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Preface

The Muranów – Housing Estate Monument project is a subjective attempt, to look at post-war Muranów, from it's reconstruction to the present day. 70 years after the destruction of the ghetto and almost 65 years since the first inhabitants of the "new" Muranów moved in. It is an experimental housing estate, which through its spatial plan and architecture, was to commemorate the non existing city. We wish to speak of Muranów in the present tense.

James E. Young claims that when we assign our memory completely to the form of a monument, it will deprive us - to some extent- of the duty to remember. It is the monument that will perform the work of memory and will cause it's displacement. In practice,commemoration in traditional forms can have quite the opposite effect – cause the desire to forget. When modernistic forms where dressed in the costume of socialist realism, when everyday life entered the streets and backyards of Muranów, the Lachert concept of a monument in the form of a housing estate was blurred and the memory of past events could not be triggered by the numerous stairs and steps.

Today we witness a renaissance of this memory and an increasing interest among a growing number of inhabitants – Muranovians by birth and choice – in the architecture of Muranów and its past. This interest requires attention and focus. In our attempt to recreate a map of pre-war Muranów and layer the plans of the subsequent phases of building the estate, we realized what a difficult task cultivating this memory is and how dependent it is on personal interpretation.

In order to make it easier for us and for others to understand this part of Warsaw, we prepared a list of key terms, which have been illustrated in photographs by Adam Pańczuk, an insightful urban explorer, collector of details and situations, which allow one to see anew that which seems familiar and banal. Our architectural installation also has this function. Made up of 10000 small bricks, forming an amorphous structure, which anyone can modify by adding their element to the construction. The elements symbolize the strength of the constantly reviving city, in which one can not forget, that what is today, is made up of many layers that were before.

Muranów – Housing Estate Monument project – The Odblokuj association – Monika Komorowska, Magdalena Wrzesień, Marlena Happach, Marek Happach, Paweł Kłudkiewicz, Ludwika Ignatowicz and Magdalena Mosiewicz (film) and Adam Pańczuk (photography). Thanks to "Muranów Station" Association for substantive and organizational support in the preparation of the project, especially Beata Chomątowska, whose book "Muranów Station" became a guide to the Housing Estate Monument for us.

From Murano to…Murano

Murano

Isola Murano- the island famous for its glass production under the same name. That was where the architect at the Polish royal court, under the reign of Michał Korybut Wiśniowiecki and Jan the III Sobieski, was from. Working in Poland during the 60's of the XVIIth century - Simone Guiseppe Belotti, called the court he built, in what used to be the northern outskirts of the capital, in the area known as the New Warsaw City Pasturage, Murano. It's polonized version later became the name of the whole district.

After 250 years the place seduces new inhabitants by promising to be an elegant enclave, the symbol of which is the Venetian island: The Murano apartments are an exclusive space designed for the needs of the most demanding. We have created an extraordinary place in the center of Warsaw, which combines class and refined architecture with the comforts of metropolitan life - Budimex advertises it's investment, for which an architectural office designed a building housing over 800 apartments. The architect - Marek Dunikowski - declares to be inspired by the social realism of nearby tenement houses, to which he refers through e.g. monumental stone clad facades and through the name, which refers to the origins of the area. The development is aimed at wealthy customers, although not all the units have a very high standard.

The clear distinction between private and public space, was achieved without the necessity to build fences. The building makes up for a large, dense urban block. The density - as if in a pre-war city - can be sensed from within the interiors of the Murano apartments. Although the amount of square meters per inhabitant is high, the development has been realized in a way which maximizes usable floor area. When looking out of their windows, the inhabitants can observe not only the courtyard with fountains and all (which is inaccessible for passers by ) but also their neighbors windows.

The Murano apartments is one of many new developments in Muranów. The northern part of the district, situated near one of Warsaw's first skyscrapers - the Intraco building – has, for a long time, been the location of the tram depot . It wasn't until the building boom which hit Warsaw at the beginning of the decade, that several new housing estates were built and the Intraco building was joined by another skyscraper, marking the entrance into Muranów from Żoliborz.

The new housing developments attract many. Muranów still has the flattering reputation of being a green and calm neighborhood located near the center. In 2004 Stawki Residence was completed and in 2008 Inflancka Estate was opened. In 2006, the two 65 meter towers of M2 on Słomińskiego street were finished. A year after that the 70 meter high Gdański Apartments were finished on 5 Słomińskiego st. Soon the triangular building of Trio Apartments (2010) was erected followed by the glazed 18 floor tower of the Murano Apartments. The new buildings along with their ground floor services and small retail made this previously, rarely frequented area, into a lively urban space, although still far from the buzzing streets of pre-war Muranów.

Northern district

Dzielnica Północna

The northern district is also known as the Nalewki-Muranów area, located to the west from the Old Town, limited by railway tracks from the north and the Lubomirski Trenches to the west. It was never a separate administrative unit of its own. In the end of the XIXth century 90% of it was inhabited by Jews, common languages on it's streets were Yiddish, Hebrew, Russian and Polish. The overall population reached 300 thousand, with almost 1000 people per square kilometer.

