The Old Orangery as good as new. Several-year long renovation completed

The Old Orangery has regained its former excellence. As a result of the works conducted by conservators, the building looks and functions as it used to at the time of Stanisław August. The funds for the renovation which took place between 2012 and 2016 were provided from the Norway Grants and the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage.

The post-revitalization Old Orangery will be open for visitors from 29 April. The project worth PLN 34 million included among others: the re-creation of the Royal Sculpture Gallery, a new design of the Polish Sculpture Gallery (of 19th and 20th century), the revitalization of the Orangery Garden, and the creation of a modern education zone.

- The entire building has been renovated and it now meets the standards of a modern museum operation with space for interactive education. It is the result of cooperation between multiple institutions, the Royal Łazienki staff, the Embassy of Norway and the Norway Grants - said the Minister of Culture and National Heritage, Professor Piotr Gliński, at a press conference which summarized the works conducted in the Old Orangery.

- The Royal Łazienki is a pearl in the centre of Warsaw. I am proud that the European funds have contributed to the renovation of such a remarkable place - emphasised Ingrid Norstein, a counsellor at the Embassy of the Kingdom of Norway, responsible for the Norwegian Grants in Poland.

The Minister of Culture and National Heritage, Professor Piotr Gliński
Ingrid Norstein, a counsellor at the Embassy of the Kingdom of Norway

A modern fire protection system

The most important element of the renovation of the Old Orangery and the Royal Theatre was the fire protection system. Although it is not visible with the naked eye, it is crucial since the main structural parts of the theatre are made of wood. At present, the entire building is protected with a modern water mist fire extinguishing system and smoke-extraction system, which in case of danger will facilitate evacuation.

The scope of construction works also included the renovation of the roof with its structure, the conservation of the elevation, door and window woodwork as well as reinforcement of the foundations. In addition, the Old Orangery is now equipped with modern drainage, heating, electrical and security systems.

In the course of the installation of the heating system, under the old floor, a perfectly preserved air-based heating system was discovered resembling the one used in Roman public baths. In the past, the Old Orangery was heated with five furnaces - hot air flowed under the floors. One of such furnaces will be displayed for visitors.


Visits without barriers and the education zone

The Old Orangery was also adapted for people with special needs. Architectural obstacles were eliminated thanks to an elevator installed in the west wing to connect all the floors, a ramp leading to the building, special toilets, and a call system.

Visually or hearing impaired individuals will be able to explore the Old Orangery and the Sculpture Gallery, now housing special castings and tactile art that can be touched by blind visitors and providing an application with audio description as well as induction loops, i.e. hearing loops.

One of the novelties in the Old Orangery is the “Artist’s Workshop” - an education zone dedicated to sculpture. In the workshop room and the casting workshop, children and adults will feel like sculptors from the times of Stanisław August making plaster casts and become acquainted with the 18th century technology of making sculpture replicas. The education zone is also adapted to the needs of disabled individuals.

The Royal Sculpture Gallery and the Polish Sculpture Gallery

During the works carried out in the Old Orangery, in 2012, the conservators made a sensational discovery by uncovering historical wall plasters with 18th century paintings made according to the designs of Johann Christian Kamsetzer. The designs of the court architect, stored in the Print Room of the Library of the University of Warsaw, were considered non-realized for decades.

Thanks to these discoveries and on the basis of Kamsetzer’s designs and the Royal Inventory “Catalogue des Ouvrages en Marbre, Platre Terre cuite appartenant a Sa Maje le Roi 1795”, it was possible to recreate the Sculpture Gallery following the concept of Stanisław August and to fulfil his dreams of a modern public museum.

Since June of 2015, when the Sculpture Gallery was opened for visitors, the guests of the Royal Łazienki have been able to admire marble sculptures and plaster copies of the most famous ancient works which were collected by the king. On the background of illusionistically painted architecture and Italian landscape we can see, among others, the Laocoön Group, Apollo Belvedere, Meleager I, and Farense Flora which together form the Kamsetzer Colonnade.

When visiting the Old Orangery, one cannot ignore the Polish Sculpture Gallery in the west wing of the building. Remarkable works of 19th and 20th century Polish sculptors are displayed there.

The Royal Sculpture Gallery
The Royal Sculpture Gallery

The Orangery Garden with renovated sculptures

The project of the Old Orangery’s revitalization also comprised works in the Orangery Garden; they were possible thanks to the contributions of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage and executed between 2012 and 2013.

We were able to re-establish the historical layout contained within the bounds outlined by the 18th century wall. The garden has preserved its regular arrangement with the fountain located in the middle. During the revitalization, a modern irrigation system for lawns and flower beds was installed; pathways were covered with a mineral pavement that is typical of gardens, while the garden fountain was surrounded with a toeboard made of sandstone. Sculptures form the Royal Collection were subjected to conservation and were given new pedestals just as the decorative, marble garden vases. Near the alleys, white wooden benches made on the basis of watercolours by Zygmunt Vogel have been set. As in the times of Stanisław August, in the summer, potted citrus trees stand in the gardens.

Fot. Paweł Czarnecki

In the autumn of 2015, the historical Orangery Garden was enriched with new, Dutch-style plants. It was possible as a result of cooperation with the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

The project “Muses and Thoughts of Stanisław August. Renovation and Conservation of the 18th Century Old Orangery with the Royal Theatre for the Purpose of a New Exposition of Sculptures and Implementation of the Cultural Programme” was co-funded by the Financial Mechanism of the European Economic Area (Norway Grants) in the amount of PLN 13 million; the funds contributed by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage and the Royal Łazienki amounted to PLN 5.7 million.

Adriaan Palm from the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands
Tadeusz Zielniewicz - the Director of the Royal Łazienki and the Minister of Culture, Professor Piotr Gliński
Fot. Paweł Czarnecki