Hydropolis—Everything Starts from Water

Author Photo - ZagrobelnyRafał Zagrobelny

Hydropolis Manager

Manager of the Hydropolis Environmental Education Centre. He worked in media for several years and then as an advisor for Polish and foreign companies such as Amazon, Heinz, EDF, KGHM, and Tauron. He has been professionally associated with Hydropolis since 2015. In the beginning, he was responsible for creating the brand and its promotion. Every day, together with the team, he cares about the development of Hydropolis in terms of education, programming, and customer service. His goal is to amaze Hydropolis visitors at every step. 

Did you know that about 70% of the Earth is composed of water? Are you aware that every day, the human body is deprived of about 500 ml of life-giving water as a result of breathing out air? You will learn these and many other interesting facts if you visit Hydropolis in Wrocław, Poland. Hydropolis is an ultra-modern exhibition dedicated to water, being the only facility of such a kind in Poland, and one of the few in the world. The exhibition is located in a historic, nineteenth century underground clean water tank boasting a surface area of 4,000 m². It is divided into nine themed zones, each of which presents water from a different, fascinating angle.

Hydropolis is located in a historical building, which was used for over 100 years as a clear water reservoir for the city of Wroclaw. The history of the building reaches back to the nineteenth century. During the period of over a hundred years of its existence, its function changed, reflecting the development of water treatment technologies and the supply of drinking water for the inhabitants of Wroclaw. Before the neo-Gothic building, distinctive in size and for its rich architectural interior, received its contemporary form, it was rebuilt several times. A huge facility measuring 4,600 m2 of surface area was hidden under an earth embankment and at the beginning, it was a slow sand filter. However, relatively quickly, its original function had become obsolete. In 1905, after removing thousands of tons of sand and gravel, the former filter became a huge reservoir, called “Reservoir No. 1,” containing 12 million litres of water. It then became the main drinking water reservoir for the city.

The clean water reservoir operated continuously until 1945. During the siege of Wroclaw (World War II) the ceiling was riddled by Soviet bombs and missiles. Shortly after the war, necessary repair works were made and the reservoir again collected water for the city. It operated beyond its capacity for 50 years without repairs and cleaning. This was due to the permanent shortage of drinking water in Wrocław, making it impossible to close down the reservoir even for a short while.

And thus it functioned until the day it was abruptly closed-down by…water. Or rather due to a catastrophe that took place in Wrocław during the summer of 1997. The flood of 1997 was the largest disaster in the modern history of Wrocław. On 12 July, the Waterworks was hit by a large wave. The buildings and equipment were immediately flooded. The production of drinking water was stopped. It was necessary to clean the reservoir so that water would once again flow to taps.

Comprehensive modernisation of “Na Grobli” Waterworks began in 2002. Reservoir No. 1 was entered in the register of monuments. Two years later, it was renovated, but modestly. And even then, it was known that it had to be shut down entirely. The reservoir operated until the end of 2011. From that moment events gathered pace. Just a few months after closing down, Rafal Dutkiewicz, the mayor of Wrocław, and Zdzislaw Olejczyk, the president of Municipal Water and Sewage Company, decided to adapt it as a public utility facility. Understanding how Wrocław is related to water (after all, it is not accidentally called the Venice of the North), they decided to create a place devoted to this unique substance and explaining its meaning to the world.

The main objective of the Water and Sewage Company is to produce and distribute water as well as to collect and treat wastewater. But at the same time, the company’s goal is to care for sustainable development and to serve the community of Wroclaw by educational activities aimed at raising the awareness of environmental threats. After excluding the reservoir from the technological process in the year 2012 all the water was pumped out and construction works started in a full swing. Hydropolis, the one and only Environmental Education Centre opened its doors to the first guests on December 5, 2015.

Adapting the historic buildings to the exhibition function required the introduction of new architectural elements. The main entrance is located in the extension built on the southern side of the historical building. Visitors are greeted by a 46 and a half-metre water printer, a unique device that is used to display various shapes and inscriptions on the wall made of water droplets. There is also a cafe inside the old pumping station, which previously was a part of the water reservoir. The historical interior, consisting of four rectangular chambers covered with reinforced concrete barrel vaults, has been arranged into a space filled with modern exhibits and installations.

Hydropolis is a unique place, combining education with modern forms of narrative exhibition. Visitors actively take part in the story of the origins of water in the universe, encounter the incredible creatures from the depths of the ocean, and take to the surface to understand its imperative function in the environment and its role in human vital functions. They also learn the history of water engineering, from ancient times to present-day methods of water management.