The special landscape of the district can be discovered in Izaak Bashevis singers memories described in his last novel, in which after many years of absence the alter ego of the author returns to his childhood in 1930. On his way from the Bristol hotel through Saski Gardens, he reaches the Iron Gate square and feels that this walk has awakened the little boy within me! (…) When we entered Gnojna street, my nostrils filled with the familiar smell of onion soup, olive oil and horse manure. Now the Cheder, yeshiva and Hasidic houses of prayer, where I studied the Torah in my childhood, where very close. Finally we reached Krochmalna and I immediately recognized the characteristic smells f fried olive oil, rotten fruit and smoke. Everything was as it had been before: cobble stones on the street, a deep gutter in the street, washing drying on the wooden balconies. (…) At number 4 there was a large market called the Janas bazaar. It had its second gate on Mirowska street. One could buy anything here: fruit, vegetables, cheese, eggs, live geese and fish. Old shoes and used clothes were sold in the stalls.

In the years 1940-1943 the area was turned into the Warsaw ghetto. From the total of around 450 thousand prisoners of the ghetto, around 150 thousand died of hunger and disease or were killed on the spot, around 300 thousand were killed in the gas chambers of Treblinka. The occupants conducted a systematic destruction of the urban fabric in April and May 1943. In the ocean of ruins, the only steady orientation point left was the tower of St.Augustines church on Nowolipki st.

The recreation of the old Muranów was never considered an option. As Adolf Ciborowski wrote, the reconstruction of the city had it's clear territorial and mental dimensions: It was on the Old Town and it's issues, it's destruction and reconstruction that all the feelings of the city's inhabitants, were focused - their feelings of grief over the ruin of Warsaw.. And further he writes about the concept:The reconstructed Old Town and other restored elements should pass onto the coming generations, the historical forms of old Polish architecture and at the same time grant contemporary forms of utilizing the buildings.

The Housing Estate Monument

Bohdan Lachert, the main designer of the post-war development of Muranów, wrote as follows about the idea of the project in the "Architektura" magazine nr 5 from 1949: Just as the layering of ancient Troy allowed archeologists to examine and get to know history, so will the erection of a new housing development for the world of labor in Muranów , on the rubble hill, will signify the creation of new life on the rubble of past social relations, in the area which commemorates the barbarity of hitlerism and the courage of the Ghetto partisans..

He further describes the principle of stratifying the new topography of Muranów:The Museum of Fighting Fascism, located in the former barracks of Stanislaw August, which was later a prison called "Gęsiówka", on Gęsia street, the monument of the heroes of the Ghetto, the area of martyrdom for the whole of Warsaw – Pawiak and the old street layout, will remain on the ground level from before the disaster, the newer buildings will be erected on a terrace created from the rubble and ruins. This will create a clear spatial layout which is meaningful as a historical document. The total amount of rubble in Muranów is estimated to be around 3000000m³. The decision was made to use the rubble to create the slopes, on which the future houses would be built. Maintaining the old streets, running in the ravines formed between the new buildings, was an idea developed from a concept designed in 1945 by Maciej Nowicki in his Wilanów studio.

In front of the Museum of Fighting Fascism, a large plaza (called the plaza of Youth) was designed with a rotunda and a soaring tower. None of these were realized. The historical barracks were destroyed in the 60's and today it is the location of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews.

One can trace a reference to Bohdan Lacherts early ideas in Oskar Hansens unrealized "Road-Memorial" in Auschwitz. For both the authenticity of the place, materialized in the terrain, topography and remaining structures, is a basic value and a starting point for their spatial intervention. In conversation with Czesław Bielecki in 1977, Oskar Hansen describes the monument:(…) we designed a slab encompassing 2 crematories. The slab was made of Auschwitz earth petrified using the Cybertowicz method. No gestures, no monuments. One entered the small interior cut out of the slab through a narrow diagonal crevice. The steep walls and sky made the architecture of this interior. (…) That's were the idea of the road came from – the background, exposing the characteristics of the camp – the authentic witnesses of the tragedy. The process around the road was to be a clock. Already there were trees growing there we saw deer and hares running across. We wanted to preserve the elements on the road – perpetuate the universal human experience for others , as Pompeii was captured by lava.

Muranów as a housing estate and monument is also a special case of an urban palimpsest with faded markings of the past, partly lost inscriptions. It is a manuscript , which today we are trying to decipher, reading the material testimonies of the destruction in the unobtrusive space of the living city.

