Friday 1 July 2016

Architectural Oddities of Warsaw, Poland

I visited Poland courtesy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland.

On my recent trip to Poland, I spent a day exploring architectural curios of the capital city, Warsaw.

In Jazdów I saw a neighbourhood of Finnish huts, built after World War Two. The effect is of a country town right in the middle of the capital.

Though recently threatened with destruction, there have since been moves to preserve them for use by various NGOs. In fact I met someone from a beekeeping organisation here, which has hives across Warsaw.

On the southern outskirts of the city, in Ursynów, I was shown a model public housing project of the 1970s, in which the communist authorities experimented with placing more parks and greenery among staggered housing blocks:

In the north of the city, past Warsaw's beautiful rebuilt Old Town, I was shown around the attractive 1920s and 1930s buildings of Żoliborz, which largely survived the war intact.

Among them was this striking new mural, a tribute to David Bowie and his brief 1976 visit to the district which resulted in the song Warszawa (taking the Polish name of the city):

The most remarkable architectural highlight of the day, however, was the Keret House, named after Israeli writer Etgar Keret. This tiny house which hosts resident writers is found in Mirów, a district that was part of the Jewish ghetto during Nazi occupation.

It's a very curious residence, occupying a gap between two buildings which tapers from 152cm at its ­widest point down to a very narrow 92cm. Into this slot has been built this fascinating building, symbolically wedged between prewar and postwar structures:

Entered from the rear via stairs which swing down to the ground, it's just large enough for a writer to live, rest and work in, with levels containing a bed, kitchen, bathroom, beanbag and desk:

It's an intriguing space, a modern writer's garret that occupies both a physical and mental space between the new and the old.

As for the story of how it came about, I'll leave the explanation to the project's founder, Jakub Szczęsny:

Suffice it to say, I would love to do a writer's residency here one day. The strange energy of central Warsaw resonates across time and space, and would be more than enough to power a novel.

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