The following photographs document some of Warsaw's great survivors following WWII. These are my own particular favourites, buildings that I had earmarked not on account of their fortuity in surviving but more out of respect for their exterior personality. Accounts maintain that just over 85% of the city was reduced to rubble during the war. Well, this is the fifteen per cent that wasn't.
This building's stonework just screams solidity. It was built between 1931-33 and designed by the team of Marcin Weinfeld,and Stefan Bryla, and it stands at 9 Plac Powstania Warszawskiego (formerly Plac Napoleona). It is known as the Prudential Building after its first tenants, the Prudential Insurance Company. At the time it was built in the early thirties, it was Warsaw's tallest building and first real skyscraper. With the main corpus of the building, its arcaded base and funneled top two floors, the Prudential remains an example of the majesty of pre-war Polish engineering. It was badly damaged during the war when the Germans took umbrage at the Kilinski Battalion of the Home Army's hanging the Polish flag from its 16th floor. After several attempts, one of their Thor missiles eventually struck the shoulder of the building. Indeed, the Germans didn't stop there and continued shelling the Prudential for many days, (the building was an excellent outlook tower for the Polish Army). Yet, such was the strength of the internal steel structure that they could not bring it down. Despite being utterly gutted, the Prudential defiantly remained standing. The building was fully restored shortly after the war and has recently undergone extensive refurbishment to prepare it once again as one of the city's most prominent hotels. Below, is an image of the building in its skeletal state at the end of the war.
The Prudential Building in 1945.
This building, kamienica Próchnickich, at the corner of Koszykowa and Emilii Plater is redolent of the architectural variety of this section of Warsaw's centre. It was built in 1913-14 and designed by architect Marian Kontkiewicz. It has, despite losing its cupola, its top floor and a few stone entablatures in the sixties, remained more or less unchanged. It is with its soft curved exterior slightly reminiscent of Antoni Gaudi's Casa Mila. The surrounding streets of Lwowska, Wilcza, Wspolna and Hoza all have pre-war survivors of some significant architectural note. Their courtyards too (if you can get into them) often reveal secret buildings. This area of Srodmiescie Poludnie is undoubtedly the closest you will get, the variety of styles notwithstanding, to any sort of architectural and spatial cohesion in Warsaw.
This building with its red virginia creeper stands on the corner of Chalubinskiego and Koszykowa and was designed by Romuald Gutt and built between 1927-28. It is with its white bricked facade quite a sight and perhaps the converse of what the American architect Frank Lloyd Wright had once said about ugly buildings: doctors can bury their mistakes, architects can only advise their clients to plant vines.
Next to the Cepelek building at No.2 Chalubinskiego (which you can see on the corner) is this tesselated beauty at No.4. Chalubinskiego street which fuses Niepodleglosci with Jana Pawla II is one of Warsaw's few streets with almost as many pre-war buildings as post-war. The Architect was Rudolf Swierczynski and it was built after the completion of No.2 between 1929-31.
Kamienica Rackmana, at No. 47 Aleja Jerozolimskie, was built in 1906-7 in the secessionist style. The Hotel Polonia standing adjacent was built a few years later between 1909-13.
After years of living and wandering Warsaw it's not unusual to find buildings right in the centre that had up until now managed to escape you. The Synagogue (built between 1898-1902) is one such building located as it is between the wide-rises of Za Zelazna Brama Estate. You can probably see one poking its head up at the back. The building suffered considerable damage during WWII and was initially restored in 1950, with later renovations in the seventies. Stumbling upon hidden buildings (this area has all the seeming of one gigantic courtyard) is one of the joys of wanders through Warsaw.
Built between 1928-31, and designed by Rudolf Swierczynski.
The building we are looking at on the left was built in 1909-1910. From the outside, it has not changed at all since that time. It was the one time hangout of the Polish actress Pola Negri when the bottom floors were dedicated to a dance hall and theatre.
Designed by architect Lucjan Korngold, this building at 18 Marszalkowska was built in 1935-6. Its geo-vitreous facade, and sunken balconies, are a wonder of engineering and craftsmanship.
Both buildings here, built between 1910-13, survived the bombs and incendiaries of WWII. The one on the left in its geometry (and with a little imagination) reminds me of New York's Flatiron building though on a much smaller scale. With its fluted pilasters and figurehead frontage it's a real ship of a building.
Plac Uni Lubelskiej (this and the following two pictures), from where Marszalkowska begins its long journey across the city, is relatively untouched since it was first constructed. Here, as well as this pink castellated beauty, you can still see the two neoclassical toll booths that once marked the limits of the city.
Designed by A. Daniszewski and built in 1911-12, this late Victorian beauty lost some of its ornamentation during restoration work.
My slavic stravaiging companion this afternoon remarked at how thoughtful 'they' were to have used a sheath that copies the facade of the building beneath it. Maybe this is the future of 'restoration' work. Simply print the clean facade on a building stocking and slip it on. Who knows, maybe if we didn't have Daniel and friend stalking the walls we might not be able to tell the difference. This building, incidentally, dates back to 1899, designed by Stefan Szyller. Let's hope the quantum curtain is a prelude to some serious restoration work. It would be a tragedy for the city to lose one of its most elegant and oldest buildings.
Opposite 007 and like something out of Ghostbusters, this eagle-topped beauty would be even more beautiful if it weren't for all those cars and that supervising high-rise right next to it. Built between 1912-17 by Jan Heurich, it was called 'House under the Eagles' (Dom pod Orlami).