Fast-builds

Today, Muranów is written and spoken about all over Poland. This is not only because the Capital – heroic Warsaw, so horrifyingly scarred by the occupant, is gaining a new and impressive district in it's reconstruction. (…) Muranów has become famous also because of new methods of work and a new – social approach to it. All workers, crafts men, engineers and technicians share the same enthusiasm for building. The enthusiasm has created haste, and haste in it's turn has made Fast-builds. This is not to say that anyone is rushing anyone, there is no "sweating" to be seen, other than that of the machines and motors huffing and puffing inhumanly with their diesel "lungs" - life, or I should rather say, work - proceeds entirely normally and calmly. It was a memorable moment, in the history of building Muranów, when on the 29th August 1949 the first so called Fast-build was submitted to the Building Minister - engineer Spychalski. The building shell, with a total volume of 7130 m³ was erected in the course of 23 working days of 61 people. (…) And it's obvious that this "fast-build" acted contagiously on all of Muranów – Feliks Weber Fast-builds of Muranów" Stolica, 23.10.1949

Reconstructing Warsaw

The 6 year plan was a radical program of accelerating the industrialization of Poland. It was realized between 1950 and 1955 as one of the factors of "building the foundations of socialism". The guidelines of the plan included the development and growth of cities.

In the album titled "Six year reconstruction plan of Warsaw", the fictitious author of which was Bierut, the development and building of Muranów was portrayed as a flagship project. One of the characteristics of the plan in relation to Warsaw was the total reconstruction of the city center. "Erasing" or "amnesia" of the city from a few years back starts here, the focus turns to sheer pragmatism: The whole development will be built on a 3-4 meter rubble escarpment, left from the houses of the former ghetto. Leaving the debris is motivated not only by "historical" reasons, but also because of the consideration for economic saving..

Muranów was to be part of the Warsaw of the future, the buildings of which will not resemble the old densely congested, tight mass of tenement buildings. Loose, spread out buildings with green areas between will ensure peace and hygienic conditions for their inhabitants and the closeness of the city center will allow them to use the leisure and cultural facilities it provides. It was a very important propaganda aspect of the whole enterprise, for – according to the doctrine which applied at the time – one of the goals of the reconstruction was the rapprochement of the city center to the workers who were forced into far and primitive suburbs by the capitalist system.

Adolf Ciborowski on Southern Muranów, being realized as a flagship project of the 6 year plan: A unique work of urban design has been created – a work literally of rubble and ashes, on the debris and ashes of the old tragically destroyed neighborhood. Today the slopes of rubble are covered with greenery. Trees have grown in the courtyards and flowers bloom there in the summer.

MDM2

The designers of the buildings along Andersa street had to - on one hand - match the existing classical edifices in the area and - on the other – create something new and original that would meet the requirements of the prevailing socialist realism. There were two teams responsible for the project both under the direction of Stanisław Brukalski: Stanisław and Anna Szurmak together with Maria Dębska and Barbara Andrzejewska and Krystyna Jakimowicz. The ideas of the two groups, working together under the name "Miastoprojekt stolica" overlapped only partly.

Richly decorated, high 8-floor blocks were designed in the four corners of Andersa street. On the southern face, one of the buildings (21 Andersa street today) was supposed to be crowned with an 11-floor tower, which resembled the Palace of Culture. This element however remained on the drawing board. 7-floor buildings were to be built all along Andersa street all the way to the railway tracks, where the rubble of Muranów was taken away from in 1951. At the junction with Stawki street, the whole development, being a 500 meter stretch of 8-floor, 30 meter high buildings, was ended with two, 3-floor, mini towers, which were supposed to harmonize with the historic buildings of Bonifraterska street. The ground floors of the new buildings were dedicated to shops, cafes and cinemas.

The buildings along Andersa street, designed for 15 thousand inhabitants, were soon named "Nowotkas colony" or "Stalins palaces". The Brukalskis original design remained only on paper. It was seriously modified during the execution. The designers dreamt of a Polish equivalent of Berlins Karl-Marx Allee, yet in reality only a poorer version of it was realized.

The Tigers' Plan

In the first post-war edition of the "Architektura" magazine in 1947, a concept for Muranów, meant to house approximately 40 thousand inhabitants , was presented. The authors of the project, were three Warsaw based architects, called The Tigers, who worked within the Department of Urban design in the Office of Reconstruction of the Capital. Wacław Kłyszewski, Jerzy Mokrzyński and Eugeniusz Wierzbicki were known under this name. Three elegant predators of Warsaw architecture, fascinated by modernism,which left their peers without a chance, winning most competitions since the 30's.

The original project of the Muranów Housing estate, was in formal terms, a continuation of the modernistic ideas from before 1939, postponed til the post-war reconstruction. In the same "Architektura" edition there is a declaration – manifesto of the Main Board of the Polish Architects Union: Architecture as a visual art, abstract as far as form and expression go, is despite this, the most widely understood by all because of it's utility. It is, at the same time, the most didactic because of it's everyday widespread presence and accessibility. Architecture in it's essence does not know any detachment from life and it's needs.

