In the publication “WIDTH PD. Illustrated atlas of the architecture of Śródmieście Południowe” architecture enthusiasts will find 70 short stories about selected buildings, parks or monuments, monumental monuments, hidden gems or unrealized architectural plans in the district. Premiere Thursday.
The “Illustrated Atlas of Architecture” series published by Centrum Architektury is devoted to individual districts of Warsaw or their parts. – This time, together with Michał Kempiński, we have prepared a publication devoted to Śródmieście Południowe. The border separating Śródmieście is Aleje Jerozolimskie. The area to the south is Śródmieście Południowe, bounded by Chałubińskiego Street and Aleja Niepodległości from the west, from the east by Skarpa Warszawska from the National Museum to Łazienki Park, and from the south by ul. Bagatela, Boya i Batory – says one of the authors, Krzysztof Mordyński.
“The prehistory of the capital is in this area”
– Each part of Warsaw has its own specificity. Although Śródmieście Południowe as part of the city is not the oldest, at the same time there was a stronghold of Jazdów, destroyed by an invasion in the 13th century, which prompted the search for a safer place and founding the beginnings of today’s Warsaw in the area of today’s Old Town. So in this area there’s kind of a prehistory of the capital. The actual beginnings of the urbanization of this area date back to the 18th century, when it began to be built up very preliminarily. Dynamic development took place at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries, former fields and meadows were divided, and the present streets are a testimony to the former borders of agricultural land – he says.
As he pointed out, the architects tried to somehow direct and shape this natural growth of the city. – And the keynote of our publication is to show those architectural concepts, whether implemented or not, which, however, always left a trace. Wandering around Śródmieście Południowe, we can read it from its contemporary form. We can find buildings that form “micro-complexes”, sometimes standing in an unusual way, being a testimony to some old architectural concepts that were usually only partially implemented – stresses Mordyński.
Marshal Piłsudski district
– Most of the district is built up with tenement houses, the streets form a fairly dense grid with compact buildings. Already in the period of the Second Polish Republic there were architectural plans to create a government district with ministries in the area along today’s Aleja Niepodległości. The avenue was to lead to Pole Mokotowskie, where the Sejm district was planned. A later concept envisaged the creation of a monumental district of Marshal Piłsudski, stretching more or less along the line of today’s Trasa Łazienkowska to the area of Pole Mokotowskie. The war prevented the implementation of these plans, the co-author of the publication reports.
After 1945, as he noted, references were made to these ideas, but in a different way. – In the 1950s, the construction of the Marszałkowska Housing District began. The idea was to transform the space of Śródmieście Południowe in such a way that Marszałkowska Street, which is the main axis, would lead to one large square, behind which the residential district would be located. Of course, there were more of these plans, for example the axis of ministries along Wspólna Street, which was a convenient walking route from Śródmieście Południowe to the escarpment, leading among monumental buildings testifying to the “thriving development of post-war Poland”. As part of it, for example, the building of the Ministry of Agriculture with an impressive colonnade was built, which was to crown the planned city square – says Mordyński.
Stories about buildings with illustrations from the beginning
“WEDGE PD. Illustrated atlas of the architecture of Śródmieście Południowe” opens with an extensive introduction outlining the history of the area.
– The main part consists of 70 short stories about selected buildings, parks and monuments. Each is accompanied by a drawing. It was important for us that the story about a given building, where we talk about architectural values, role, functions, something that distinguishes it, should be accompanied by a drawing. The photograph would show the original architectural idea, already very distorted by the years of changes. On the other hand, the cartoonists tried to recreate the appearance of the building in accordance with the intention of the creator. Therefore, the described object is accompanied by a drawing showing the building at the beginning of its existence, or in the case of e.g. an extensive complex – a characteristic detail. On the cover there was, for example, the crown of the candelabra from Plac Konstytucji – says Krzysztof Mordyński.
The key to selecting the objects described in the book was intended to be – as he emphasized – absolutely subjective. – That’s why it’s not a strictly tourist guide, we’re addressing it perhaps even more to architecture lovers, also in a more general sense, not only in the capital, because the same architects also designed buildings in other cities. And reading the descriptions of Warsaw buildings, you can see what problems they faced and how they tried to solve them, which is universal. We also tried to make it a chronological overview, so that the recognizability of the object was not the key. That is why there are both old and completely new ones that caught our attention and we decided that they also shape the image and uniqueness of this area – he explains.
Buildings not to be missed
– I also wanted to draw attention to the very interesting squares located in this area and shaping its image – such as the monumental Plac Konstytucji, the intimate Plac Zbawiciela or Plac Trzech Krzyży, on the one hand a multi-directional transport hub, on the other – especially now renovation – a space with a chance to become a kind of urban forum – he emphasizes.
– Of course, we also present buildings that cannot be missed, such as the National Museum, a monumental modernist building from the interwar period. Next to it stands the former House of the Party, a building from the period just after the war, also basically modernist, which today has a completely different purpose. And Michał Kempinski chose the nearby building of the current Stock Exchange Centre, a work of modern architecture combining glass and stone. Despite the obvious differences, these buildings correspond very well with each other – assesses Mordyński.
The publication also introduces interesting, less known objects. – One of them is the Pniewski villa in the Na Książęcem park, which can be reached by a charming walking route along the escarpment, bridges suspended over Książęca, Piękna and Łazienkowska streets, which are worth a visit. And also Struve’s hidden villa, at the back of Plac Konstytucji. To find it, you have to get off the main route, to the back of the big buildings. This building is a testimony to the old character of this part of the city. At the end of the 19th century, it was an area with gardens, very quiet, where a romantic villa in the Italian style was erected, which has almost miraculously survived to this day – he points out.
The book launches on Thursday
– As the author, I wanted to share with the reader such admiration for the described objects. And a bit of admiration for architects who treat the building as a puzzle composed of functions it must fulfill combined with an artistic dimension. Each epoch has its own taste and needs, it is constantly changing and creates a fascinating story. We have selected 70 objects from Śródmieście Południowe, on the example of which we can see how the architects dealt with it – sums up Krzysztof Mordyński.
The premiere of the book will take place on Thursday, July 20 at 7 p.m. 18.00 in the Physics Building of the Warsaw University of Technology. The University of Technology is also a publication partner.
Main photo source: TVN24