This blog is really just an excuse to get all cosmic. In fact, that's what city stravaiging is all about: attuning into the greater picture, getting a feel for time and space, tapping in to the life and death of the metropolis. The city, if you let it, can faciltate the experience of being rooted in the continuum of space and time. Architecture is a great starting point. But there are other ways too: birds, plants, trees, people even. You just have to open yourself up to it, and like a well-tuned wireless, refine the senses to receive their 'frequencies'. The weakening of the experience of time, the commodification of space, the growing desensitization of self through technology (and an economic model predicated on profit and competition), has devastating mental effects. People now speak in a terrifying chorus of not 'having' enough time, and of 'making' a living. They see life as a paper mache mask; they treat space as something to be occupied, to be measured and bought by the square metre. Time, well, time is money, is it not?

The human untied from time and space is the human disintegrated from the 'kosmos' of the beautiful whole. Lend your self to architecture - the patina of time, of wear and tear, of weathering and decay, will help you, perhaps. As will its textures and contours, its enlivening of space. Wander through the city with an aletheic gaze. Look, touch, taste and feel. Do not rely on the eyes. Be haptic! Listen too. You may hear something of that harmonising force which includes you.

This is one of several 'kopulaki' (copulating domes) in Ulica Ustrzycka just to the west of Zwirki i Wigury in Jadwisin. Built and designed in the sixities by architect Andrzej Iwanicki, a loophole in building regulations was exploited which denied space to constructions which exceeded a certain height. The result was this low level housing, mammary style, which allowed more ground space to be exploited by the architect. Several still exist intact from their initial design; others have mutated. Out of the planned 70, only ten were actually built, but what a ten!

Secreted behind the facade of Ulica Moliera 6, this wonderful structure at Ulica Kozia 9 is indicative of the hidden gems available to the curious stravaiger. Poking your head in through gateways, through tunnelled entrances, past grand portals, is a trait I picked up in Paris and Naples, two very different cities whose real flesh lies hidden and concealed intra muros.

The 'mouth' building on Browarna Street in Powisle is another idiosyncratic structure that has been earmarked for demolition. It has acted as an outlet for the university since the sixties.

Another building in the throes of 'remodification' this one on Pulawska is probably considered an eyesore by most if it is considered at all. A wonderful structure whose tabled base frees up the facade in true Corbusien fashion allowing for full windowed walls on both sides. The result is an airy and spatious building, the back end of which looks over the Warsaw escarpment with views further beyond to the river and the east side.

'Marvellous' insofar as it makes the mind marvel at how on earth it managed to get built. This is the Centrum Zdrowia (Health Centre) in Miedzylesie. It doesn't look too bad in fact framed against a clear blue spring sky. It is a building of magnitude, not imagination.

Another block, this time of a more solid and durable nature. Continuing along the north-south route linking Mokotow and Zoliborz, this photograph taken from Elektoralna Street, is of one of the solid arcaded cornerstone bloks of Jana Pawla II. This area was the heart of the Warsaw Jewish Ghetto, and it was completely destroyed in 1944. The rebuilding program of the 50s was a massive undertaking with many comparing Warsaw at this time to a huge building site. The new throughfare with its sturdy neo-renaissance buildings (which can also be seen on Andersa Street, below) was constructed from 1953-1959.

The relatively short street of General Anders just to the west of the New Town is framed beautifully by the arcaded blocks you see here. The street itself, a little like the building, is not one of your usual streets; there is something curious about its multi-pathed system. In the autumn and winter months, on a cold clear morning, when the sun beats a path straight through, the buildings and the street are illuminated in all their glory. Like the blocks on Jana Pawla II these too were built in the craze of apartment block construction that swept through Warsaw in the fifties.

This corner blok on Niepodleglosci and Dabrowskiego in Mokotow was recently restored both inside and out. Designed by President Stefan Starzynski, who has a plaque dedicated to him on the opposite corner, this stretch of Aleje Niepodleglosci (between Pole Mokotowskie and Wierzbno metro stations) is a grand boulevard cum expressway which was built in parallel to 'Europe's last great street' that of Karl Marx Allee (formerly Stalinallee) in Berlin. Though Niepodleglosci's socialist architecture does not possess much of the finesse of its German counterpart, its buildings, though perhaps the avenue width, does maintain a similar dimension.

