How to turn a closed factory into the most vibrant place in the city

Why the Manufaktura in Lodz, Poland is called an exemplary case of renovation and what other approaches are considered the most successful in the global practice of transformation of industrial spaces.

Photo source: en.manufaktura.com
Photo source: op-architekten.com
Photo source: en.manufaktura.com

Łódź is sometimes called «the red city» because old factories present a major part of its historical heritage. A factory, which belonged to Izrael Poznański, was considered one of the biggest textile enterprises in Europe. When it was closed in 1992, the whole block, basically, died with it. And when an investor came for that grand territory, 9 hectares (90,000 m2) in size, many people would find it hard to believe that this place could be revived. However, the Manufaktura, the shopping and cultural and entertainment centre that was opened there in 2006, not only became citizens’ recreation spot but also managed to compete with the main tourist street. Strelka Magazine found out, what role the former factory employees played in the renovation and how the new uses were found for the historical details. SM also had a discussion with Mikhail Razumovsky, the architect from «Rozhdestvenka» bureau, concerning what methods of redevelopment are considered the most successful in global practice and whether a case like Łódź can appear in Russia.

Alexandra Silburska, the representative of Grupa Fabricum

Svetlana Sledz, a guide in Łódź

Olga Silburska, the representative of Apsys, the company that owns the Manufaktura

Mikhail Razumovsky, an architect from «Rozhdestvenka» bureau

THE CITY OF FOUR CULTURES AND TWO TEXTILE KINGS

«Łódź was first mentioned in 1332, but nothing interesting really happened till 1820, — a guide, Svetlana Sledz, describes. — The city was a part of the Russian Empire at that time and it was chosen as the future textile industry centre. A real boom took place so that the population increased from 800 to 400,000 people in a few decades. Łódź was also named „the city of four cultures“. It can be roughly described the following way: the Polish were the indigenous population, the Russians — the officials, the German — the specialists in engineering, and the Jewish — the salesmen and the owners of small and big factories». The three characters from Andrzej Wajda’s movie «The Promised Land», which is dedicated to Łódź’s history, say: «I have nothing, you have nothing, and he has nothing. That means together we have enough to start a factory». By the way, the playful name HollyLodz, which is similar to Hollywood, came from a strong school of cinematography that the director graduated from. Indeed, many people used to come here for profit and commercial happiness in the 19th century. «There were 850 factories by 1900, — Alexandra Silburska, the representative of Grupa Fabricum, says. — Because of the specifics of the development, the city, basically, had no traditional structure, consisting of the old centre and the streets coming from it in rings. A straight net of roads was created here. One of them, Piotrkowska street, became one of the longest shopping streets in Europe».

The square of the Manufaktura
The square of the Manufaktura
The square of the Manufaktura

Izrael Poznański began creating his own textile empire in Łódź in 1872 by constructing the first building on Ogrodowa street. Eventually, he turned his factory into a completely independent company. Raw materials would go through a complete processing cycle — from making the yarn to dyeing the finished fabric. He didn’t even have to buy the equipment: he soon learned to make his own. The manufacturer’s bricks were also of his own production, a bit larger than the ordinary ones. He did it to avoid or at least register workers’ attempts to sell or steal a brick. Moreover, there were workshops, houses for the workers, a canteen, a hospital, a church. No wonder such «city in a city» made Poznański one of two textile kings of Łódź. Karl Scheibler still maintained the superiority in this unspoken competition. According to Svetlana, all the products from the factory were imported to the Russian Empire and later to the USSR. The factory was renamed Poltex in the 20th century, but by the end of the century, it was going through difficult times, just like the rest of the city. The production was wrapping up, Łódź was assigned the status of a free economic zone. Interestingly enough, the idea of the territory’s conversion came from the factory’s last director, Micheslav Mikhalski. «Then, right after 1989 (the first year of Polish democracy), he realised that the production would never go back to those walls because of China’s cheap import. He loved that place and he came up with an idea that was taken as slightly insane at the time. He said that the city needed a help with the fair — a place to meet and to spend free time in. And he also said that all the buildings here could get new functions», — the representative of Apsys mentions. That company, specialised in recreational centres, was conducting the renovation of the territory from 2003 to 2006.

