Pinhole Images by Daniel Kazimierski
copyright © 2005 Daniel Kazimierski
Camera: Zero 2000
In 1951, Joseph Stalin decided to bestow on war-ravaged Poland an unusual and rather eccentric gift: a skyscraper, greater and taller than any building Warsaw – or Moscow – had ever seen. It was to house a museum, theaters, cinemas, sport and youth centers, educational facilities, concert and conference halls, offices, research centers.
The project’s chief engineer, noted Russian architect Lew Rudniev, was sent by Stalin to New York City to study the skyscrapers. Meanwhile, a team of planners and architects was dispatched to Poland in order to become acquainted with its typically national elements of architecture, so they could be reflected in the new building. For most of the Russians, the trip to Poland provided the first glimpse of the West; they were genuinely smitten by the beauty of Cracow, Chelm, Nieborow, Pulawy, Gdansk, Kazimierz, Sandomierz, Plock, and Torun. These towns and cities, unlike Warsaw, were lucky enough not to have been included in Hitler’s mad plan to wipe out from the map of Europe and thus survived the war relatively undamaged.
The Poles were not in
a position to refuse Stalin’s offer, and very soon the construction
began. The Soviets provided everything from architectural plans to
heavy equipment, materials and labor. The Poles were responsible for
the logistics, preparatory work and housing over 3500 Soviet workers.
The location for the building was picked in a district of prewar tenements
and at first over 500.000 cubic yards of rubble had to be removed.
Although construction was accomplished with unprecedented speed considering
the scope and scale of the project, Stalin did not live to see completion
of the Palace of Culture and Science, nor did he ever set foot in
the apartment built especially for his use. On July 21, 1955, with
great pump and circumstance, the key to the building was given to
the Poles. It faced a nearly 100 acres Parade Square paved with granite
bricks, capable of sustaining the weight of heavy military equipment,
surrounded by fountains and parks with fully grown trees brought from
the provinces. To build this 1,250,000 square foot, 3200 room, grandiose
and massive social realist
These statistics were widely publicized, as if in the euphoria of socialist propaganda the government forgot that Warsaw had a desperate housing problem with the waiting list for a new apartments stretching a dozen or more years.
The Palace was meant to be a testimonial to the “eternal” friendship of Soviet and Polish people but inadvertently became a controversial architectural anomaly that amused and irked generations of Poles. The Russians with sincerity reflected in the building their architectural vision inspired by visit to Poland, alas with a puzzling and curious effect. For many years to come, the Palace of Culture and Science was jokingly seen by Poles as a gigantic cake dreamed up by mad pastry chef.
By Daniel Kazimierski,
~ Daniel Kazimierski, Poland~
page last updated
July 6, 2005