A new development at Wroclaw Polytechnic
Arch. Ewa Frankiewicz
Wrocław’s university, located on the banks of the river Oder, was opened in 1903 by a decree of the Prussian senate, with the aim of modernising the country’s mining, chemical and metallurgical industries. “The Royal Institute for Technical Education” was inaugurated in 1928 with great pomp by Wilhelm II, the exiled king of Prussia and Emperor of Germany. Access to the administrative offices, machine tool workshop, electronic and chemistry faculties was provided by a monumental sandstone gate, flanked by natural-size statues representing the two sides to education: theory and creativity, carved in a sitting position, and practice, depicted as a workman with hammer and anvil.
Teaching was interrupted by the Second World War when students and professors alike were called to arms. The siege of Wrocław ended in May 1945 when the town was occupied by the Red Army and became part of the Polish People’s Republic.
On the 24th August that same year, 27 professors returned to teach in ruins. Surviving teachers from Wrocław Polytechnic were joined by others from the Polytechnic of Lviv, the Ruthenian city that King Casimir the Great had annexed to Poland. Lessons began on 15th November and the university soon began to flourish. Soviet realist buildings were added in 1950 to house the faculties of Electrical Engineering and Aerospace Engineering. The faculties of Architecture, Electrical Metrology and Photonics came later. The students’ centre was built in 2000 and jokingly nicknamed the “Swiss Cheese” for the round holes in its façade. A few years ago, a panoramic cable car was installed to cross the river and provide easy access to the laboratories of the Geocentrum research centre.
The new building designed by architect Ewa Frankiewicz occupies pride of place in this setting. Though complex in terms of its volumes, the building acquires authority and significance for its reference to the shape of the early 20th century gate.
The form of the gate is reflected in the portal around the façade of the tallest (41 metres) and slenderest volume, shaped like a glass curtain, with a centre protected by a grid of square openings.
The portal, grid and all non-glass façades are completely covered in large, ultra-thin ceramic tiles (1000×3000 mm, and only 3 mm thick) reinforced by a glass fibre backing. These impressive tiles are made by Laminam, the company formed in 2001 by Franco Stefani with technical support from the System Group, of which it is part. Laminam has revolutionised the ceramic industry and greatly extended its potential. Using patented technology to compress carefully selected and refined clays and feldspars in an industrial process, the company produces large-format tiles in sizes up to 1620 x 3240 mm. These perfectly flat and extremely lightweight tiles are able to form genuine architectural skins with a variety of textures and colours.
To blend in harmoniously with the building’s glass surfaces, the Polish architect chose the I Naturali – Marmi collection in the colour Crema Marfil. Pre-drilled and backed by a neoprene seal, these tiles are fixed to the metallic structure using rivets painted in the same colour.
Laminam, I Naturali - Marmi collection
Water absorpion (ISO 10545-3): 0,1
Chemical resistance (ISO 10545-13): da A a C
Resistance to deep abrasion (ISO 10545-6): ≤175 mm3
Stain resistance (ISO 10545-14): compliant
Frost resistance (ISO 10545-12): compliant
Modulus of rupture and breaking strength (ISO 10545-4): 50
Thermal shock resistance (ISO 10545-9): compliant