Warsaw’s post-war redevelopment has often lacked clarity and direction, leaving an architectural legacy that often feels improvised and confused. A jigsaw of oddly-fitting pieces, it’s not uncommon for outsiders to liken much of the city to a disorganized tangle built with no rhyme nor reason.
Naturally, a number of districts provide a counter-balance to all this, but none more so than Wilanow. Comprised of four pieces, the district – set on the southern outskirts of the city – can be sub-divided into Zawady, a post-war estate that’s seen a generous spurt of modern, upmarket, stand alone housing; old Wilanow, an area of plush manors and diplomatic residences; Zaplocie, a pleasant zone of modern low-rise villas; and Miasteczko Wilanow. It is the latter, that perhaps makes for the most talked about case study.
Touting a 450 hectare footprint, Miasteczko Wilanow is recognized as the largest urban development in Europe this century. Constructed to hold a capacity of 10,000 people per square kilometre, no other area of the Polish capital can compete in terms of density. Despite this, it says much for the urban planning that Miasteczko has the feel of a quiet garden suburb. This has been achieved through an architectural policy that has enforced a maximum building height (five storeys), while generously sprinkling the area with green belts and water features. “There were two desired outcomes in addition to providing a return on investment,” says Guy Perry of AECOM. “These were: one, to create a neighbourhood that would represent democracy; and, two, to really focus on people’s well-being – the way to do that was to maintain that human metric.” With the benefit of being able to build the development from scratch, several strategies were employed to realize this. Crucially, the widespread provision of underground car parks allowed the developer to use the smallest street dimensions permitted by law, thereby giving the project an added sense of suburban intimacy
Helping build a diverse sense of community has been the range of apartments available: everything from studios of 30 sq/m, all the way up to top floor penthouses. With prices remaining competitive, it’s scant surprise that the development has proved popular with out-of-towners moving to Warsaw. In particular, these have been young professionals attracted by both the costs and amenities. “The most important thing,” adds Guy Perry, “was that everything was within walking distance – shops, cafés and restaurants, veterinarians, schools, churches, larger playgrounds and the rubberised jogging track.”
Ribboned with jogging tracks and cycle paths, and with playgrounds within 70 metres of each apartment, the project has gained a name for being a baby buggy central. This has, of course, been an added boon to those living just outside of Miasteczko – all of a sudden, these facilities have opened new options to them. Vitally, the number of established international private schools and kindergartens (including those offering German, English and American education programs) has also led to a consistent stream of expats and affluent Poles choosing Wilanow as their home. Though a fair number gravitate towards Miasteczko Wilanow, those with families or larger incomes are looking slightly beyond and towards the primary market housing complexes that are being delivered. Built to the latest state-of-the-art specifications, these too represent remarkable value: properties listed by Hamilton May include a still-to-be-completed 500 sq/m, five-bedroom house priced at PLN 1.85 million (EUR 435,000). Other featured properties number a completed 229 sq/m, five bedroom house in for PLN 1.45 million (EUR 339,000); and a classic manor house (263 sq/m, five-bedrooms, three bathrooms) for PLN 3.2 million (EUR 747,000).
The above examples are representative of the range of sizes and styles, though all are linked by one common narrative: through their Wilanow location, all benefit from the various utilities that have sprung up around: the Royal Wilanow ‘social shopping centre’ has added a ‘heart’ to the district, with its intelligent tenant mix featuring high-quality stores alongside a strong range of Food & Beverage options and a varied program of regular events; elsewhere, Medicover’s new hospital is considered arguably the best in the country; while Plaza Wilanow, a seasonal beach complex, does an outstanding job of fulfilling the area’s summertime leisure needs.
As it is the case of each district, Wilanow also faces several challenges. One of the most striking is the lack of public tram communication, which often results in increased traffic and traffic jams on the way to the city center, especially during rush hour. However, the recently announced news about the construction of the tram line connecting the Wilanów district with the center of Warsaw (which should be completed by 2020) is considered vital to the district’s future. Additionally, the residents of Wilanów will surely benefit from the construction of a bridge connecting Wilanów with the right bank of Warsaw. Some of the district’s current residents also point to the lack of a large shopping center within Wilanów itself, which would be able to satisfy the needs of such a densely populated district. Luckily, GTC is currently working on the project Galeria Wilanów shopping center, offering 61.000m2 of GLA (gross leasable area), and featuring 250 shops, servicing primarily the district’s residents. The project is due to completion in the second half of 2018.
Thus far, each new year has brought good tidings and that trend is set to continue. All these factors point to a bright, busy future. Known for its family-driven atmosphere, low crime rate, and sense of quiet prosperity, the lively micro-community that is Wilanow is set to thrive and develop for several years to come.