The Okrąglak (Rotunda) Universal Department Store, Poznań
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The Okrąglak (Rotunda) Universal Department Store

Poznań

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The former Universal Department Store commonly referred to as the “Okrąglak” (“Rotunda”) is an example of quality modernist architecture and remains one of the most impressive buildings representing this style anywhere in Europe. It was erected in years 1948-1954, based on the design by the eminent architect Marek Leykam, the author of numerous well-known buildings in Warsaw, including the so-called “Żyletkowiec” (“Razor Blade Building”) - the former headquarters of the Supreme Audit Office at 82 Marszałkowska street (1950-1952) as well as the Government Praesidium building at 62 Wspólna street (1952).

It was the very first building in Poznań to be constructed out of prefabricated components. In years 2011-2012, the building underwent a thorough renovation and modernisation during which its original appearance and interior design were restored, while its function was altered so that now it serves as an office building instead of the department store that it once was.

The historical building is located in the area designated as a monument of history (“Poznań - the historical urban complex” - Regulation of the President of the Republic of Poland of 28-11-2008).

History

The building of the Universal Department Store, commonly referred to as the Rotunda, was erected in years 1948-1954, based on the design by Marek Leykam, with the construction engineer Stanisław Zalewski playing a key part in its construction. The new building was erected on the site of the Sugar Industry Bank, which suffered extensive damage during the war and had to be torn down once the hostilities were over. The minimalistic interior decorations in the form of carved panels positioned above the passages between the entrance and the central staircase are the work of Zygmunt Bednarowicz and Edmund Łubowski. The grand opening of the building took place on January 29, 1955.

During the 1970s, A series of adaptation works was performed inside the building which deprived it of its original character and diluted the underlying concept devised by its designer. The original windows, which featured no divisions whatsoever, were replaced by new ones with horizontal divisions, significantly altering the appearance of the façade, which was painted white at the time. The original openwork attic which crowned the building was dismantled and replaced by a simple, metal railing. In addition, a connector which housed an external, emergency staircase was added between the Rotunda itself and the office building on the north-eastern side thereof, known as the “Kwadraciak” (“Block House”). Inside, the staircase wall cladding made of glass panels was painted over with oil paint, while the ceramic floor tiles were concealed under a poured layer of plastic coating.

The department store remained in operation into the mid-1990s. Following its closure, some of the spaces were taken over by offices and entertainment establishments. In 2008, at the initiative of the new owner of the building, an architectural design was drawn up which called for the renovation, revitalisation and modernisation thereof, coupled with adapting the structure for office use in a manner consistent with the recommendations of the monument protection services. The works, performed in years 2011-2012, included restoring the original façade colour scheme and hatched texture, installing new windows made to mimic the original design (i.e. with no horizontal or vertical dividing bars), reconstructing the openwork attic which crowned the façade, restoring the interiors, including the carved panels above the staircase entrances, the staircase itself, the glass panel cladding on the walls thereof as well as the ceramic tiled floor on the ground floor level.

Description

The building of the former Universal Department Store - the Rotunda - is a modernist edifice located in the centre of Poznań, on a plot of land which lies at the intersection of the S. Mielżyńskiego and 27 Grudnia streets, in a spot where they form a junction with two other streets: Gwarna street (to the south) and A. Fredry street (to the north-west).

The building, designed on a circular floor plan, was erected using prefabricated components that were joined together on site. The cylindrical, nine-storey structure features a flat roof with a central skylight surrounded by an observation deck. Due to its uniform shape, the building does not have a dominant façade that would form the centrepiece of the whole design. Its glazed surface is divided into rectangular windows flanked by distinctive vertical divisions reminiscent of razor blades - a recurring theme in numerous other designs by Leykam. An openwork attic crowns the façade, thus providing the finishing touch. The restored colour scheme of the building, dominated by a light shade of grey, is intended to reflect the materials used in the process of its construction.

Three doorways located on the recessed, socle-like ground floor level lead into the building; these doorways are divided by former display windows, the displays themselves being designed on a triangular plan; originally, these display windows were overhanging structures, but now they reach all the way to the pavement level. A set of overlights above the doorways, each divided into five rectangular sections, provides additional illumination.

The interior is dominated by a central, triple-flight staircase designed on a circular plan, leading to three entrances per each storey, with the elevator shafts being positioned between the doorways. The staircase features a metal balustrade with a wooden handrail. Light inside the staircase comes from the aforementioned circular skylight consisting of rectangular windows covered by a flattened, spherical dome. During the renovation works performed in years 2011-2012, the wall cladding made of rectangular glass tiles was restored, as was the floor which is covered with rectangular red and white ceramic tiles with a decorative, geometric border at the edges.

The interior itself is austere, devoid of any notable, sculptural decorative features. One feature which should be mentioned at this stage are the carved plaster panels above the passages leading from the entrance doors to the building’s interior designed by Zygmunt Bednarowicz and Edmund Łubowski; these take the form of genre scenes wherein the three seasons - summer, winter and autumn - are portrayed.

Limited access to the historic building. The building houses offices and other commercial premises.

compiled by Anna Dyszkant, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Poznań, 27-11-2014.

Bibliography

  • Atlas architektury Poznania, Poznań 2008, s. 145-146.
  • Gołdych J., Okrąglak - najmłodszy zabytek Poznania, „Renowacje i Zabytki” 2012, nr 2 (42), s. 146-150.
  • Marciniak P., Architektura i urbanistyka Poznania w latach 1945-1989, [w:] Jakimowicz T. (red.), Architektura i urbanistyka Poznania w XX wieku, Poznań 2005, s. 144-227 (zwłaszcza s. 152-153).
  • Marciniak P., Doświadczenia modernizmu. Architektura i urbanistyka Poznania w czasach PRL, Poznań 2010, s. 60-65.
  • Robakowska A., Trybuś J., Od Zamku do Browaru. O architekturze Poznania ostatnich stu lat, Poznań 2005, s. 44-51.

General information

  • Type: public building
  • Chronology: 1948-1954
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Mielżyńskiego 12/14, Poznań
  • Location: Voivodeship wielkopolskie, district Poznań, commune Poznań
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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