February 9, 2014

Brutalist Architecture and Soc Realism in Krakow

Krakow is full of great historical architecture, no question. what I show in this post however are interesting brutalist (as in beton brut) building and what is left of the soc realist Nowa Huta district.

Szkieletor or NOT Tower in Krakow

Rising high over the Rondo Mogilskie (K-2) is one of Krakow’s biggest blemishes and its most overt reminder of the follies of communism. Officially named NOT Tower, but known locally as Szkieletor (from the Polish word for ‘skeleton’), this 22 storey bare beams structure ranks as the tallest building in the city, standing unfinished and unoccupied for over a quarter century. 
Originally designed in 1968 to serve as a congress hall and office block, work began in 1975 with local authorities pressuring architects to make it as tall as possible. Another eight floors were hastily added to the original blueprint, with a TV studio, hotel and panoramic terrace all part of the master plan. Alas, Poland’s economic crisis hit soon after and all work on it was abandoned in 1979, never to be resumed. 
Today the 91m tower stands fenced off from the public, a ghostly reminder of the golden dawn promised by the nation’s leaders. Over the years shoddy construction work has made the tower a crumbling death trap, and despite ownership changing hands numerous times, no one has taken on the expense of doing anything more with it than making it available for large advertisements.
(from In your Pocket guide Krakow)
How the tower looked before it was covered with billboards (picture source)

Hotel Forum
Address: Marii Konopnickiej 28

This enormous concrete-building (build from 1978, the opening took place only in 1989) is one of the most futuristic buildings in Krakow.(picture source)

From In Your pocket guide:  Awarded four stars, the hotel featured perks unknown in 80s Krakow: air-conditioned rooms, an outdoor electronic clock with temperature displays, swimming pool, mini golf and casino. Having passed from the Orbis brand to the Sofitel in 2001 the hotel was closed at the end of 2002, apparently because of a construction fault that led to frequent flooding of the basements. Today the vacant building is owned by the Wawel-Imos group, and though its future is uncertain it presently makes a handsome living as Poland’s longest billboard, while lending its former reception area to one of Kraków's trendiest bars (Forum Przestrzenie), and its parking lot to a go-cart track.(picture source)

How the Hotel looked when it was at it's best! (picture source)

Central Square (Plac Centralny) in Nowa Huta

With the propaganda architecture and social realist art of the 1950s and 60s the Central Square in Nowa Huta is placed on the list of cultural heritage.
Nova Huta, a town in the vicinity of Krakow, was a good example of Communism in Poland in the years 1950-1989.The Government forced Stalinist monumentalism and the doctrine of Socialist Realism. It involved all domains of art, but its most spectacular achievements were made in the field of urban design and Architecture as weapon in establishing the new social order by the communists. The ideological impact of urban design was valued more than aesthetics. It aimed at expressing communist ideas and to arouse a feeling of persistence and power. This form of architecture was implemented in the new industrial district of Nowa Huta, full of huge apartment buildings constructed according to a Stalinist blueprint, with repetitious courtyards and wide, tree-lined avenues.

old picture of the Central Place and avenue of Roses (picture source)

Nowa Huta's central Avenue of Roses featured a countrywide known statue of Vladimir Lenin unveiled on April 28, 1973. The bronze monument was pulled down in 1989 by the city, as a result of numerous protest actions by local citizens. Several thousand onlookers came to watch the dismantling. Then communist names of Street and Places where changed, also the Central Place changed its name into Ronald Reagan Place.

The Solidarity Monument in Nowa Huta

In the 1980s Nowa Huta became a place of many demonstrations and violent street protests of the Solidarity movement, fought by the police. At that time, almost 29,000 of the 38,000 workers of the then Lenin's Steelworks belonged to the Trade Union "Solidarity".

Tadeusz Sendzimir Steelworks in Nowa Huta

This Steelwork facility is the second largest steel plant in Poland since 1954.

During the Communist rule, the plant was called Vladimir Lenin Steelworks. The name was changed in 1990, following the collapse of communism, and the factory was renamed to commemorate the scientist and engineer Tadeusz Sendzimir. In its heyday – in the 1970s – the plant employed around 40,000 people and annually produced almost 7 million tons of steel. In the 1980s, it was one of the most important centers of anticommunist resistance, with numerous strikes and street demonstrations. 

old picture of the steel work (picture source)

The Steel Facility today

Krakow Center
A brutalist Building with 3D-effect facade near the historical center

The Main Market Square in Krakow with its historical architecture

The Cloth Hall has a nice souvenir gallery in the ground floor
Historical Bridge in the City Center
Who's interested in taking a architecture tour visiting communist architecture in Nowa Huta (it's not a Communist Glorification Tour!) will find some tour opportunities on this site:
www.seekrakow.com (http://www.seekrakow.com/communism-basic/#

This is the forth post of my little itinerary through Eastern Europe Prague-Brno-Ostrava-Krakow-Zakopane-Presov-Beograd.
First post: Soviet Style Architecture in Prague
Second post:Brno Architecture 

Third Post: Socialist Realism in Ostrava


  1. nice post! did you see Hotel Cracovia?



    unfortunately it will probably be demolished soon

  2. I am interested in communist architecture and at all communism, and I sow Krakow whan I was on
    Krakow Walking Tour I didn't realised it's sa amazing town - full of people different nationality and there is so many interesting things here and not only in Krakow but also near to krakow like for example Auschwitz or salt mine in Wileiczka, I sow also mountains when I was on Zakopane tour, I guess I will back there soon

  3. I was there! beautiful town, and not so far from very important and simultaneously place to where you can gat taking some kind of
    Auschwitz Tour
    It's very mowving and also educating trip,