Varso 1 & 2

HRA Architects have completed Varso 1 and Varso 2, which, together with the Foster + Partners-designed skyscraper Varso Tower, will comprise the built volume components of Varso Place, a mixed-use development encompassing office, retail, food service and leisure functions. The Varso Place project seeks to revitalize a central brownfield area of Warsaw into a thriving business and recreational hub rooted in an ethos of citizen health and wellness.

Although the volumes have separate designers, the larger site project was conceived of and managed by the workspace provider HB Reavis and informed by best-practice design and urban renewal. Health, productivity and sustainability were the anchoring principles for the project. The design challenge for HRA was twofold: to integrate sustainable functionality across all aspects of the design whilst also serving as a built connective and aesthetic tissue between the skyscraper beside them and the wider neighbourhood within which they reside.

Varso 1 and 2 accomplish both goals through aesthetically complementing and enhancing other elements of the project rather than competing with them, and by using carefully curated materials and system solutions to maximize sustainability and energy efficiency. Functionally and visually, Varso 1 and 2 form a symbiotic whole with the 310-metre, 53-storey Varso Tower, which currently stands as the tallest building in the EU. The glittering, spire-topped tower may be the showstopper of the production, but Varso 1 and 2 definitely carry the show. Standing at heights of 19 and 21 storeys respectively, the volumes feature limestone and glass facades and are joined by a glass connector, a symbolic umbilical cord between the two structures.

CW 50-HI Curtain Walls, CW 50-SC Curtain Walls and CW 50 Curtain Walls - Varso 1 & 2 located in Warsaw, Poland

The site of Varso Place is at the doorstep of Warsaw’s transport interchange, with key tram, rail, and bus corridors in close proximity, and as such, the project seeks to re-establish this quarter as a thriving and innovative axis of business and leisure in the heart of the modern-day capital. As part of a wider urban renewal concept driving the project, investment partners included funding for wellness expansion and the greening of surrounding streetscapes, particularly Chmielna Street, where sidewalks were widened, green boulevards of trees and planters installed, benches and bicycle stands added, and lights and street lamps upgraded.

For Varso 1 and 2, this meant that both internal and external public spaces needed to be considered within the design. The labyrinth of underground passages carrying commuters and visitors meant that pedestrian traffic around the site would be high. The walkable, open ethos of the surrounding area was extended into the site design, with an ‘inner street’ connecting the individual buildings and allowing free pedestrian access. In addition, bicycle storage facilities and changing rooms are incorporated in underground levels. The main spatial attraction is the square in front of the entrance, from which visitors are enticed to transition into the glazed, transparent foyer.