Designed by Arthur E. Gurney, the tenement sitting on the corner of Lwowska has grown to become one of the architectural jewels of the city center – and a fine example of ‘the Best of British’…
Some have likened it to a Disney castle, yet for even more the tenement on Lwowska 15 & 17 has more in line with New York’s Dakota building – the scene not just of John Lennon’s murder, but also the backdrop for Roman Polanski’s epic horror Rosemary’s Baby. Either way, it cannot be accused of being indistinct.
Built between 1911 and 1912, it was commissioned to house the headquarters of one of Warsaw’s leading pre-war construction firms, Horn & Rupiewicz, and today it continues to cast an atmospheric shadow on the street below, imparting an unequivocal sense of mystery and elegance.
Notable for its stone balconies, bay windows, overhangs and rich details, exterior elements included grotesque gargoyles as well as birds and fish rendered in stone. Look carefully, and these can still be distinguished.
Architecturally, the building was credited to Arthur E. Gurney, a British architect known for his collaborations with Bronisław Brochwicz-Rogóyski. Having studied in Germany, Gurney later moved to Łódź before placing roots down in Warsaw in 1899.
Known to be fluent in Polish and Russian, he was involved in the design of the PASTa Tower on Zielna, a structure that many recognize as being Warsaw’s first true skyscraper.
Forging an enviable reputation, he was responsible for the Drzewiecki tenement that stands to this day on Jerozolimskie 51 – later becoming the Omega Hospital, stories linger of its corridors being stalked by wailing, ghostly children. Prolific in his output, other projects in his portfolio include the impressive tenement standing at Jerozolimskie 99.
However, it is his Lwowska masterpiece that has come to be seen by many as his most representative work, and unsurprisingly so. A firm fan of the defensive stronghold architectural styles of the Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque periods, this visually complex construction has no shortage of pseudo battlements and other excessive frills.
Although Gurney left Poland for good in 1915, his contribution to Warsaw’s architectural history could not be called into question: he had forever left his mark.
In the case of the Horn & Rupiewicz tenement on Lwowska, that would enjoy a period of popularity among the Jewish, Russian and Polish academics and professors working at the nearby Polytechnic, and it gained further fame on account of a ‘colonial’ shop owned by a gentleman by the name of Felicjan Masiewicz – we can presume that it specialized in the sale of exotica such as coffee, tea and spices.
During the war, a makeshift field hospital operated here during the 1944 Warsaw Uprising, and whilst the building survived any significant damage, its signature tower was blasted off and only rebuilt in 1995.
Since then, it has again found favor among the public, not least due to the 2015 launch of Autor Rooms. Occupying 200 sq/m of the building, this boutique guesthouse project has attracted a slew of publicity from the lifestyle press.
Offering something a little more raw and gritty, the Beer Station Centrum pub in the basement, on the other hand, has also acquired a cult reputation for its long, hazy nights and warm, authentic brand of Belarussian hospitality – in vastly different ways, both have lent the building a contemporary relevance.