The first birthday of the Norblin Factory – our work paid off and we see it every day. Kinga Nowakowska, Member of the Management Board and Chief Operating Officer at Capital Park Group
It’s been a year since the Norblin Factory opened. How has it been for you?
It’s hard to believe that it has been a full year. The project took almost 14 years and at some point I just stopped counting the months and years. The past year has been a time of intense efforts with many new tenants coming to the complex, and it has been rather difficult. Due to the pandemic, tenants were launching their business gradually. Not long after the opening came the fourth and then the fifth wave of the pandemic, when further restrictions were imposed. Then we were all paralysed by Russia’s aggression in Ukraine and all hands were on deck to help our neighbours. We took several aid initiatives at the Norblin Factory. Despite these challenges, the complex’s offer has gradually expanded, but we have not yet said the last word. The end of the year will be filled with openings of new and unique outlets.
Exactly what distinguishes the Norblin Factory from other successful revitalisations in Warsaw?
I am very happy with this direction of new projects. I congratulate my colleagues on their excellent projects that are changing the city, opening up to the city, restoring historic infrastructure, adding value to their locations, contributing to corporate social responsibility and sustainability, acting with the environment in mind. All these qualities are also represented by the Norblin Factory. What makes us different is certainly the amount of historic structures we worked with. The revitalisation of the former Norblin, Buch Brothers and T. Werner factories is one of the largest in Poland and even in Europe. We worked with 10 historic buildings and almost 50 pieces of machinery and equipment. They were located all over the site so a key challenge was to manage them and fit them into modern architecture. The construction, conservation and restoration work was extremely complex. At a crucial time, 1,000 workers and 100 conservation specialists were busy on the site. But their work paid off as we can see every day.
Yet these are not the only hallmarks of the complex?
Definitely not! The history of the location was one of our main motivations to create something equally unique for the present day. We opted for entertainment, culture, food, and concepts which are not available anywhere else, only at the Norblin Factory. These include the unique KinoGram cinema which has become a cult venue and is brimming with cultural events, film festivals, premieres, concerts, corporate meetings and conferences. Then there is the BioBazar, which started out in the old post-industrial halls, then moved to temporary premises for the duration of the revitalisation, and has returned with gusto to one of the historic halls. The Food Town located in five historic buildings hosts as many as 23 outlets offering food from around the world as well as four bars with live music played daily in one of the halls dedicated to events. Our cultural offer is truly unique. In addition to the Norblin Factory Museum, which commemorates over 200 years of the site’s history, there is also Poland’s first fully immersive multisensory gallery Art Box Experience, as well as the Apple Museum Poland. The Piano Bar has become one of Warsaw’s trendiest party venues. The Smart Kids Planet will open soon as a smart entertainment centre for children.
Does music play any special role at the Factory?
You could say that. It all started with the Norblin Factory Foundation that we set up. While the project was still under construction, we decided to follow in the footsteps of the factory’s former owners. Our foundation in a way continues their work by supporting art and young artists. This is how we came up with the idea for the Music MasterClass scholarship programme, which has now entered its final phase. Outstanding young artists who have been coached by the masters of the Polish music scene are recording their singles in the studio. The Foundation holds jam sessions every Wednesday, and they have become quite popular, attracting crowds of fans and professional musicians. The Foundation has been offering live music events in the streets of the complex every weekend throughout the summer, making the guests’ stay even more enjoyable. In addition, music fills the Food Town, the Piano Bar and, soon, the MOXO music club and restaurant.
That’s ample. What are you particularly proud of?
Our museum. It has been essential to us to protect the history of a place whose fame reached far beyond Poland’s borders. I am also very pleased with the popularity of the mobile app we have developed. It has now been downloaded by more than 63,000 users. With the app, you can pay for car and bicycle parking, get museum and cinema tickets, and visit the museum. The app provides great support for building managers, including the delivery area and the office spaces as employees can report technical issues using the app. Meanwhile, visitors can use the app to check the programme of upcoming events in real time.
I must also mention the cherry on top of the cake: the automatic underground bicycle parking. It is the first solution of its kind in Poland. It offers 96 spaces for bicycles. Each bike can be stored in a dedicated locked cabin together with a helmet or backpack. It is a very convenient state-of-the-art solution.
What makes me very happy is watching every day how the Norblin Factory is embraced by visitors and employees. We welcome their positive feedback and the fact that they spend time with us actively in so many different ways. After all, that is exactly why we have created this project: for people, so that the venue says alive both during the day when people come to the office as well as after work and in the evenings so that office workers and local residents have a good time.
What has been your take on sustainability, environmental and social issues?
Like our other projects, the Norblin Factory is certified under the BREEAM system. Its certification level is Very Good. The certification required a range of environmental solutions implemented at the design stage. However, we have done much more that than. During the construction work, the principal contractor Warbud followed procedures mitigating the adverse impact of the project on the environment and the immediate surroundings: recycled, low-emission, energy-efficient materials were selected, energy-efficient lighting was used on the construction site, and certified wood was procured for the entire project.
In cooperation with the Integration Foundation, the complex was adapted to the needs of people with disabilities. We also support environmentally friendly transport with Poland’s first automatic underground parking for bicycles, bicycle racks across the outdoor space, and 200 bicycle spaces dedicated to office employees with accompanying full infrastructure.
Due to the historic infrastructure and the lack of biologically active space, the site required special solutions. We planted 22 trees up to 10 metres high in the historic streets in huge pots placed in the ceiling of the underground car park. The remaining 84 trees were placed on the terraces and roofs of the office buildings, where urban apiaries were installed in spring. We take care of the safety of urban birds. Our glazed facades have the necessary reflectivity to avoid birds crashing into them, and the top elements of the glass structures have been additionally marked.
We were very keen to recover as many historical artefacts as possible in the spirit of circular economy. Therefore, in addition to strictly historical objects, we have reused factory trolleys, turned into benches in collaboration with students from the School of Form, as well as former doors of the old factories, which students from the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw turned into works of art and placed on the walls of our car park.
Kinga Nowakowska – since 2007, she has been associated with the Capital Park Group, where she is a member of the management board and the operational director. She is involved in the largest projects carried out by the Group, including Royal Wilanów. Since 2009, she has been responsible for the implementation of the prestigious revitalization project of Norblin Factory in Warsaw.
Last Updated on October 7, 2022 by Valeriia Honcharuk