Perfumiarnia on the park side. The more aware type of investor generally tries to ensure that estates are not only places to sleep in but also for rest and recreation. Apartments next to city parks are not common, and so this project is intended to merge into the local greenery, while not only respecting its history, but also embracing the latest environmental trends,” declares APP-Projekt. Not all the details of the project have yet been agreed upon, so the companies involved in it are so far avoiding talking about specific dates or cost estimates. “Our ideas of how we are going to manage the site of Betonhaus and the brewery building are still evolving, but we are close to making a final decision as to how each section is to be used. One thing has not changed from the very beginning – that it will be a centre that is open to the people of Poznań as well as those visiting the city. I am sure we are going to be proud of it,” insists Karol Fiedor.

A district of wonders

This is not the first such renovation project in Łazarz, which is aptly named, as in English it means ‘Lazarus’. Just a few hundred metres away from Park Wilsona is the City Park development on the site of a former barracks, where restaurants and other services as well as a hotel have already opened. And then there is the nearby Park Kasprowicza, which has at its centre Arena – a highly distinctive sports and entertainment hall. The district still has lots of interesting sites with development potential, and its wide streets and historic buildings are just some of its attractive features.