Widok na kampus. Fot. Emptywords, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Main Building of the Warsaw School of Economics – a characteristic edifice known as the symbol of the university

The campus of the Warsaw School of Economics was designed by Jan Witkiewicz-Koszczyc as a large, truly palatial establishment. However, the plans were never fully realised. The first building forming part of the campus was put into use in the 1920s, and the last one almost a century later. The most impressive and characteristic building is the SGH Main Building with its towering pyramid. It is this building, erected in the 1950s, that is the symbol of Poland’s oldest university of economics.

The first building of the Pavilion of Experimental Establishments – today known as A, standing along Rakowiecka Street – was constructed in 1926. It was characterised by an unusual construction for the time – reinforced concrete filled with grid bricks. After the Warsaw Uprising, it was burnt down and rebuilt with great effort by the academic community in 1947.

Budynek Główny SGH
Building A in 1929 Source: Polona Digital National Library

The library building was then erected and handed over in 1930. The huge reading room with a volume of almost 10,000 cubic metres arouses admiration not only for its size, but for its lighting solution. The processing, storage and delivery of the collection was organised in a way that was innovative at the time.

Library in the 1930s Source: Digital National Library Polona

The SGH Main Building was constructed in 1950-55 and was built in a similar style to the pre-war campus buildings, but with less lavish decoration. It was also designed by Jan Witkiewicz-Koszczyc in collaboration with Eng. Arch. Stefan Putowski and the P-110 studio under his direction (Miastoprojekt-Stolica). The result was a spacious, four-storey edifice, with a volume considerably higher than the buildings erected in the inter-war years. As its architecture was intended to be consistent with the existing buildings, the same module was used. The corners of the building were topped, as was the case with the Experimental Plant pavilion and the library, by triangular overhangs. The central entrance arcades were also intended to be reminiscent of their originals.

View of the SGH Main Building. Photo by Emptywords, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The essential part of the building is a leisure hall surrounded by circulation galleries, covered by a massive pyramidal glass dome. Amphitheatre-like auditoriums, calculated to seat several hundred, are arranged around the hall. In addition to lecture theatres, the building was to house the rector’s office, laboratories and study rooms, while the basement was to house a gymnasium, swimming pool and staff rooms. Terrazzo was used to finish the interior of the corridors and stairwells. The ground floor of the lobby and the café in the pseudo-Baroque risalit were lined with marble. The auditoriums received panelling to ensure good acoustics. Ventilation, air conditioning and central heating were also designed into the building.

In 1951, engineer Jan Koszczyc-Witkiewicz was awarded the prestigious State Art Prize of the First Degree in the People’s Republic of Poland for his architectural design of the Main Building of the then Central School of Planning and Statistics.

Budynek Główny SGH
Main Building of the SGH at night. Photo whiteMAD/Mateusz Markowski

The Main Building was to complement the SGH complex and become a proper architectural setting for the then planned N-S route. All the academic buildings were to constitute a single, architecturally harmonised ensemble. As a result, the building protruding towards Aleja Niepodległości became the dominant feature of the campus landscape, overshadowing the pre-war buildings. With its majesty and distinctive glass pyramid, it has become a symbol of the contemporary School of Economics. Today, the building complex is one of the most interesting realisations in Polish architecture, which dates back to the 20th interwar period.

The SGH campus has been entered on the list of monuments, both for the unique architectural qualities of the buildings and for its urban planning.

Source: sgh.waw.pl, sekretywarszawy.pl

Read also: Modernism | Warsaw | Architecture in Poland | Urban planning| Interesting facts| whiteMAD on Instagram

Latest content on the site

Beauty is all around you