The Great Armoury, Gdańsk
Narodowy Instytut Dziedzictwa pl

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The Great Armoury building - one of the most spectacular examples of Dutch Renaissance in Poland - constitutes a truly masterful finishing touch in the landscape of Piwna street and an important architectural landmark of the Coal Market area.

History

The Great Armoury building was erected in years 1600-1605 in the western section of the medieval defensive walls of the Main Town in Gdańsk. The design is attributed to both Anton van Obberghen, a municipal architect, and to Hans Vredeman de Vries. The construction process was overseen by Hans Strakowski, while the sculptural decorations were executed by Willem van der Meer the Younger and Abraham van den Block. Until the late 18th century, the building was used as an arsenal, which meant that it remained under the management of the army until the end of World War I. During the Free City of Danzig era, the ground floor was converted into a shopping arcade, with the upstairs rooms being used for storage purposes. Crucial renovation works - mostly pertaining to stonework - were performed in 1699, 1768, 1887 and 1911. During the spring of 1945, the interiors of the building were destroyed and gutted by fire so that only the peripheral walls were left standing; the domes crowning the towers as well as some of the decorative gables have also been destroyed. The roofs and interiors were rebuilt in years 1947-1951, while the gable masonry was reconstructed in years 1957-1966; the staircases inside the towers as well as their crowning domes were also rebuilt during that period. In May 1954, the building became the property of the Academy of Fine Arts in Gdańsk. Many important restoration works were performed in years 1997-2005, encompassing both the facades and the interiors; the most readily apparent ones are the reconstruction of the stone attic crowning the southern facade and the comprehensive restoration of both facades, including the reconstruction of wall paintings and gilded decorations visible from Piwna street. For many years, the ground floor performed commercial functions; today - within the framework of the “Armoury of Art” project, it will serve to facilitate the implementation of an “open academy of arts” concept, according to the “exhibition, education, promotion and archiving” slogan.

Description

The building forms part of the western frontage of the Tkacka and Kołodziejska streets, between Piwna street and the Coal Market. It is a exceptional example of Dutch Renaissance architecture. Its artistic roots can be traced back to the works of Lieven de Key, the creator of the Haarlem Vleeshal (meat hall). Built on a rectangular floor plan (dimensions: 40 x 60 metres, with the shorter sides forming the basis of front and rear facades), the building features two octagonal towers which grace the corners of its eastern facade. The Armoury is a two-storey building with basement. The building has two facades and four gable roofs positioned in parallel to one another; its design incorporates a typical tenement house facade motif which is reproduced a number of times to achieve the final result. The corner turrets are crowned with domes topped with spires and flag-shaped weathervanes. The building is a brick structure with painted and gilt architectural and sculptural detailing made of stone. The basement features a barrel vault with lunettes, supported by fifteen pillars. The ground floor layout is that of a four-nave, six-bay hall, covered by a double barrel vault with lunettes, supported by fifteen pillars. The first floor features a wooden beamed ceiling. The roofs are covered with roof tiles, while the tower domes are clad with copper sheets. The composition of the western facade incorporates the motif of a traditional tenement house facade, repeated twice and flanked by two octagonal stairwell towers; the water well topped with a small dome and the aedicule housing the statue of Minerva (with the date “1605” inscribed above) both serve to emphasise the axis of the facade. The western facade is designed as a row of four tenement house facades, its axis accentuated by a statue depicting a warrior. The portals are topped with semi-circular arches, their reveals accentuated by rusticated quoins. The sculptural decor incorporates a variety of motifs, although the Gdańsk coat of arms is a recurring feature on all gables. The Mannerist decorations are most lavish in the upper sections of the facade. Side facades of the building are mostly concealed by other buildings, their sole decorative feature being a Polish Renaissance attic. The interiors have been adapted to serve modern functions.

Limited access to the historic building.

Compiled by Krystyna Babnis, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Gdańsk, 10.07.2014.

Bibliography

  • Habela J., Wielka Zbrojownia, [in:] Katalog zabytków sztuki w Polsce. Miasto Gdańsk, part 1: Główne Miasto, Warsaw 2006, pp. 63-68.

General information

  • Type: defensive architecture
  • Chronology: koniec XVI w. - początek XVII w.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Targ Węglowy 4, Gdańsk
  • Location: Voivodeship pomorskie, district Gdańsk, commune Gdańsk
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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