This pre-war villa at 101 Madalinskiego street in Mokotow in its strict geometric form and austere blank gable wall is almost completely Loosian in design. The two guardian oak and chestnut (the only sign of 'ornamentation') frame the north facade beautifully. The house mirrors itself on the other side, and has remained unoccupied for some time now, though its garden is evidently taken good care of. Through much meditation upon the structure I have come to know it as the 'Logic House' (so-called after the house Ludwig Wittgenstein, a close friend of Adolf Loos, designed for his sister in Vienna). The building even drew a poem from my innards, one which was superiorly inferior to the poetry of the building itself.

This 'balcony building' residence 18a Karowa Street just off Krakowskie Przedmiescie is wonderfully different from the standard block. From a head-on angle you could be forgiven for being a little puzzled. Indeed, it's only when viewed from the side that you can see a kitchen window part of the flat below. Thus, the balcony for one, is the niche kitchen for another. It is a rather odd design, reflecting the building's experimental nature.

A 1950s squat block in Stare Rembertow. Not to be confused with the practice of 'squatting', that is 'occupying a building without legal title', the squat block (here, a sort of sideways high rise) is particularly common in Warsaw and a more humane variation of housing solutions.

A squat block in Nowolipki, formerly part of the Jewish Ghetto. Nowolipki is a wonderful area in the city centre and was the site of Warsaw's first 'garden city', a residential area full of tree-filled courtyards which would be built upon the ashes of many of the Jews who died here.

Located on Aleja Niepodleglosci between Raclawicka and Wierzbno metros, this is a huge structure some 500 metres square. With its castellated roof and its 'zuckerbackerstil' (wedding-cake style) it has something of a regal feel to it. When the soft summer light hits it as in this photograph, it reminds me of Jordan's Nabbatean Treasury in Petra, which also glows pink in the late afternoon light. Both structures, in their perfect portrayals of solid stonework and expert craftsmanship, represent the true art of building. Where Petra's 'Treasury' was not so much a building as a relief and a facade, this treasury has a network of spacious apartments and verdant courtyards to its interior. In its size, not so much tall as wide and thick, it mimics the colossal Socialist Realism of other grand housing projects: the Stalinist 'magistrale' of MDM in Plac Konstitucji, Nowa Huta in Krakow, Independence Avenue in Minsk and that of Karl Marx Allee in Berlin. This particular structure is one of my all time Warsaw favourites. Its placement here in the middle of Mokotow at the southern end of the city represents for me the end of the city proper and the beginning of the endless city suburbs.

This building and its predicament is a good example of Warsaw town planning. All around Chalubinskiego Street are WWII survivors nursed back to their former health. The three storey townhouses at the rear with their red mansard roofs give something of a Parisian quality to this area. And yet, in the midst of it all, a towering goliath, completely out of place. It is a curious building for its sort of Babushka (telescopic) principle which can be better discerned close up. I have always thought there a certain pyramidal quality to it, not least because of the colour. But don't take my word for it. As I say, this part of Chalubinskiego was painstakingly restored after the war. There are some fine buildings here, and predicaments like this will certainly help to keep the senses open.

The economics department headquarters building in Aleje Niepodleglosci. The peaked cap of a roof is supposed to signify the prow of a ship. The greatest thing about this building is perhaps the solar sightlines that remain open to it as envisaged in this crepuscular showdown.

No blog on Warsaw would be complete without several pictures (one is not enough) of the 42 storey goliath that was Stalin's parthian shot (so to speak) to the people of Warsaw. When the light hits it so it is truly the paragon of a beast. But you will have to be quick with these autumnal dusks, for soon, between the sun and the palace will rise the tallest residential complex in Europe, Zloty 44, designed by Daniel Liebeskind, slashing its shadow like a Stanley knife across this the north face of the Palace of Culture.

Built in 2003 in Warsaw's historic area of Plac Piludskiego and Saski Gardens Norman Foster's Metropolitan building is a real Zen-like structure. The three symbols of Zen, the square, the triangle and the circle, are melded seamlessly to produce a building of staggering virtuosity. Goethe was once told by a poet friend of his that architecture was like music that had frozen. It is no coincidence that Foster's block stands next to Warsaw's Opera.