What were the needs of 1947? A dramatic hunger of apartments, the restoration of a sense of security, organization of the reconstruction process. These were answered in the "Tigers'" project. In their design the Muranów housing estate was delimited by streets: from the East – the extension of Marszałkowska; from the West – the extension of Żelazna (the N-S route); from the South – Leszno; and the railway tracks from the North. The project involved the construction of two arteries in the east-west direction: the old streets of Miła and Dzielna. The whole area was made up of 9 housing units defined by the road system, each designed entirely independently as far as the organization of social life is concerned: Open public spaces were designed, a service center for the whole district connected by wide green passages with the Krasiński Park and the areas of the end part of the Saski axis (the area of the Mirowskie barracks). The historic Horse Guards barracks building was to be used as a regional administrative center, housing the town hall, a museum and a library. Residential buildings were designed to be 3 - and 11-storeys high, longitudinally oriented and made to break with the traditional peripheral building layout of old city quarters. The buildings were to be higher in the northern and western parts of the district. The new district plan was a model example of the application of the postulates of the Athens Charter of 1933, being an exposition of the idea of recovery in the spirit of The Functional City. The project was presented along side two aerial photographs of Muranów – the first from 1939 with a note about the 150 000 people that inhabited the area, the next showing the deserted rubble field of 1947 with a note about the 118 inhabitants.

Bohdan Lachert

Mural

Born in 1900 in Moscow, a descendant of French and Saxon immigrants (only two generations earlier the family name was Lechert de Peselin), he spent his childhood in Ciechanki in the Lublin area. The family lived in a manor – freshly bought by his father - a renowned industrialist Wacław Lachert. The renovation and rebuilding of the manor became – for the maturing future architect – a kind of testing ground. It was to be similarly with the next house designed by Bohdan Lachert for his father – a modernistic villa on 7 Katowicka street. He was a participant of the Polish-Bolshevik war, during which – sick with typhoid – he almost lost his life. A modernistic architect, member of the avant-guard Praesens group, he loved the WSM (Warsaw Housing Cooperative) housing estates. Between the wars he and his sincere friend Józef Szanajca created a working duet. Among their projects are e.g. The unusual gallery tenement house on 12 Francuska street, the colony of row houses on Dziennikarska street or the soft and wavy Ordowski apartment building on Berezyńska 28. Together they worked on the LeCorbusier–like, three family house, on Katowicka. Bohdan Lacherts own house was a joint project of theirs and a refuge. The avantguard villa with a compact cubic construction, openwork, column supported, ground floor, characteristic staircase leading up to the roof terrace and ribbon windows , housed the Lachert-Szanajca teams studio. Its concrete foam walls and double story living room were soon to witness troubled times. It was here in 1943 that – as he liked to say – tearing away two thousand hours of the gloomy Hitler occupation- Bohdan Lachert created the famous – known later on in Praga – bust of his friend Józef Szanajca, who was shot during the September Campaign. It was here to that Irena Lachert, Agata, hid children from the ghetto, organized Kedyw meetings and underground special agent transfers. It was here finally that the next generations of Warsaw architects were brought up – their two sons Rudolf and Krzysztof and their granddaughter Ewa. After Bohdan Lacherts death – despite the efforts of the Museum of Architecture – this remarkable building was sold into private hands.- Joanna Kuzincow "Warsaw Architects from Ż to A"

Muranów blocks

Rubble-concrete facing bricks with a pinkish hue, which was a derivative of the "color of ruins", became one of the most common materials of the reconstruction period. The main reason for using rubble, which was all over the destroyed city, were the shortage of building supplies – especially bricks. Muranów was no exception.

In 1952 in the article entitled " The Residential District Muranów. An attempt at a critical review" Jerzy Wierzbicki refers to the visual expression of the newly founded settlement: Rubble air brick fills the walls, concrete framing orbits windows and marks the buildings cornice. The match of colors of these materials would be acceptable if the grouting and concrete were of a light color. Such attempts were carried out in some places and they look nice, the treatment is a bit like the old French Renaissance architecture, which operated with brick and light stone. (…) If however, circling the streets and paths of the development, one can see nothing but a rubble wall and concrete finishings – such a solution is unacceptable and the experiment conducted on such a large scale – highly risky. . The solution comes together with the imposed doctrine of Socialist Realism. Hiding the building substance – the rubble material – under a new layer of plaster makes the original scheme unclear and blurred, and at the same time does not give the freedom to form the facade comfortably. (…) Making the new facade introduced more light, livened the individual buildings and turned them away from modernism, but cannot give an entirely harmonious solution..

The landscape of ruin, the special topography and the material of which the buildings were made: these integral elements of the project were supposed to speak of destruction, they were to be a "spatial document", which was a basic concept for the whole idea of the district. Nevertheless this experiment failed, the utopian vision collided with real life. The sad experience of the first phase, proves that rubble is not fit as a base material, it soaks up moisture, it is a good conductor of cold rather than warmth and is a questionable element as far as building stability is concerned. This cannot be helped by picturesque steps and clearances - "Stolica" nr 7/1953

Tenement block – social-tenement – apartment block

A social tenement, or in other words a downtown residential/retail building, with some of the characteristics of a typical XIXth century condominium and with elements layed out by socialist-realism. The Varsavianist – Jarosław Zieliński describes in his book "Socialist Realism in Warsaw"that Soc-blocks are buildings which faithfully mimic the Moscow school of Ivan Żółtowski and his "renaissance"style with rounded corners, stone, rusticated ground floor punctured with arcades and retail outlets..

