Budynek w 2022 roku, po remoncie. Autor zdjęcia: kodens79/fotopolska.eu, Licencja: CC BY-SA 4.0

“Krakow Skyscraper” – former KKO building on Szczepanski Square

The former KKO building in Krakow is the only high-rise building within the Planty area. This seven-storey edifice, located at 5 Szczepański Square at the exit of Reformacka Street, was designed by Fryderyk Tadanier and Stefan Stroik. It was put into use in 1935. Already during construction, due to its height, there were attempts to stop the construction of the 6th and 7th storeys, which ultimately failed. It was one of the most controversial building investments in interwar Krakow. Before the war, the building was popularly known as the “Krakow Skyscraper”.

The idea of erecting a sky-scraper belonging to the Komunalna Kasa Oszczędności Powiat Krakowski appeared in the early 1930s. So the company acquired a corner plot of land with a low-rise building on it to erect a symbol of its power – a seven-storey flat block. The location was not insignificant; the representative Szczepański Square was chosen for the building.

The KKO building in 1936. Source: NAC – National Digital Archive, Ref: 1-G-6146-4

budynek KKO

The design of the building, approved in 1932, was characterised by layered levels, culminating in a corner with the main entrance topped by a circular tower. The plans also included the construction of a roof terrace and extensive retail space on the ground floor. The modern building was to be constructed using ISTEG technology, the same technology used to build Warsaw’s famous Prudential. However, once work had begun, it turned out that the designed edifice was too high, a full nine metres higher than the regulations allowed. The architects were forced to redesign the building, but in the end KOPK got what it wanted and a seven-storey monstrosity rose above the historic buildings of the Old Town, much to the displeasure of the people of Krakow.

The building in 2013. Photo author: Neo[EZN]/photopolska.eu, License: CC-BY-SA 3.0
The modernist building failed to blend into the historical fabric of Szczepański Square and completely dominated it. This state of affairs continues to this day as, contrary to Tadanier and Stroik’s beliefs, no further tall buildings have sprung up in the area. The city authorities, perhaps having learnt from the mistake of Szczepański Square, began to take more careful care of the character and scale of the buildings around the Planty. Although the skyscraper finally completed in 1935 stirred up a great deal of controversy, its architecture, style and workmanship are still admirable today. The first two floors were lined with diploporous dolomite, and inside 22 spacious, bright and luxurious flats were designed. Five large and elegant retail units were opened on the ground floor. Residents had all the luxuries and amenities available at the time, including a lift.

The building in 2022, after renovation. Photo by: codens79/photopolska.eu, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0

Over the years, the skyscraper has changed its use many times. As a result of these changes, the beautiful flats were divided into expressionless office spaces, and all their modernist décor and furnishings were lost. Only the lift has survived to this day. The façade of the neglected building underwent a major renovation in 2017.

Source: szlakmodernizmu.pl, architektura.muratorplus.pl

Read also: Architecture in Poland | Monument | History | Modernism | Kraków

Subject: Former KKO building at Szczepanski Square in Krakow

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