A DISCOTHEQUE IN THE POWERHOUSE AND THE POOL MADE OF THE FIRE EXTINGUISHING SYSTEM

According to Alexandra, a few buildings of no historical value were demolished during the renovation. Because of that, the complex gained more free space. It was partly taken by the new mall. Other 13 buildings were restored. «Now the whole complex, with the exception of the shopping centre, is considered a heritage and is controlled by the local restoration department». The holders have a number of limitations. For example, the project of signs and doors that are to be installed on historical buildings have to be coordinated«, — Olga Silburska adds. The buildings on the territory of the Manufaktura are situated well. The main entrance is marked with the name of the place in the form of large letters, standing on the ground. The square starts right after it, which means that the passers and tourists don’t have to zigzag among yards and passageways. The small buildings on the sides of the square stand in front of the bigger ones so that they don’t block one another. The very first of Poznański’s workshops was rearranged into restaurants and an electrical shop. Cafes were also placed in former mechanical workshops, dispensaries, and a firehouse. Discotheques are now held in the powerhouse, you can play bowling and pool and also enrol in a foreign language school in the bleaching plant. There are a cinema, a theatre, and museums in the large buildings. The weaving building definitely stands out — it’s the grandest one in the complex. Its renovation into a design hotel was analysed on «Zodchestvo-2016» festival by Wojtek Poplavsky, the representative of OP Architecten. According to him, the exterior of the building was kept with almost no changes, but, in opposition, the interior merged the historical details and the modern ones. Metal beams and Monier arches remain on the first floor, but a new ceiling and an atrium with a soft coloured lighting on a light background were made in the central part of the hotel. You can see the whole building through the atrium’s egg-shaped slots. In addition to that, the architects used the opportunities of the large factory spaces. For example, quite a spacious dance hall can be turned into a chamber one by moving the partition walls. The rooms were located where the looms used to take place. They are all bright coloured and so is the furniture in the lobby. However, the most interesting case of history resonating with modernity happened during the pool’s creation. During the restoration, the architects found an extant water tank, which was used for fire extinguishing purposes. It is about 130 years old and it was specifically brought to Łódź from Manchester. The elements of the water tank were applied in the pool’s construction, where they were put in the glass shell. A chain of fountains on the square became yet another historical allusion. It is located where Lodka river used to flow until it was put into the pipe just like all the other small rivers in Łódź.

Photo sourse: viennahouse.com
Photo sourse: viennahouse.com
Photo sourse: viennahouse.com
Photo source: en.manufaktura.com
Photo source: en.manufaktura.com
Photo sourse: viennahouse.com

THE FACTORY’S MUSEUM: 100-YEAR-OLD LOOMS AND «THE POLTEXIANS»

An architect Mikhail Razumovsky speaks about «After the factory» research, conducted by «Rozhdestvenka» bureau, where 10 successful examples of renovation worldwide were analysed. According to him, in most of the analysed cases, people tried to capture the history of the place on the renovated territories with a museum or in some other ways. Russia, on the opposite, doesn’t have many examples like those. Even though it is obvious that their influence on the territory can be very interesting.

The factory's museum

The factory’s museum in the Manufaktura was created the following year after its opening. You can learn the history of Poznański’s business empire and of the city itself. You can also look through the old schemes and literally touch all the stages of the textile production. The most striking detail of the exposition is old 120-140-year-old looms. Every 30 minutes the guides show, how they work. Listening to the noise of the mechanisms, it is easy to imagine, what the atmosphere was like in the weaving shops. It was difficult to find working looms after the bankruptcy of the factory, but the museum developers managed to do that. According to Alexandra, the museum keeps in touch with Poltex’s former workers and it even friendly calls them «polteksiane» («the poltexians»). Their meetings are held every three months on different occasions. Surely, they partly participated in the creation of the exposition: they donated some of the exhibits and shared their memories.

The factory's museum
The factory's museum
The factory's museum

Aside from the factory’s museum, the Manufaktura has a gallery of avant-garde art MC2 and a city’s history museum in Poznańskis’ former estate. Mikhail Razumovsky points out that placing cultural venues in former factories is actually a very effective move, but it’s important to not overdo it. «One of the factory complexes in the Finnish city of Tampere couldn’t find that balance — too many similar spots were started. Because of that, the interest in the strongest gallery in that area started dropping and so did the demand for the whole territory. The owner had to come up with the plan of rebooting that space», — Mikhail says.

