Having never fully recovered from World War II destruction, Warsaw contained a disconnected urban core marked only by the soaring Palace of Culture and Science and large, lifeless voids. In the mid-1990’s, the developers envisioned Zlote Tarasy as a new city center next to Warsaw’s commercial business district. The project would be a symbiosis of cultural, commercial, and entertainment functions that would reflect Warsaw’s rapidly growing global identity and create an important social space within the city’s urban core. Located on an under-utilized 7.8-acre site immediately adjacent to the Warszawa Centralna train station and the Palace of Culture, the project would establish a vibrant center and help weave the city’s disconnected areas back together while adding a pocket park to the string of pocket parks connecting the new urban core to the historic center of Warsaw. Zlote Street, meaning “street of gold” provided the inspiration for Zlote Tarasy, meaning “golden terraces,” its name also reinforcing the project’s alignment on the axis of the Palace of Culture which was part of the original city master plan. The 32,000 m2 site–215 m long and 165 m wide–is flanked by streets on three sides and a train station to the south. The site’s north side faces a shopping center and hotel; the east side borders Emilii Plater Street, a bustling six-lane highway on which the Palace of Culture and Science is located; and the west faces Jana Pawla II Avenue.
Zlote Tarasy is designed to reflect a strong sense of place that is rooted in the city’s historic urban fabric. Warsaw’s historic urban parks, spared from the otherwise total destruction of the city during World War II, served as a main source of inspiration for the design team. The preserved parks form a centuries-old “necklace” of “green pearls” through the city. Envisioning Zlote Tarasy as metaphorically adding another “pearl” to the series, the design reinterpreted the historic parks as a contemporary urban environment with generous open spaces that evoke the vitality and rich heritage of the parks. Zlote Tarasy is centered around a below-grade, open-air pocket park and indoor plaza, both of which open to a commercial center organized as a series of four terraces that overlook the plazas. Continuing the park metaphor, the indoor plaza and commercial center are covered by an extensive glass roof whose organic, undulating shape was designed to recall the ancient tree canopies that crown Warsaw’s parks. The roof’s undulating form creates engaging and highly individuated spaces moving up through the terraces.
Ceiling heights alternate dramatically as the canopy’s propulsive form flows through a series of dramatic technical gestures, demonstrating a dynamic interplay of light, shadow and space. In illuminating the interior spaces with natural light, the design blurs the line between interior and exterior, creating a compelling visual and experiential exchange with the project’s urban setting. The design creates a comfortable, year-round, environment that flourishes in both the harsh winters and the warmer seasons. Encircling the plaza are mid- and high-rise office towers that frame the commercial center and establish a new visual landmark for the skyline of the city centre. The 11-story and 22-story towers, which are gracefully curved to mirror the natural shapes of the plaza, are designed with a scale that is both accessible and relates to the monumentality of the Palace of Culture and Science and surrounding structures.
Zlote Tarasy’s circulation system was planned to restore the historic urban grid that was lost during the war and establish vital pedestrian paths that reunite and re-energize the urban core. The perimeter entrances and interior circulation connect to the existing pedestrian patterns, linking to the Warszawa Centralna train station on the south with city center on the north. As a multi-nodal hub, the project also connects to the existing train level stations at two locations. The internal circulation is composed of two primary streets, a north-south axis and ovular path that intersect at two points. The streets are designed with edges that are stepped at each floor level that allow natural light to penetrate the four terraced commercial levels and ensure each storefront has maximum exposure with no column obstruction. The interior walkways follow the lines of the office blocks that rise above the glass canopy. Zlote Tarasy’s roof design and engineering represents technical advancement. The diaphanous glass canopy was envisioned as an iconic symbol that would reflect Warsaw’s emergence as a global city, its organic, undulating surface resulting from three years of collaboration and research between architects and engineers. Initially conceived as a dome, the roof evolved into a fluid, fabriclike canopy that synthesizes nature and technology.
