Pole position: Libeskind creates an architectural icon for a city on the rise

Warsaw Tower in Poland's skyline at night
Daniel Libeskind’s new Warsaw tower, Zlota 44, makes its mark on the Polish city’s skyline
(Image credit: TBC)

Daniel Libeskind is feeling on top of the world, or at least Poland anyway. We are sitting on the 50th floor of his newly built residential tower in the centre of Warsaw with the city stretched out to the horizon below us. 'My mother grew up very close to here,' he says looking out of the show apartment's floor-to-ceiling window, 'so how fantastic to come back and be able to do something forward-looking, something optimistic that is for the future of Poland.'

For Libeskind this is a particularly poignant project. Born in 1946 in Łódź, Poland, to Dora and Nachman Libeskind, both Polish Jews and Holocaust survivors, his family moved to New York via Tel Aviv in the 50s when he was just 11 years old. Despite having lived in the US for the majority of his life, Libeskind can still speak, read and write Polish.

Located on Ulica Zlota (Gold Street) and simply known as Zlota 44, Libeskind conceived the swooping fin that wraps the new tower as an eagles' wing, soaring upwards from the ground to its peak - a symbol of Warsaw's resurgence of freedom and its bright future. 'It's a different Poland. This country has been through so much but the spirit of Poland is indomitable; the Polish people don't give up. And it inspired me to build this building here.' Referred to by the locals as 'żagiel' meaning 'sail' in Polish, Zlota had become, as Libeskind tells us, 'an icon, before it was even completed.'

In its shadow is Warsaw's old icon, the austere Palace of Culture and Science, an imposing building that was originally known as the Joseph Stalin Palace of Culture and Science but had the dedication revoked during de-Stalinization in the late 50s. While it's still viewed with nostalgia-tinged fondness by some of Warsaw's older residents, many including Libeskind see the Palace as a symbol of the past. 'I know it from childhood as something oppressive, everybody knew it. You didn't have to go to school to know it was built to glorify dictatorship, it was obvious even to kids. So it's good that it's receding. It's a historical artifact now. It'll be there but it's no longer the visiting card to Warsaw.'

At 192 metres-high and with 52 storeys, Zlota is the tallest residential building in Europe and, when complete, the 52nd floor penthouse will offer its buyer the loftiest bed in Europe.

From the outside, the swooping wing-shaped fin that wraps the building's southern and eastern facades is lined with a patchwork of horizontal triple glazing and self-cleaning aluminium panelling designed to follow the arc of the sun path, allowing for maximum daylight to reach neighboring buildings. In contrast, the panels on the western and northern aspects are fitted vertically. 'It's not an office building, it's conceived from the inside out. It's conceived for people to live here. So we didn't want it to be all glass, it's sensitive to the variety of living conditions,' says Libeskind. 'Some apartments are large, some are small. You have to be able to have balance.'

Each unit has its own unique plan and comes in a choice of nine material palettes developed by global design and architecture firm Woods Bagot. 'We wanted to create a compelling story,' says Woods Bagot Principal Jonathan Clarke of the three furnished show apartments in the marketing suite, which are finished with opulent marble bathrooms, walnut-lined walk in wardrobes and walnut floors alongside flashes of exposed concrete. 'The palettes are visually very similar but differ in price, from expensive to the more affordable.' Libeskind adds, 'It's flexible. The interiors will appeal to different people in different ways. It's tailored to you, it's custom made for each apartment and I think that's what people will feel.'

On the street, the ground floor will be lined with retail units that will invite the public to experience the building while encouraging pedestrian circulation in the town centre. However, Zlota's impressive list of amenities  - including a pool, spa, cinema and gym on the 8th floor and a wine tasting room on the ground floor - are reserved for the residents use only.

After a stop-start construction process that began in 2008 but was stalled in 2009 after its original developers ran into financial difficulties during the economic crisis, Zlota was sold to American investors Amstar and Polish developers BBI in August 2014. Slated to be completed by mid-2016, sales have begun in earnest with the completion of the three show apartments open for viewing on the tower's 50th floor.

'We have quite a few clients who will buy apartments in six or ten cities. They've been buying in Berlin but I think they're going to switch to Warsaw because of the increased yield and the growth background,' says Charles Weston Baker, Director at Savills International, the agents who will be spearheading the international sales drive. Buyers are expected to be 75% Polish and 25% international with a particular focus on the some 20 million Poles living abroad, who Weston Baker says will take 'enormous pride' in investing in their home country.

With units on sale for between €240,000 and €1.9 million, the prices set a staggering new standard for luxury real estate in the city, but, with Poland now the sixth largest economy in Europe and with its impressive portfolio of recently completed architectural projects – not to mention a plethora of trendy bars and restaurants – the allure for investors is undeniable. As Weston Baker puts it, 'we've just got to get the story out there.'

Left- A walk-in closet, Right- A sink

The soaring tower, which is 52 storeys and 192 m tall, is a symbol of resurgence for the city, reflected by the opulent interiors

(Image credit: TBC)

A bedroom

The impressive view stretches out over Warsaw’s equally impressive skyline - the city is one of the most densely populated with skyscrapers in Europe, only beaten by London, Paris and Moscow

(Image credit: TBC)

Interior of apartment- Bedroom

The surrounding area is dominated by the Stalinist Palace of Culture and Science, of which Libeskind says, ’soon enough the big block blocking the Palace will be cut, there’ll be streets, people will be able to walk through the centre’

(Image credit: TBC)

Dining area

The panoramic views are matched by world-class amenities that create a community and lifestyle that doesn’t yet exist in Poland

(Image credit: TBC)

Stone fountain with Warsaw tower in the background

The building will also include dramatic lobby space with six-metre-high ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows

(Image credit: TBC)

Interior of apartment- View of kitchen

Homes and apartments are currently available for sale in Zlota 44, each with their own unique shape and design thanks to the architectural choices made by Libeskind, providing a truly tailored living experience

(Image credit: TBC)

Interior of apartment- Living space

Libeskind says of his pioneering project: ’Warsaw was destroyed in the war, it was rebuilt by dictators but this is now a new time, this is the 21st century and it’s not by coincidence. Suddenly you see all the other buildings rising here. Soon the Palace will just be a fragment of history, it won’t be the dominant thing in the city centre, that’s the beauty of this building’

(Image credit: TBC)

View of the private swimming pool

Amenities include Poland’s largest private indoor pool, private cinema with golf simulator, outdoor Jacuzzis and spa

(Image credit: TBC)

Communal lounge area

The ground floor is to be lined with retail units, adding to the structure’s multi-functional, community centric atmosphere

(Image credit: TBC)

View of the Cellar

There’s even a fully stocked wine cellar to explore below ground

(Image credit: TBC)

External view of lobby space

The building will benefit from a seriously dramatic lobby space with six-metre-high ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows

(Image credit: TBC)

View of the top of the tower

Libeskind goes on to say, ’Very often big buildings become very monotonous. They’re just a ’one liner’ but to make a building that has a domestic sense to it - not an office building, not a hotel but just for people to live has its own challenge. That’s maybe the biggest challenge in architecture’

(Image credit: TBC)

Warsaw Tower in Poland's skyline at night

He continues: ’To me, to design a great apartment building is maybe the highest form of architecture because it’s very difficult, you don’t know every resident but you have to design something that you think will be flexible enough to work for every desire, and individual enough to work for every client and I think this is what this building is’

(Image credit: TBC)


For more information, visit the Zlota 44 website