Pinhole Images by Daniel Kazimierski

copyright 2005 Daniel Kazimierski

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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
Palazzo, at the time the second tallest structure in Europe, workers used 40 million bricks, 80,000 cubic yards of cement, 300,000 square feet of stone, and 170,000 square feet of decorative wood.

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, May 2005

~ Daniel Kazimierski, Poland~ 


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Web page last updated July 6, 2005
All pinhole images in this page copyright 2005 Daniel Kazimierski