Odi et amo.

The satirical poet Juvenal provides a vivid and unflattering, but not altogether impartial, picture of life in a Roman apartment block:

We live in a city supported mostly by slender props, which is how the bailiff patches cracks in old walls, telling the residents to sleep peacefully under roofs ready to fall down around them.

By the mid 4th century, there were 46,600 apartment blocks known as ‘insulae’ (islands), and only 1,790 ‘domus’ (villas) in Rome. Their heights, as well as their numbers, were something of a cause for concern; they continued rising higher and higher, even in spite of Trajan’s height restrictions of seven storeys.

At times, and places, wandering through Warsaw, I get to thinking of 4th century Rome.

This stepped residential block is part of the Goclaw housing complex on the north side of the Kanal Goclawski.

Apartment blocks are a visible part of any city. Warsaw's high and wide-rises however form an integral part of housing both in the centre and around it. Whole areas, like the southern suburban dormitory of Ursynow consist of nothing but them. Many were built in response to housing shortages in the 60s and 70s. This particular wide-rise was one of several in Zoliborz standing proudly off Krasinskiego Street near the river.

This colourful beauty is part of a complex between the main arterial roads of Ostrobramska and Grochowska. These areas are really 'spruced up' by all those trees and grassy areas. The proliferation of birds, notably pigeons, jackdaws, tits and sparrows aids this architecure immensely. When we talk of 'bionic architecure', this is where it all starts. These spaces in between buildings are as much a part of the building as the roof or the walls. In his list of the five most important elements in building Corbusier would reply: 'Sky, space, trees, steel and cement, in that order, and that hierarchy.'

This block in Ulica Prusa stands opposite the snazzy Sheraton and together form one of Warsaw's many enduring tectonic stand-offs.

No comments: