Listing the achievements of HB Reavis, a company whose roots are in Slovakia, would be like adding leaves to a tree. However one success particularly stands out above all others. Quite literally. A more appropriate term cannot be used, because the Varso skyscraper, the new landmark of Warsaw and the whole of Poland, is also the tallest building in the European Union. Impressively disappearing high in the clouds at total height of 310 meters.
Being there (Peter Sellers & Shirley MacLaine)
A particular Thursday evening in Warsaw was unique – and not only for me. On this evening, a group of extraordinary people gathered in the capital of Poland to celebrate their joint achievement. The top management of HB Reavis, the world's best architects –Foster+Partners, representatives of the city of Warsaw and a number of professionals from various fields who participated in financing, design, projecting and construction of this landmark.
However the impressive height of 310 meters is not the main thing that this project can boast of. The skyscraper is interesting mainly from the architectural point of view and technical solutions. The modern smart building has a V-shaped floor plan, so when viewed from street level, its mass does not impose on pedestrians. Large-scale twelve-segmented glass blocks create a grid of the building, whose dominant verticals lead the viewer's gaze upwards, like rails crossing the sky, reflected in the facade. As if they were saying - we shall meet in infinity. This symbol of strength and prosperity is literally breathtaking.
After a detailed tour of Varso Tower followed an evening dedicated to the inauguration of the skyscraper under the motto - Over the Clouds. With your feet firmly on the ground and your head is in the clouds, you can become great. Your country's brand is only good if you can contribute something to the world. The VARSO project by HB Reavis has this potential, at least in terms of the urban development of the city and the deployment of green and sustainable solutions. It certainly has an influence on whole European level. The buildings' magnetism is extraordinary. Thanks to it, Poland holds a card for a high game of inspiration of reshaping urban space carried out with regard to the needs of entrepreneurs, sensitive composition of public space and, last but not least, acknowledgement of the need for green innovations.
My personal opinion?
Pride, optimism and faith in people's abilities. It seems that in Poland they know very well how important country branding is and how to approach it. From the very beginning, Warsaw City Hall was aware of the potential of this project for spreading the good name of the city and the country as well. When speaking of limits at the meetings, it was said: your limit is the sky.
What about Warsaw and Poland?
My first visit was in the early eighties while palying in a college basketball tournament. Warsaw was a sleepy market town with Stalinist architecture and a single high-rise building - the Palace of Culture and Science, which is a mix of socialist realism and art deco, sporadically surrounded by twelve-story apartment buildings. I visited Warsaw again six years ago as a photographer. I found a modern city, full of vibrant life.
Now, on my third visit, I was amazed by the immense change. The Polish have made Warsaw a metropolis of European importance. Everywhere on the facades of buildings shine logos of great international companies, leaving you speechless in awe. In the midst of it shines a beacon, Varso, visible for miles at night, drawing corporations from all over the world to Warsaw.
Jealousy and disappointment
Yes, I feel that too. I would like to see something like that in Slovakia as well. This project is a perfect example of cooperation between private and public sector for the benefit of the entire country. This skyscraper helps to present Poland as a modern, developed country, worthwhile to do business and invest in.
I can unequivocally say, and many will surely agree, that HB Reavis largely contributed to the positive development of Slovakia, especially Bratislava. In 30 years, they literally built a whole new district, which is now an integral part of the city with a huge social impact. How much good can be built by one company with visionaries in the background! Many Slovaks perceive a positive influence. However, one company is not enough to build Slovakia's brand. Country branding is a task for all of us, not just politicians, marketers and developers.
But it's hard to dream when, thanks to the conditions that Slovakia currently creates for investors, nobody seems to be rushing to Slovakia and talented Slovaks go to work in skyscrapers abroad. Why would you build a beautiful, expensive skyscraper in Slovakia if there was no one to work in it? Waiting for change from "above" is probably naive. Real change begins with individuals who have a vision and want to build a Slovakia that will have something to offer the world.