The street front location, creating a frontage building line, with retail and services in the ground floor and residential floors above are rooted in the XIXth century city paradigm. The wealth of architectural ornamentation is an inherent feature of the facade of a social-tenement: the symmetry of the main body is emphasized by projections, arcades in the most prominent parts , crowning cornice with an attic belt, gateway portals and shop windows of considerable height.

This type of monumental architecture makes the Andersa street of today , formerly named after Nowotko. The eclectic expression of the tenement buildings is very clear: gateways, arcades and a variety of window fittings. These elements largely refer to the architecture of Antonio Corrazi and late classicism. A perfect example of this is the special form of the circular courtyard – the rotunda which opens onto the park area of what is now called the Square of the Political Prisoners of Stalinism.

When Lachert created the buildings of Southern Muranów, he designed three types of residential buildings: a gallery block with access to the individual units from a long gallery running along the building, A point block – with a compact floor plan and vertical communication based on one central core and stair well blocks – being the most common Warsaw type of building with several entrances and several stair wells.

Since the '60's Muranów has been expanding. Prefabricated block house developments have been built using large prefabricated concrete slabs and reinforced concrete construction frame, with varied height. Some enclaves of lower buildings bare reference to the southern Muranów quarters, whilst others are anonymous high rise blocks with a limited amount of surrounding open space.

In the '90's the first free market real estate developments were built. Fill in architecture crept into the planned layout of Muranów's urban quarters. Today developers advertising Muranów as a perfect place to live, avoid using words like "block" or "flat" although the condos they offer are often tiny studios and very tight few room apartments – but the limitations of space are a result not of norms but of the capacity of the clients' wallets.

Garden city

The multilayered spatial layout of the first metropolitan socialistic housing development has been assigned to the neoromantic garden-city model by prof. Marta Leśniakowska.

The idea of the garden city is an urbanistic concept from the beginning of the XXth century, which attempted to answer the need for an increase in the quality of life and living conditions in the city. The author of the concept – Ebenezer Howard – described his ideas in the book under the telling title: "To-morrow: A Peaceful Path to Real Reform". Dealing with social, economic and spatial issues, Howard proposes a vision focused on combining the benefits and richness of living in the city – culture, diversity ; with the goodness of country life and contact with nature. Howard defined the optimal number of inhabitants of an urban unit to be 32 000 people. The self-sustainable unit was spatially divided into functional zones (residential, recreational, service-oriented and industrial...), organized around a centrally located park with a public use program. The outer zone was comprised of agricultural areas, which supplied the unit with food.

A comparison of aerial photos of pre-war Muranów and it's current state show the extent of changes in the urban substance but also the incredible increase in vegetation which was practically non-existent before.

Costume

In June 1949 at the national party meeting of architects, a new creative order was adopted, which obliged designers to reflect the ideological richness of the age of building socialism and to create national forms which are familiar and easily understood by the general public. This was a formula that was supposed to ensure an architecture which would be socialistic in content and national in form.

One of the preachers of the new doctrine was Edmund Goldzamt, who was educated in Moscow. He infected Józef Sigalin – the later chief architect of Warsaw- with the idea. It was on the basis of a paper Goldzamt presented at the party meeting of architects, that socialist realism was accepted as the "compulsory creative method" through drawing from the treasury of soviet architecture and soviet artists. Modernistic ideals were harshly criticized and charged with formalism, nihilism, and constructivism in architecture as a symptom of bourgeois cosmoplitism LeCorbusiers ideas and anglosaxon urban models were dismissed as spreading a pessimistic disbelief in the city as such.

Further in the resolution it was clarified that: Our architecture must become and ideological weapon of The Party, an element of the socialistic upbringing of masses. Architecture must be reborn as a great social Art. In this context the idea of reconstruction was reinterpreted as "a complete redefinition of the cities structure".

This concept, transplanted together with a vision of a new social order, had an unsatisfied appetite for eclecticism which meant it absorbed all local characteristics. The outcome was socialistic eclecticism with very complex and equally transformed architectural detail. Most often though the formal references were to the times of the Congressional Kingdom - Corazzi among others, who was particularly valued by Bierut, which was associated to the fact that in this period Poland was completely dependent from Russia. Renaissance palazzi were also frequently referred to, baroque axial compositions were employed with a synthesis of the arts. In this way, urban design of socialist realism, prolonged the livelihood of the XIXth century city, in an ironic way.

The impact of socialistic realism in urban space was multiplied, by the fact that it had it's greatest meaning in the extraordinary period of rebuilding after all the war damage. This is the case of South Muranów, where the main indication of socialistic realism is in the architectural detail, applied to buildings which were modernistic in their origin and structure. The facades were plastered, the ground floors were rusticated, politically correct obelisk pinnacles were installed and graffito decorations were made – all this was supposed to erase the unwanted mark of functionalism.

