L’UNI & LABO

L’UNI

The old building of the Faculty of Pharmacy in Wroclaw has undergone a remarkable transformation. Once a mixture of preserved history and decay, it now offers spacious interiors with breathtaking views reminiscent of Rome. The communal areas, including a stylish lobby with a sculptural stone counter and Wroclaw's only flexible designer workspace, the LABO, redefine the building's history. History rewritten in elegance and functionality.

L'UNI was built in the former building of the Pharmaceutical Faculty of the Medical Academy in Wroclaw, which was in danger of collapsing. It was designed by architect Theodor Milczewski and is a historic neo-Renaissance building erected on the banks of the Oder in 1864. It originally housed the Mineralogical and Palaeontological Museum of the University of Wroclaw, but after the war the building became the seat of the Pharmaceutical Faculty of the Medical Academy. The building was destroyed during the war and later rebuilt, which resulted in its shape changing slightly over time.

The aim of the renovation carried out by the Wroclaw-based architecture firm "Maćków Pracownia Projektowa" was to restore the original mass of the building and give it a new, office-like function. All the external details, the shape of the roof and even the colour of the building were agreed with the conservation officer. The plaster, the stucco elements and the carved busts at the top of the pilasters were restored. However, the interior had to be rebuilt, which only emphasises the extent of the destruction of the building in the heart of Wroclaw’s Cultural Park.

Magic box

The name L'UNI is informed by the building's academic heritage and derives directly from the French word l'université. This rich history is matched by the enchanting logo, which I affectionately refer to as the magic box. While I can't claim to be the creator of this logo (it’s Kamil Toczek who created it), I wish I had been involved in the project. The logo elegantly expresses the transformation of the site: the historic letters of L'UNI gracefully intertwine with a sleek, modern frame, symbolising the restoration of Wroclaw's heritage. Entrusting the logo to the talented team at Branda Studio in Wroclaw proved to be a wise decision. It came back to me after a really subtle reworking, proving the innate brilliance of its design.

L'UNI's logo, which epitomises the harmonious blend of tradition and innovation that is very close to my heart (you can find out more here), served as the main muse when prompting the development of the shared spaces of the building. In collaboration with the investor, architecture firm "Maćków Pracownia Projektowa", Renata Lenert-Sikora and Anna Żukowska, who joined later, we have endeavoured to imbue every aspect of the project with the same spirit that the logo embodies. Further inspiration from Japanese aesthetics was a natural choice. Their commitment to authenticity, craftsmanship and reverence for heritage fits perfectly with our vision. Even now, one particular photo captivates me with the sheer power of its original design, which I have included in the gallery.

Noble simplicity

"Noble simplicity" is a term that I personally coined and that served as a guideline for the careful design of the lobby. Our goal was very clear: we wanted to create a space that exudes timeless elegance and appeals to a variety of tenants, from technology companies to law firms. We wanted to create an environment that speaks volumes through its understated sophistication and unwavering quality. It pays homage to tradition and strikes a balance between classic charm and modern design. No extravagant displays or ostentatious embellishments, but authenticity, craftsmanship and impeccable design are at its heart.

Natural materials, handmade and local patriotism

In almost every piece I write, I emphasise the supremacy of nature over artificiality. With L'UNI, this principle was particularly important as we wanted to create a place that would mature with time and earn the admiration of future generations. Having seen the multifaceted history and enduring quality of the building, we felt the need to carry out the renovation with the utmost care and authenticity. The choice of materials - marble, limestone, glass, steel and wood - reflects this commitment to authenticity and quality. The careful restoration of the authentic oak staircase bannisters and the faithful reproduction of the handrails in the same material are testament to this ethos. The marble reception desk is an impressive embodiment of timeless elegance. To preserve the historical charm of the façade while offering tenants a fascinating view of the Oder, the architecture office opted for a glazed roof printed with a ceramic colour gradient - a solution that is as innovative as it is aesthetic. After London, this is only the second example of such a realisation in Europe.

The limestone floors exude timeless elegance, while the lift, reminiscent of the 1920s style, was made especially for L'UNI from robust steel and glass. The customised lamps in the stairwell and lobby were carefully handcrafted by an experienced metalworker in Wroclaw.

When developing L'UNI, it was important that the local conditions were taken into account. Virtually all the subcontractors involved live in Wroclaw, which emphasises our commitment to the community. The talented photographer behind the captivating visual representation of L'UNI, Stan Zajączkowski, is also a proud Wroclaw resident, as the stunning images in the gallery show. I seem to be the only exception to this local connection (which I regret a bit).

LABO by L’UNI

But the story of L'UNI does not end here. The investor has taken a bold step forward and created a space for flexible working called LABO: an oasis for service offices and coworking areas with hot desks and conference rooms.

Here, too, quality and historical references take centre stage. The name itself is a tribute to the former pharmaceutical identity of L'UNI. The renowned Pracownia CUDO office from Wroclaw was entrusted with the task of creating a space of exceptional quality that seamlessly combines the building's historical past with modernity, but also has a contemporary touch that suits modern offices.

CUDO proposed a bold approach centred around a striking element: a large circular installation made of pharmaceutical glass manufactured on site. It not only pays homage to the building's heritage through its materiality, but also picks up on the characteristic colour of the façade with its ochre hue. This circular motif was taken from the L'UNI lobby, where a simple yet elegant chandelier hangs, inspired by the staircase and providing a serene counterpoint to the sleek, minimalist office spaces.

Echoes of L'UNI's design language can be found throughout LABO, from the subtle stripes and waves in the pharmaceutical glass to the cascading curtains, the arrangement of the shelves in the coworking bookcase and the contours of the sofa.

L'UNI and LABO logos, each in a simple graphic form with nuanced meanings, engage in a silent dialogue. The spaces that intersect L'UNI's square recall the apostrophe of its name, while LABO's logo, designed by Wroclaw based Hart Studio, offers a looser interpretation of architectural projection, with an open door symbolising the flexibility of space. Despite their different identities, L'UNI and LABO co-exist in perfect harmony.

I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to be involved in these two extraordinary projects, to work with the remarkable people who have brought these spaces to life, and to leave an indelible mark on these treasured places for ever.

L'UNI Riverside in the heart of Wrocław's Cultural Park. Photo Stan Zajączkowski.