At its most basic level, the Metropolitan is what you might call a three-part office block. On the most obvious level it is an office building, the first triple A class in Warsaw; next, it is a public square which is incorporated into the structure which can just be seen from the circular frame eking out at the top; lastly, it is a commercial building housing cafes and shops at its base. The building, in spite of its futuristic design and use of materials, blends well into an area replete with historic structures. Here, the height factor is played down to the wide factor. Circling round as a tripartite building, this is a real island of a building as perhaps reflected in the image beneath. Incidentally, in this picture, as well as the Opera House and the Old Town, you can see the hidden gem documented above as a standalone block behind a row of tenements.

Aerial view of Saski Gardens, Monument to the Unknown Soldier, Plac Piludskiego, Foster's Metropolitan, the Opera House, and the Old Town.

The title picture to this blog is of the famous Za Zelazna Brama Estate in the city centre. The square in front used to be a thriving black market place during WWII, occupying an oculus within the encircling Jewish Ghetto. These buildings, originally conceived as Corbusier like 'Unites d'Habitation' by students of the great man himself, consisted of a fleet of 19 which were built in the 1960s to house an ever-growing city population. The title itself 'behind the iron gate' derived from a cartouche in the nearby Saski Gardens which no longer exists. The idealistic vision of wide-rises to adequately house all facets of the individual has always been a questionable concept. Here, it was more a question of economics and demographics, and of time. Initially built to optimise incoming sunlight which, it was thought, would relieve the tension of such 'factory living', the buildings have since suffered greatly because of this. Heat, humidity, extreme cold and the general effects of weathering have all taken their toll. To add insult to injury, the space between the buildings is constantly under attack from property developers and the like. From being initially lauded as a sort of Manhattan complex of high living standards, the buildings now are viewed as something of a blight on Warsaw's central cityscape.

I call this one 'the building of a thousand eyes' for the most obvious reason. It stands on the corner of Koszykowa and Mokotowska, and though in need of a paint-job is a thoroughly unique structure with its shadowed ground level and maze-pattern balconies. Its facade too has been 'freed' to allow all those eyes (eye and window in Polish, oko and okno, are practically the same word). Its colour also, a sort of high frequency corn yellow, brings a little vibrancy to an otherwise tenebrous corner of Srodmiescie Poludnie.

The spacey French Embassy on the corner of Ulica Piekna and Ulica John Lennona.

Building on Ulica Czerniakowska

This is the entrance foyer to the arthouse cinema Kino Iluzjon in the wonderfully serene square of Antoni Slonimskiego. The main auditorium, replete with fleabitten curtain and some several hundred seats (that have all but lost their zest for life), is a splendid space with carved reliefs of Warsaw's mermaid maiden Syrenka etched into the high walls. At present in 2009, this location is closed and the building's fate is in the balance. It may, or may not, be renovated. During the two years of our great relationship I feasted on films such as Blood Simple, The Passenger, The Wages of Fear, Tom Horn, Manhattan, Chinatown, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Fahrenheit 451, Angel Heart and many many more. I've always thought that a healthy relationship with any city has to involve a picture house like this one. Warsaw, with places like Kino Luna, Kino Wisla, Kino Muranow and Kino Femina is a city that has not yet kowtowed to the soul-less profit-hungry multiplex. It is a city of fleabitten velvet curtains, dodgy seats and grainy, lovingly washed prints!

Recently restored in 2008 the Hera building, with its guardian hickory, stands on the corner of Gagarina and Belwederska at the southern end of Lazienki Park.

Although Warsaw was home to a stock exchange since 1817, in 1945, because of political changes after World War II, it could not be recreated. It only started operating again in April 1991, after the reintroduction of the free-market economy. From 1991 until 2000 the stock exchange was situated in this building pictured on the corner of Jerozolimskie and Nowy Swiat. It was previously used as the headquarters of the Central Planning Committee of the Polish Communist Party (PZPR). The reason for using this building was two-fold: the first was the symbolic value attached to the building, and the second was the fact that no other building in Warsaw was as well connected with telecommunications.

This is the atrium of the former Communist Headquarters Building, now very much the caldera of capitalism from which all eruptions effuse.

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