Leopold Tyrmand was merciless in his critique of the costume of socialistic realism, which Muranów got dressed in, in his "Diary 1954": facades resembling mentally ill schizophrenics, dressed up as Napoleons, Julius Caesars' and Nebuchadnezzars , with fake beards, eye brows and mustaches attached as if in a provincial theater.

In the oncoming political thaw from 1954 and onwards the program and realizations of socialistic realism were criticized and in march 1956 the doctrine was discarded at the national Architects meeting.

Rome

Osiedle Murano

Rome behind Muranów cinema – one could call the courtyard hidden behind the monumental gateway built into the arcade above the terrace by the ceremonial entrance to the settlement. The gateway, which is located on the axis of Długa street leads onto a staircase that takes us down to the former Działyński palace. The axis which leads out to the north is reminiscent of the layout of St. Peters square in the Vatican. The role of St. Peters Basilica is played in this local scale by the facade of the palace, which closes the composition from the south. The counterparts of Berninis columnade in the trapeze-shaped part of the square are two block houses, clasping the elongated palace courtyard between them. Another "Vatican quote" is a plaza in the shape of a transversed ellipse with a radiant floor decor, enclosed from the north by a building (designed by Janusz Stępkowski) whose front repeats the concave shape of the ellipse.

In front of the cinema, there is – of course – a fountain...

And one more parallel with Rome: Rome – the eternal city on the hills, Muranów – the reborn district on a complex topography of rubble, concealing a non-existent city.

Streets, which do not exist

"From rubble and on rubble" - that was what Muranów was supposed to be, the rubble was to constitute the foundation of the new district and be it's main building material. It's role – in an almost metaphysical sense – was to certify the authenticity of the space and the events it witnessed. From today's point of view this symbolic layer is hard to distinguish. When one analyzes the network of streets of contemporary Muranów, we must bear in mind, that in the post-war discourse, the perspective of building anew dominated over the idea of reconstruction. Szymon Syrkus wrote in 1947: Warsaw (…) has the ambition of reflecting the needs and possibilities of The Peoples Republic of Poland through a new urbanism and architecture (…) This Warsaw will grow on the rubble of barrack-like tenement houses and on the newly joined areas of the region and it will be a clear expression of this post-revolutionary epoch. (…) The workers cry: we don't want old cities, we want a new city, we want a new Warsaw! . A kind of amputation of the memory of the ghetto and it's historical context happened somewhere around the beginning of the 50's when the essence of Muranów's urban design – building on the rubble terrace – was attacked. Further so, plastering the facades and introducing "neoclassical" decor blurred the original concept. The focus was redirected towards building a new order on the ruins of the old one.

The landscape of the district was changed by introducing large arteries such as the N-S route – today's John Paul II avenue and Andersa street - the former Nowotki street or earlier still New-Marszałkowska. The Solidarności Avenue we know today is what used to be Leszno street – only broadened and modified. Today's Andersa street is partly along the historic streets layout. New street names have been introduced, although related in meaning to Muranów:e.g. Esperanto and Bellotti.

The contemporary street network is very different to the pre-war one. Many streets don't exist anymore: Sochaczewska, Gliniana, Libelta, Ostrowska, Szczęśliwa, Kupiecka, Pokorna, Przebieg, Lubeckiego, Solna, Więzienna, one will not find Muranów square on any map. There is only a fragment of the old Nalewki street, yet this part was renamed and is now called the street of the Heroes of the Ghetto. Gęsia street - which ran through the area of contemporary Muranów between Nalewki and Okopowa - is also gone although todays Anielewicza street follows its path. The old Wołyńska is today's Lewartowskiego, what used to be Ceglana is called Pereca today. Many streets although they retained their names have changed their path. Such is the case with Zamenhofa street, Muranowska, Świetojerska.

It's no wonder that the poet – Abraham Sutzkever wrote:The city is without addresses, who erased them from the walls?
There is no one left, no one whom to ask.
(…) Distraught postmen err among the stones
Nobody can remember, where that street once was

Details

When one walks through Muranów, one looks at the facades, passes gateways, columnades , arcades and sees the windows in all sorts of strange shapes. Those that live here treat it as a kind of obviousness, those that pop in for a moment do not notice the particularities. It is only when these elegant trifles disappear , that we remember that there was something so seemingly trivial but yet important. There are many examples of renovation projects which prove that the details of Muranów are not treated as a value. Let us analyze the buildings with an architectural dictionary at hand to see what is often lost forever under new layers of styrofoam.

Rustication – a masonry technique dealing with the surface of natural stone, based on profiling the edges so as to underline the stonework. In the contemporary or economical version rustication is made in plaster or only drawn on the surface.

Gateway – an opening , which is the main entrance to an area of limited access, usually with the possibility of being closed. It is usually located in a building, fence or wall, set in the architectural construction.