THE DEBRIEFING OR 9 PRINCIPLES OF A SUCCESSFUL RENOVATION

Alexandra Silburska thinks that the main reasons for the Manufaktura’s success are the good location and the detailed work with the territory. «We are located close to the city’s main street, Piotrkowska. Unlike Piotrkowska, everything is much more compact here. There is a square as a public space, a meeting site, a cinema, a theatre, shopping, food — all accumulated in one place. Besides, Łódź’s history is far less rich than the history of many other Polish cities, but that is exactly why we concentrate more on the creation the new». And Mikhail Razumovsky lists nine effective approaches to the renovation of industrial territories, which were first introduced by the researcher Matt Isaksen.

— Continuity. One part of the enterprise keeps working and another part is used as a warehouse or is kept for other purposes. This approach existed in the 1970s but now lost its relevance. — Industrial hotels. Instead of one large company, the territory is used by several small ones as if it was being divided into sections. Moscow’s «Elektrozavod» is one of the possible examples. — Forum for various cultural activities. The factory becomes a cluster of cafes, theatres, art workshops. This approach is not the most profitable from the redevelopment perspective, but it makes territories significant attraction spots, which is why it’s so popular. — Modern housing. The buildings get rearranged into lofts, which can become especially popular when the factory is located next to the water. — Hotels and restaurants. They are highly on demand on the territories next to embankments and tourist routes. — Universities and schools in city centres. Big spaces are easily transformed into lecture halls, which provides the inflow of visitors in the daytime. Cultural spots and similar establishments can’t deliver the same results. «Artplay» in Moscow shows that effect. — Trade Fair Halls. One of the few approaches that work in the periphery of the city. — Abandoned sites. If the territory doesn’t get a proper development, it can still become popular in themed communities. — Demolition. That approach can be implemented when it’s impossible to let people into the emergency room and the reconstruction is too expensive. However, the place usually loses its popularity after that, and the image of the owner provokes people’s distrust. That’s why this approach is used more and more rarely.

Photo sourse: en.manufaktura.com

According to the architect, Łódź’s success occurred, in many respects, due to the combination of most of these tools. He thinks that a flexible, but the large-scale approach is way more effective than the scenario, where the artists come before the business. «The art community usually doesn’t have an opportunity to explore the space deeply, so part of the heritage may just disappear. For historical details and factory’s general view to be preserved, one needs to develop an elaborate global project and to maintain the balance between the public and the private. For example, Stanislavsky factory was rearranged into a set of residential and office buildings, but it has an image-building anchor object — the theatre, which had been sponsored by the developer for five years. The Bolshevik factory is now a residential building, but it also has a private museum», — Mikhail describes. He also doesn’t consider the construction of the new shopping centre building in the Manufaktura a disadvantage: «Usually, if you create a mall in the factory space, it turns out to be more expensive, and it will be something like Moscow GUM, content-wise. In this case, the mall is targeted at the wider public. Besides, historical buildings can have much more valuable functions than malls». By the way, the developers here tried to create a semantic connection between the new building and the factory theme. The triangular elements on the roof of shopping centre quote the shape of the glass skylights, which were used to illuminate the weaving buildings. Recalling Russian examples of renovation, Mikhail mentions that many cities have a big potential to create interesting projects. The fact that there are none is not caused by the financial situation as much as it is caused by the attitude towards the industrial heritage. «There is the TEXTIL project in Yaroslavl, it’s one of the few successful ones outside Moscow, but there’s also a fascinating, architecture-wise, milling plant in the same place. It is owned by the company, which builds malls in the city and, apparently, has no idea that their industrial building can have a new efficient function. Now the questions of moving museums into old factory buildings are being raised more and more often. In some cities, you can get such territories for free usage if you have a rearrangement idea. The problem is that there’s still no understanding of all the options of the rearrangements of such buildings and no complete methodology of how you can present the industrial past to the people».

Text: Svetlana Kondratyeva
Translation: Olga Baltsatu