Wroclaw is known as the city of gnomes, a tradition honoured by some two hundred bronze statues lining its streets. But it is also a city of varied place names: Wrocław in Polish, Breslau in German, Vratislav in Czech and Breslavia in Italian. The old town was called Ostrów Tumski, a kind of large island surrounded by branches of the river Oder. The nearby Rynek, the Market Square with its wealth of Gothic and Renaissance architecture, still plays an important role as a hub of urban life.
But Wroclaw is not a city that dwells on its past and in recent years has been revealing its ambitions for the future through a series of urban and infrastructural redevelopment projects. These include the new airport, opened for the recent European football championship, and the radical remodelling of the central rail station, better known as Wroclaw Glowny. No less important is the construction project under way on the Sky Tower, which with a height of 212 metres is set to become the tallest skyscraper in Poland.
Alongside these large projects, real estate activity is booming. This includes the new Ogrody Grabiszyńskie complex located in a prestigious pre-war residential district to the southwest of the urban centre, between the Hallera road and the large green area of Grabiszyński Park.
The project, led by architect Thomas Hubka, consists of four large multi-level buildings. One marks the eastern edge of the urban area, while the others stand perpendicular to the park. The concept was to create an extension of the park around the new buildings. For this purpose, ground-level vehicular traffic has been completely blocked off inside the area to leave space for gardens, pedestrian walkways, relaxation areas and children’s playgrounds. Motor vehicle access is restricted to the underground parking area, which has lifts to provide a direct connection to the residential floors of individual buildings.
The property comprises apartments from 43 to 110 square metres in size. Inside, special attention has been devoted to the finishings and the choice of high-quality materials and components combining design with high functional performance. A number of ground-floor retail units serving the district and the rest of the city are located at the corner between Hallera and Grabiszyńska, a strategic position in terms of accessibility.
The compact buildings are punctuated by galleries, balconies and roof terraces that slope from the sixth to the third floor overlooking the park. Large glazed surfaces ensure a high influx of natural light and significant passive energy gains. But in terms of energy efficiency of the buildings as well as overall architectural quality, a vital role is played by the ceramic envelope cladding system with rear-ventilated façade technology. This is a dry mounting system on a metallic substructure anchored to the wall behind. Adequately insulated, it improves energy efficiency and comfort while rationalising the construction process and facilitating maintenance over the building’s entire lifetime. The surface of more than 8,000 sq.m is clad with 60×120 cm full-body porcelain tiles from ImolaCeramica’s Time series, the white, grey and brown coloured tiles emphasising the projecting volumes and construction elements of the various buildings. The joints between the ceramic tiles trace out a thin modular grid that lends order and consistency to the building elements of the façade.