Beauty restored

The view of Ostrów Tumski from the south is undoubtedly one of the most interesting fragments of Wrocław’s cityscape. However, this panorama has several “gaps” – mute witnesses to the destruction brought about in the spring of 1945. Most striking from this perspective is the lack of building stock in the axis of St. John’s Cathedral and the lack of Baroque edifices of the bell-ringer’s house and the bishop’s boarding school. The latter, called Collegium Clericorum, resembled an urban palace kept in a Baroque form of Austrian provenance. The edifice was situated in the south-eastern corner of Tumska Island, in the immediate proximity of the Odra channel, between the Odra and the Cathedral Square. Its characteristic silhouette, capped with a high roof with two rows of garrets and tall chimneys, became a symbol of the development in this part of the island. After four years of construction, in 1729 the edifice was ready for use for the archdiocese’s educational purposes. On 2 April, 1945, the school was destroyed in more than 80 percent; after the war, its relics were buried with rubble. In 2010, an idea emerged to reconstruct the object as the seat of the diocesan Library and Archive. The final decision to rebuild the Baroque edifice was made in 2012. The design work was carried out by the architecture studio AQ7. Led by arch. Jerzy Gomółka, the studio prepared the concept and executive design, which aimed to reconstruct the oldest, L-shaped part of the building and reconcile the historical body with the new function. The archaeological work started in the spring of 2013 resulted in the discovery of architectural details that will be used in the new building, following the principles of anastylosis. At present the construction of the edifice is completed; its interiors are being finished and the immediate surroundings are being developed. Its appearance attracts huge public interest due to the unusual aesthetics and building materials that are rather intriguing when used in reconstructing historical architecture. While the object’s historical dimensions, proportions, façade divisions and architectural details have been kept, many onlookers find it intriguing or upsetting. The reason for it is the employed technology of using special light concrete, which ensures high aesthetic quality and precision of the casts on the one hand, and on the other hand – it is colouristically non-homogenous, kept in shades of cool whiteness. Concrete was used to make the construction walls, the “skin” that includes the architectural details, the plain roof tiles; even the chimneys are covered with pre-fabricated concrete elements. Is this an example of restoring beauty? Does the edifice fit in with the “beautiful architecture” of Ostrów Tumski, or is it iconoclastic? Beyond doubt, it triggers reflection, remains mysterious, causes anxiety and stirs up emotions.

Text by Damian Grzegorz Kanclerski

Tour leaders: Jerzy Gomółka and Damian Grzegorz Kanclerski