Cornice – a horizontal architectural element, jutting out of the face of the wall to accentuate the horizontal divisions of the building and to shield the wall from the rain.

H windows – a characteristic form of division used in a three piece window, an original design by Lachert, which differs from the double, C-2 windows, which were imposed during the execution of Muranów.

Projection – a part of a building which is projected forward on its full height, together with the roof; depending on its position according to the central axis, the projection can by central, lateral or corner.

Sgraffito – technique of wall painting based on applying colored plaster or clay and partly scratching it off from the upper layers, revealing the colors from underneath and depending on the amount of layers applied – a multi or duocolored decor is produced.

Stucco – a lime and gypsum or lime and alabaster or marble dust mixture, meant for shaping interior decoration, applied to ceilings or walls in the form of geometric shapes and ornamentation resembling plants, flowers, fruit, people etc.

Baluster– a round or multi faced shaft made of stone or wood, usually quite domed and profiled in shape which carries a handrail

Tympanum – an internal triangular field in the pediment, which can be smooth or sculpted.

Plastering – a layer of plaster on the ceiling or wall, which apart from being a protective layer is also decorative because of the possibility to modify the color and texture of it.

Flats of Muranów

The blocks of flats built in Muranów were supposed to be the fulfillment of the inhabitants' dreams of their own flat in the war-battered capital. It soon turned out that propaganda could not replace solid workmanship and the inhabitants did not hide their disappointment with their newly acquired apartments.

Beata Chomątowska describes that the new settlers of Muranów were awaited by rooms as narrow as the interior of a tram, which provoked creativity, even among the least experienced in interior design. They had to solve the difficult problem of how to fit in a modest set of furniture and still have room for themselves and their families. The windows and doors didn't shut properly, with wide chinks in the floors, leak stains on the walls and stuffy stair wells in which the inhabitants made ventilation holes over the doors by themselves.

They were troubled by the small sizes of the flats (from 13 to 40 m²) and various solutions which served the purpose of rationalization at the cost of function. In the case of the gallery blocks, one had to pass the windows of their neighbors' kitchens in order to get to ones own front door, which seems ill suited to the climate. Nevertheless even with such standards, amusing situations occurred such as keeping rabbits, chickens or coal in bath tubs. The small flats and lack of promised, central laundries and drying rooms, made the inhabitants expand outdoors with their everyday lives. Washing, hanging out to dry, all over the backyards and courtyards, is an example of this.

Today this relatively low standard and small units attract a lot of interest among Muranóws newcomers, because the flats are affordable. The new developments diversify the residential offer, attracting wealthier and more picky clients. From being a sleepy neighborhood submersed in vegetation, Muranów is becoming an active community and an important cultural part of Warsaw's downtown area.

Okrąglak (The Rotunda / Circus )

Ławeczka

It's the year 1955. We get on the Metro – to save time. The stairs carry us into a beautiful hall, within a building not far from the Mostowski palace. It is a sunny afternoon. Hundreds of people are strolling down the walking avenue, which runs from Dzielna street to Świętojerska in the direction of the Vistula escarpment. At the mouth of Dzielna street a circular, green, roundabout, surrounded by a building which houses the metro station and shops. The walking avenue leads through this roundabout. The 3 storey wings of the building contain community facilities for the inhabitants of the neighborhood. In front of the building there is a huge plaza of greenery, connected to Krasiński Park.This was how the author of a text published in the "Peoples Tribune" imagined the classicist building at 13 Andersa street 2 years in advance. For today's community the building is characteristic because of its original look, size and above all – its three courtyards: The first called Okrąglak (The Rotunda or Circus) because of it's shape; the courtyard to the left of it is called the "Cop block" because of it's closest neighbor – Mostowski Palace - which is Warsaw City Police headquarters; and the last of the three courtyards remains nameless.

The erection of this peoples plaza, made up of a roundabout and 6 wings, creating closed quadrangles on either side of it , started in 1951 as the first of the planned settlement along Nowotki Avenue. It was also one of the largest residential buildings in the capital, with a volume of approx. 135 000 m³ and 900 apartments.

In it's concept, the palace was supposed to connect the old street grid with the new one: the overly angular position of the building in relation to the street was to be modified by giving the main gateway its circular shape, thanks to which the change of direction would be hardly visible. The building is lower than others along Andersa Avenue, because the designers wanted it's architecture to be appropriate to the neighboring historical buildings: Mostowski Palace and the Arsenal.

The huge circular plaza was not designed without reason: Originally, the entrance to the Muranów Metro station was planned to be under it, which was meant to serve the local community and neighboring areas. The concept was to allow for the many tens or even hundreds of people using the station daily to freely enter and exit.