Using a computer-simulated forest canopy formed by virtually laying a cloth over a group of spheres representing clusters of trees, countless shapes and forms were explored, alternating the size, heights, plasticity, and elasticity, while also determining the impact of gravity upon the composition. The final shape was determined to achieve three design and functional objectives: 1) effectively disperse rainwater and snow melt to eliminate pooling; 2) establish multiple points of curvature that avoid flat areas with excessive deflection; and 3) create an interior environment that is visually connected to the exterior and is a dynamic space that changes with different viewpoints and natural light conditions. The modeling process revealed the complexity of the roof’s geometry, spanning 120 meters (with individual spans of more than 30 meters) and constructed of approximately 4,700 triangular panes of glass, with no two panes the same size.
To support the canopy, a structure of strategically located “trees” were carefully situated to minimize impact and obstruction. Balancing structural requirements with visual lightness, each tree has a 2 m high tapered steel tubular trunk filled with heavily reinforced concrete. From the top of each primary trunk, three steel tubes branch out at different angles and individually split into a quad of four smaller branches that connect to the roof mesh. The glass canopy, tubular branches, and structural trees create a visual tableau that explores the potential and interrelation of the natural and man-made while establishing an undeniable sense of place. In consideration of Warsaw’s cold climate, the glass roof was oriented with a southern exposure, maximizing the reception of natural sunlight and allowing the project to become a year-round destination. During Warsaw’s harsh winters, the canopy maintains the indoor/outdoor experience by illuminating the interior spaces with sunlight. To offset the heat load during the summer, the roof was designed with a passive cooling system, combining the ability to open the bottom portion of the roof to create a cross breeze and the placement of ventilation panels in the six domes of the canopy to allow hot air to draw and escape through the top. Although the natural ventilation system has not yet been implemented due to initial financial considerations, the project has been built to anticipate the future addition of the system.
Designed to reconnect the area to the city, the project realizes the site’s potential as the center of a large urban system. In addition to renewing Warsaw’s urban identity, Zlote Tarasy creates a model for further urban redevelopment in the city. The project simultaneously acknowledges the city’s rich cultural history while also projecting a distinct architectural vernacular for the future, reinterpreting the city’s historic landscape to meet the needs of a modern urban environment.
Location: Warsaw, Poland Architect: The Jerde Partnership Project Size
Site area: 7.8 acres
Total building area: 186,000 square meters
Retail: 65,032 square meters
Entertainment: 9,290 square meters
Lumen: 23,500 sq meters
Skylight: 21,500 sq meters
Developer/Investors: ING Real Estate, Rodamco
Design architect: The Jerde Partnership
Executive architect: EPSTEIN Sp. z.o.o
Structural, acoustic,geotechnical, civil and traffic engineer, environmental studies: Arup
Landscape design, water: feature design: EDAW
Signage, environmental graphics: Sussman/Prejza &, Company, Inc.
Lighting consultant: Kaplan, Gehring, McCarroll Architectural Lighting
Traffic studies: BPRW
MEP consultant: Tebodin Poland Sp. z.o.o.
Cost consultant: Gardiner & Theobald
Daylight consultant: Bartenbach Licht Labor Gmbh
Project manager: Mace Polska, Sp. z.o.o.
General contractor: Skanska
Skylight contractor: Waagner Biro SGT Opening: February 7, 2007
• International Council of Shopping Centers Design & Development Innovative Design Award (2008)
• Finalist, Urban Land Institute Awards of Excellence, Europe (2008)
• Retail Destination of the Year, World Retail Awards (2008)
• International Shopping Centre of the Year Award, Global RLI Awards (2007)
• Winner, Retail and Leisure Category, Architectural Review/MIPIM Future Project Awards (2006)
• Best of Show, MAPIC/Plaza Retail Future Project Awards (2005)
• Best Large Development Scheme, MAPIC/Plaza Retail Future Project Awards (2005)