2019-08-01

A Closer Look at the Rejuvenation of Warsaw’s Iconic CEDET Building

The CEDET building is a Warsaw landmark and the designers and contractors working on its development and modernisation were confronted by no small challenge when it came to combining its historic structure with innovative technology. A three-year process saw its distinctive form reproduced and an entirely new office section added in a simultaneous homage to the modernist architectural traditions of the communist People’s Republic of Poland and state-of-the-art, twenty-first century construction solutions.

Inspired by History

Two companies formed the consortium responsible for the reconstruction; consortium leader AMC – Andrzej M. Chołdzyński and consortium partner RKW Architektur+. To grasp the architectural concept which determined their reconstruction of the CEDET building, we need to step back in time...

...to the years immediately after the Second World War, when architects Zbigniew Ihnatowicz and Jerzy Romański completed their design for a department store at the point where Aleja Jerozolimskich, ulica Krucza and ulica Bracka intersect. Their Centralny Dom Towarowy (Central Department Store; CeDeT) was commissioned into use in 1952 and entered the canon of European modernist architecture for good. Built using monolithic, reinforced concrete technology, it stood in the very heart of Warsaw as an exemplification of the dream of a modern, avant-garde capital city.

Over the following two decades, it became known as ‘Smyk’ (nipper), a nickname that sprang from a toys outlet located within it. Then, in 1975, a fire broke out and raged through the building. The reconstruction that followed was superficial. A decision was taken; the structure would be salvaged, but the carpentry, joinery and interior décor would all be changed.

In 2006, the main building of the Centralny Dom Towarowy was entered into the National Inventory of Historical Monuments administered by the National Heritage Board of Poland. That, of course, constituted an additional challenge as regards the modernisation carried out between 2015 and 2018.

Where History and Modernity Meet

In 2011, the building’s new owner, Belgian developer Immobel, decided to undertake radical reconstruction work and restore it to its former glory. Under the eagle eye of Warsaw’s historic buildings conservation office, CEDET was more or less completely pulled down and then rebuilt from scratch using cutting-edge technologies.

The developer, designers and contractors made enormous efforts to preserve the building’s distinctive architectural details. The decision to leave the foundations and skeleton of the structure was made while the work was underway. Archival documentation served as the basis for a faithful reconstruction of the exterior and particular care was taken as regards recreating the elements which were unique to the building’s form, such as the division of the elevation, the pillars, porticoes, chimneys and terraces, for instance. The interior, however, obtained a completely new look. The atrium which soars upwards from the second storey was never a feature of the former ‘Smyk’!

The aim of the work carried out on the iconic department store was both to rejuvenate and to modernise it. To that end, Aluprof S.A. developed an individual mullion/transom wall system, the M-SR110. The use of this dedicated system made it possible to adapt the historical architecture to contemporary technical requirements. The M-SR110 design took into consideration the complex static system whereby the load bearing is transferred from the mullions to the transoms. The decorative strips masking the system serve to recreate the original form of the historical façade. The MB-SR110 system structure, which provides a permanent safety feature in the form of a sprinkler installation, passed the special fire testing run by the Institute of Building Technology with flying colours.

When it came to the semi-structural façade of the newly constructed building, the Aluprof MB-SR50N EFEKT was used. Thanks to the system developed by Aluprof for attaching the glass to the mullions and transoms, this solution makes it possible to attain a uniform glass wall divided by a structure of two-centimetre-wide perpendicular and horizontal strips. The gaps between the panes of glass are filled with a special silicon binder which ensures that the structure is air-tight and enhances its insulation properties. This factor is particularly important in the case of functional, energy-saving buildings which feature extensive exposure to the sun, but require user comfort no matter what the temperature is outside the window.

The opening windows, with their requirement for excellent thermal and acoustic insulation, were also created by Aluprof. The MB-70US system features casements that are invisible on the building’s exterior, which means that passers-by looking at the façade are unable to distinguish between the fixed and the openable windows. Seen from the outside, the width of the frame is inconsiderable, which produces the effect of a construction both light and slender. It is also worth adding that, thanks to the use of Aluprof’s state-of-the-art aluminium systems, CEDET was granted a prestigious BREEAM certificate with a rating of ‘Excellent’ during the design stage.

A Jewel of Polish Modernism Gleams Anew

CEDET, which consists of two parts that present wholly different appearances, combines retail space and top-of-the-range offices. The two buildings share a main entrance. Beneath the rejuvenated ‘Smyk’, there are four levels with a combined area of 12 000 m²; three consist of an underground car park and the fourth is a retail space. In the new building, the retail area covers 7000 m² and it features an underground storey, a ground floor and a first floor. The upper storeys provide almost 12 000 m² of office space. In its entirety, CEDET now boasts more than 22 000 m². The outlets it houses include a bank, a restaurant, a health club, a cosmetics shop, a grocery shop and a café.

From the outset, accessibility was a design priority, as was the environment; the interior spaces are equipped with ecological solutions. The final touch is found on the façade, which features a faithful copy of the neon sign that adorned it during the communist years.

When it came to the semi-structural façade of the newly constructed building, the Aluprof MB-SR50N EFEKT was used. Thanks to the system developed by Aluprof for attaching the glass to the mullions and transoms, this solution makes it possible to attain a uniform glass wall divided by a structure of two-centimetre-wide perpendicular and horizontal strips. The gaps between the panes of glass are filled with a special silicon binder which ensures that the structure is air-tight and enhances its insulation properties. This factor is particularly important in the case of functional, energy-saving buildings which feature extensive exposure to the sun, but require user comfort no matter what the temperature is outside the window.

The opening windows, with their requirement for excellent thermal and acoustic insulation, were also created by Aluprof. The MB-70US system features casements that are invisible on the building’s exterior, which means that passers-by looking at the façade are unable to distinguish between the fixed and the openable windows. Seen from the outside, the width of the frame is inconsiderable, which produces the effect of a construction both light and slender. It is also worth adding that, thanks to the use of Aluprof’s state-of-the-art aluminium systems, CEDET was granted a prestigious BREEAM certificate with a rating of ‘Excellent’ during the design stage.

A Jewel of Polish Modernism Gleams Anew

CEDET, which consists of two parts that present wholly different appearances, combines retail space and top-of-the-range offices. The two buildings share a main entrance. Beneath the rejuvenated ‘Smyk’, there are four levels with a combined area of 12 000 m²; three consist of an underground car park and the fourth is a retail space. In the new building, the retail area covers 7000 m² and it features an underground storey, a ground floor and a first floor. The upper storeys provide almost 12 000 m² of office space. In its entirety, CEDET now boasts more than 22 000 m². The outlets it houses include a bank, a restaurant, a health club, a cosmetics shop, a grocery shop and a café.

From the outset, accessibility was a design priority, as was the environment; the interior spaces are equipped with ecological solutions. The final touch is found on the façade, which features a faithful copy of the neon sign that adorned it during the communist years.

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