Pasteloza

Apparently the most deadly poisons are created in the process of making medicines. It was like this here to. An attempt was made to discover a medicine against greyness. The idea was to paint over it, that that would make it better. That's how pasteloza was developed. - Filip Springer

The external walls of residential buildings must meet certain norms, concerning their thermal transmittance U ≤ 0,30 W/(m2K). This statements carries grave consequences for the aesthetics of Polish residential estates. For almost 20 years now this sector of the building industry is in a frenzy of increasing buildings thermal efficiency, which is encouraged by subsidies and loan offers. The goals are positive: environmental protection, economical savings and a chance to renovate facades while doing so.

Southern and Northern Muranów, the settlement on Andersa street are protected as an area of historically valuable urban quarters. Unfortunately they are only listed as such but are not included in the official register of historic heritage, as a result of which the legal protection they are given is very limited and in the judgment of designs aesthetic decisions are made on the level of housing community meetings and condominium administrative groups. In the process of applying for a building permit (for buildings over 12 m high) these issues are reviewed by the municipality official, the inhabitants choices are very rarely questioned. When walking around Muranów, one can observe that many buildings have been insulated in a way which destroys the characteristics of the settlement such as: style, color composition, shaping of the facades and use of architectural detail. In his design, Bohdan Lachert put a lot of effort into the color scheme of his project and consciously resigned from introducing plaster. The Social realistic costume which was later applied to the buildings, although contradictory with the original, modernistic concept, was also a binding element of the whole establishment. Today Muranów, like most Warsaw districts is sick with pasteloza, which has irreversibly destroyed many elements which made the area unique. One must keep in mind, though, that there are positive examples, which prove that renovating can be done with respect to architectural identity, through maintaining the original coloration or applying insulation together with remodeled decor in new materials.

Muranów as a community

Korzenie

Built by people and for people, Muranów was planned as a community friendly neighborhood. The urban quarters, infrastructure – kindergartens, nurseries, schools – all densely located among the buildings, allowed for closer ties among neighbors. Muranów is remembered by its inhabitants as kind of little town, where people know each other and children grow up together. Today these "neighborly units" don't function as clearly as they used to but the inhabitants appreciate the proximity of nurseries, schools, shops, medical centers and laundries. Outsiders, who wander through the gateways and up steps into the courtyards see washing hung up to dry and feel that they have entered a new kind of space which belongs to its inhabitants.

Muranów has its own District Council which represents the inhabitants . There is also a growing number of organizations and associations. Some of them have been founded by local activists, others just happened to be formed here but have stayed and are more and more engaged in local issues. The liveliness of the community is also related to the large interest that young people show in the area. Here they can be close to the center for relatively fair prices. In learning Muranów and trying to understand it's identity they meet others, similar to themselves. Activists enter Muranów, discovering it for themselves and the community, like "Muranów Station" through it's mural making event, focused on the identity of space and important people from the areas past. Artistic events also enter into the interiors of buildings like in the case of an installation made by Jerzy Goliszewski called "Compass Rose", which was made in a condominium on Solidarności Avenue 82A. At the base of a large winding staircase a compass rose was mounted, which lit up the space depending on the time of day.

Social life in Muranów is influenced by some important places , which have trans local meaning. Muranów cinema has attracted viewers for years and the small square with its own fountain in front of the cinema is a place for film fan discussions. PaństwoMiasto (CityState), located in the ground floor of a Tenement house on Andersa Street, has only been around for a short while but has already become a part of Warsaws steady network of places where urban issues are raised.

Social activism is demonstrated in Muranów also through protest. The renovation of Krasiński Gardens mobilized many to express their objection to the governments actions, where in an investment dealing with very big changes and interference in nature, there was no communication with the community about it.

Muranów Towers

The towers of Muranów – from church steeples to modern skyscrapers – are orientation points. The oldest remaining dominant spacial element in Muranów is the over 80 meter high tower of the church of St. Augustine. For many years after the war it remained one of the tallest buildings in Warsaw. The church was built in the last decade of the XIXth century and survived the war because the Germans stored furniture there, that had been looted from Jewish apartments. After the Warsaw Uprising they set fire to the roof of the temple, nevertheless the walls remained standing. Apparently in 1959 "the wonder of Nowolipki" took place. Passers by saw a beaming figure on the top of the tower and agreed that it was Mother Mary. In the next days, crowds gathered at the foot of the church. The wonder was explained as a mere reflection on the gold plated sphere, which crowns the tower and the copper cladding the roof. It took many attempts at painting the sphere and roof, to finally get rid of the strange light above the tower.

The gateway to Muranów is formed by the 11 storey towers at the junction of the avenues of John Paul II and Solidarności. They were designed to be much higher but during the execution phase they grew in width rather than height.

The Intraco building towers over the northern part of the district. It was one of Warsaw's first skyscrapers along with hotel Forum. It is 138 meters high and was built by a Swedish company in the first half of the 70's with sales and technical representatives from abroad in mind. The Blue Tower dominates over the south-eastern corner of Muranów. It is 120 meters high and took 25 years to build. Some say it is because of the curse which has been cast over this place. The Great Synagogue was located on this site before it was blown up by the Nazis in 1943. On sunny days the building reflects the blue sky – hence its name.

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