The Arkady Wrocławskie arcade, opened on 28 April 2007, is one of Wrocław’s largest commercial investments in recent years. The city of Wrocław, in southwestern Poland, was founded 650 years ago, and is currently in a phase of dynamic development. The building is in a highly attractive location – close to the centre, at the beginning of the Świdnicka street, the city’s main axis. The building is not located in simple surroundings, and this is certainly not going to change: the Arkady constitutes, unintentionally, the first phase of the gigantic investments to be made in this city district by Polish and foreign companies – a district that will ultimately evolve into Wrocław’s major business, trading, leisure and residential area. The authorities responsible for town planning have granted permission for the development of many high-rise buildings in this district, and this will undoubtedly result in the construction of a series of densely-packed tall and very tall buildings.
Consequently, the owners and architects of the Arkady needed to take account of the district’s future in the development of their plans; they have designed a building that certainly will not be surpassed by the architecture of the coming years. The figures alone are indicative of the sheer size of the Arkady. The 17,500 m2 plot accommodates a complex of almost 100,000 m2 destined for trade, offices and services, together with a multi-level car park and the necessary technical infrastructure. 30,000 m2 is allocated to about 130 stores, 5,000 m2 to a cinema complex with ten auditoria with a total of 2,874 seats, more than 9,000 m2 is destined for an office block in which a number of foreign and Polish companies (including the building’s investor) have now let space, and the car park with no less than seven levels offers space for 1100 cars. The enormous Arkady Wrocławskie occupies almost the entire city district adjacent to a busy railway line. The design is comprised of three elements: a skyscraper, a cylinder and a block that fills the remainder of the plot. The thirteen-storey skyscraper is destined solely for offices, whilst the block and the cylinder offer space for the mixture of other functions broadly defined by the architects: a shopping centre, a multifunctional area, and car-parking facilities. In Wrocław’s spatial layout, the cylinder constitutes the end of the axis that begins with the market on the Świdnicka Street, whilst the skyscraper dominates the southern side of the cityscape.
In view of its urban location, the skyscraper received most attention during the design of the complex, whereby the designers made full use of Reynaers’ technology. The offices face south; a double façade, still relatively rare in Poland, serves as a buffer to protect the building from excessive sunlight and street noise. Pursuant to Polish fire regulations, it was not possible to design a continuous ventilation air flow over the entire height of the building: the ventilation system was designed by dividing the Arkady’s façade into individual storeys, whereby each storey was further subdivided into two independently- ventilated glass modules in the form of broad rectangles. The exterior is clad with panels of colourless glass attached to steel supports based on the CW 50-SC semi-structural system. The panels are divided into two at the floor between two storeys. The interior is clad with a standard version of the CW 50 system, with supporting profiles and transverse profiles which are mounted between the floor and ceiling. Windows in the modules can be set ajar, and a Venetian blind system is mounted between the two layers of glass. The pleated façade constituted a major challenge for the constructor. Ultimately, this was achieved using an extremely simple solution: flat glass panels mounted at angles to each other. The pleated double façade of the skyscraper, located at one of Wrocław’s major junctions, creates a certain depth and an appealing gradation of light and shadow. In doing so, the skyscraper is in effect a modern gate to the city centre.
When viewed from an engineering perspective, the other façades of the Wrocławskie Arkady are much simpler. The façades, with their use of Reynaers’ standard CW 50 system of supporting profiles and transverse profiles, lack the depth of the skyscraper’s southern façade. Contrast in the southern façade is created simply by the incorporation of a large, two-dimensional panel of colourless glass, without top-hung windows, in a regular grid of vertical and horizontal dividing profiles. The façade of the western section of the Arkady, which is much lower than the skyscraper and is intended for stores and offices, is of a comparable construction. The combination of the ‘through-and-through’ coloured glass, the glass decorated with silk-screen prints, a number of custom-made long glass cabinets on the first floor and sun blinds made of glass slats in front of parts of the façade all result in a much more varied design which forms the building’s distinctive frontage on the side of the city centre’s busy main street. The glass section of the Arkady’s northern façade is of a comparable graphic design and colour; this façade forms a demarcation between the cinema complex and the city, in particular with the railway and the passing trains. Reynaers’ products are also used in much of the multi-storey car park. The vertical aluminium sun blinds designed specifically for this part of the building are comprised of elements built up from dark-brown panels which, subsequent to assembly, give the impression of an irregular rhythm which supplements the even beige-brown colour of the multi-storey car park.