The main function of Hydropolis is educating about water and environmental issues. The Centre was warmly welcomed immediately after it had been opened. The main group of Hydropolis visitors is school pupils from the local community of Wroclaw, the Province of Lower Silesia and the neighbouring provinces. Except for the regular visiting, the educational offer of Hydropolis is supplemented by workshops and class lessons. As a result Hydropolis contributes to sustained development of the city increasing the ecological awareness of the community.

Hydropolis is also one of the biggest tourist attractions of Wroclaw. Every year it attracts thousands of guests from around the world. In total, over the first three and a half years of operations, the exhibition was visited by over a million people. However, the creators of Hydropolis do not rest on their laurels. The biggest and also the endless challenge for the team that works in the centre is to adapt the exhibition and educational offer to the most important issues related to climate change and water management.

Most Important Information

A visit with a guide lasts approximately 60—90 minutes. Ticket costs 27 zł per person (concessionary ticket—18 zł). The last entry is at 5pm from Monday to Friday and at 7pm from Saturday to Sunday. The exhibition is closed at pm from Monday to Friday and at 8pm from Saturday to Sunday.

Main Zones

The Planet of Water

How did water come into being? Is there a lot of it in space? How did it find itself on the Earth? Immerse yourself in an extraordinary tale of the beginnings of water. The film is projected on a 360° screen.

The Depths

They are mysterious, unfriendly and full of amazing creatures. Discover the uncanny life hidden in the dark. Find out about the fascinating world of bioluminescence and the ecosystems of hydrothermal chimneys, where the water temperature reaches 400°C. Together with the adventurers of the “Trieste II” bathyscaphe, you will experience the legendary journey to the deepest place on the Earth and trace the history of discovering the underwater world.

The Ocean of Life

This zone’s theme is evolution and the diversity of life, which appeared in water about 3.3 billion years ago. We present the rich ecosystems of coral reefs and camouflage techniques. Here, you will also learn of the diversity of water life—from microorganisms hidden in a drop of water to huge squids and large marine mammals.

The Relaxation Zone

For all those of you tired with the bulk of new impressions there is the relaxation zone, whose fairy tale-like, fantasy setting will let you rest and build up strength to resume your visit. Rest in sounds of Amazon forest that is imitated by living moss.

Man and Water

On average, water comprises 60% of our body mass, which is a reason good enough to look closer at a person’s relation with water. Find out about the functions it serves in the human body. Also, learn about the role it has in culture, religion, art, and leisure.

The History of Water Engineering

Since the dawn of time, all civilisations have thrived in the proximity of water. Man has tried to bend it to his will and make it work for his own purposes. In this zone, you will see great ancient engineers’ water inventions and find out about the development of the ancient Egyptian civilisation, inherently bound with the Nile. Moreover, the exceptionally accurate ship models—from ancient vessels to contemporary ones—will present the evolution of buoyant watercraft over centuries.

The Temporary Exhibitions Zone

There are currently many breath-taking projects coming into being where the worlds of art, ecology, science, and technology meet. What we want to present in the temporary exhibitions zone is select artistic actions whose common denominator is the diverse bond between man and water.

The City and Water

Contemporary cities are complex infrastructural systems with water management being one of the foundations of their proper operation. In this zone, you will learn about the methods of water supply and sewage collection and disposal. You will also travel back in time to trace the development of Wrocław’s water supply system. You will find out how global metropolises work and see the most impressive hydro-technical facilities.

The States of Water

In nature, water exists in three states, which in itself makes it an extraordinary substance. Find out about its properties to understand why it is so important to almost every aspect of life. Take a closer look at its journey within the hydrological cycle and learn to differentiate between types of clouds to accurately forecast the weather.

Main Attractions

  • water printer 46.5 m long
  • a 360-degree screen, 60 m long
  • a 1:1 model of Bathyscaphe Trieste
  • models of deep-sea fish
  • installation consisting of shark and 1,500 tunas in a 1:1 scale
  • the most accurate copy of Michelangelo’s David made of acryl in 1:2 scale
  • a green wall covered with reindeer lichen, which symbolises the Amazon jungle seen from a bird’s eye view
  • models of water engineering inventions made 2,300 years ago
  • models of the largest ships in the world
  • multimedia model of Nile
  • imitation of snowstorm
  • a scale model of Wroclaw—made in 3D technology
  • coral reef research station and
  • many videos, articles, multimedia installations and interactive mini-games

doi: 10.18278/aia.4.2.14