Architecture and urban planning in the first two decades of Nowa Huta in photographs of Wiktor Pental and Henryk Makarewicz


For the researchers of Nowa Huta architecture, its photographs taken by Wiktor Pental and Henryk Makarewicz provide precious visual documentation of the first two decades of development of what was assumed to be an ideal communist city. The photographs of the duo registered the dynamic process of emergence of successive instalments of the designed layout of Nowa Huta and its architecture, disclosing the revolutionary fervour that the implementation of the ambitious project generated, aside from the totalitarian nature of its political purposes. Stanisław Juchnowicz, one of the architects of the team of Tadeusz Ptaszycki, remembered that putting up the largest urban development of the time in Poland was a tough school of quick decisions.1 Building and urban development of such a scale on absolute greenfield was a neck-breaking challenge, especially in the political and economic circumstances of the post-war Poland, forced by the decision of Stalin to reject the Marshall Plan. “That Nowa Huta [literally “the new steelworks” – translator’s note] was built chaotically, helter-skelter, just to have it done quickly, just to build more accommodation” Bogumił Korombel, engineer standing since 1956 at the helm of the Construction Authority for the City (DBM) of Nowa Huta, explained,2 emphasising that the construction of such a huge residential complex was not preceded by the installation of the necessary water and wastewater, electric, gas, and transport networks. No sufficient attention was paid to the drainage of water from the area of construction either: the mud squashed and milled with wheels was a de rigueur element of the landscape in the early stage of development of the city.

The decision about the deployment of the first residential estates of Nowa Huta, sprouting in the neighbourhood of the industrial plant complex being developed since 1950, that were to become the germ for a city of 100,000 inhabitants was determined by the accessibility of existing railway connections and fairly hardened roads. The deadlines for launching production in the Lenin Steelworks required completing the residential district at a mad pace. Stanisław Juchnowicz reminisced that there was no time for meticulous design. The craving for residential space was huge: the staff of the steelworks arriving in Nowa Huta stood in the constantly extending queues together with the people displaced from the land appropriated for the new city. With mass industrialisation and urbanisation of agricultural land earmarked for the construction of the steelworks, the shortage of skilled workers provided an opportunity for an immediate upward leap to people from the bottom of the social ladder. “They come by the trainload from the villages, from the little towns, to build the steelworks, to conjure up a city, to dig a new El Dorado from the ground”, Adam Ważyk wrote.3 At least in the initial period, the costs of such upward mobility included the nightmarish living conditions and a particular organised exploitation: the system of shock labour teams. A Nowa Huta stakhanovets Piotr Ożański, the model for Mateusz Birkut: the tragic protagonist of Andrzej Wajda’s Man of Marble became famous throughout the country for setting the record of 802% of the expected production efficiency in a single shift. A famous photograph by Wiktor Pental presents the First May Parade with participation of Nowa Huta “leaders in production” i.e. shock workers, and the staff of the Urban Construction Facility (ZBM). A ribbon boasting the record across the chest, the portrayed group includes a girl in a white blouse, whose ribbon reads “210%”. Nobody is smiling.

The chaos and the shortages of the first years of Nowa Huta as well as the identification of the development with the fear instilled by the Stalinist state apparatus in no way disproved the authentic enthusiasm with which a fair share of the people welcomed the post-war processes of industrialisation and urbanisation of Poland. The ambivalence of community memory of that period can be seen in the mutually contradictory appraisal of the decision to build a new city on the outskirts of Kraków. Some emphasise the tragedy of the people forcefully removed from the suburban villages surrounded by most fertile fields, where they had lived for generations. Others note that the construction of the industrial facility and accompanying city was an opportunity for the people living in the territory earmarked for the construction to become liberated from the vicious circle of smallholder poverty, whose symbol was a cottage with a caved-in roof offering no amenities, and to obtain a guarantee of permanent employment and decent living conditions, aligned with the aspirations of the citizens of a state whose banners sported slogans of progress and modernity. On average 10,000 people arrived in Nowa Huta, incorporated into Kraków in 1951, each year of the 1950s. In the heroic period of the city, i.e. the first half of the decade, the people of Nowa Huta were the denizens of the overcrowded worker barracks and hotels, an equally numerous group of people who populated the first residential estates, and locals: the inhabitants of the villages whose territory was taken up for the new industrial city.4 The spatial trace of the dynamic of community changes is clearly illustrated by one of Henryk Makarewicz’s photographs from the 1950s/60s, where a modernist block of flats in Nowa Huta’s os. Kolorowe estate (D-2) stands among preserved rural development. [0149]

To what degree was the reality of the largest contemporary construction site in Poland reflected by the shots of Pental and Makarewicz? They belonged to a narrow bevy of the documentarists allowed to photograph the city in the 1950s, as in Stalinist days, the permissions to record officially the construction of Nowa Huta were strictly controlled by the powers that be, obsessed with crushing economic and political espionage. Obviously, they were not allowed to photograph everything. Nonetheless, the value of the record that the two photographers created lies stems others from the fact that they managed to grasp not only the most iconic fragments of Nowa Huta at the moment of their origin, but also to juxtapose, more or less intentionally, the designed vision with the chaos of the flourishing investment, and with the shoddiness of the early People’s Republic (PRL). Lacking plaster and growing straight from the mud-clad communication routes, the actual arrangements of monumental developments in Nowa Huta’s settlements present in some Pental’s and Makarewicz’s photographs, feature inhabitants in inferior clothing trying to move among them. At a first glance, these photographs certainly bring to mind the post-war photographs of ruined European cities. [0922] “For a long time the look [of the residential estates] – dishevelled premises and buildings without plaster – were identified with the future image of Nowa Huta,” Stanisław Juchnowicz reminisced. “Visitors to the construction site frequently ask the question whether this is what a socialist city is to look like.5 Obviously, with the passage of time, photographs also began to feature children in playgrounds, cheerful beachgoers by the Nowa Huta Reservoir, and teenagers going to school along the evenly laid pavements. The views of freshly planted lines of trees, façades sparkling with whiteness, and neon lights over the shops, caught of the photographs, reassuringly promised that the construction of “a happy city for happy future”,6 can actually happen. [zapas41]

Photojournalist Pental was an employee of the Kraków’s ZBM since the early 1950s7 and managed construction brigades in Nowa Huta, and therefore had an opportunity to document the construction of the successive estates step-by-step. It is in his photographs that we can see the first residential investments in Nowa Huta, and the successive stages of filling the sectors of the city, defined by the framework of the master plan, with structures. A fair share of the photos are purely documentary, yet there is no shortage of photographs of the builders and inhabitants of Nowa Huta, taken with evident kindness, against more or less finished architecture: a blusteringly smiling worker holds to a concrete skip suspended from a crane over os. Hutnicze estate being built, a brightly smiling brigade of women plasterers are posing in front of a brick wall, men in elegant coats (architects? inspectors?) are standing in front of the prefabricated wall of reinforced concrete, whose window opening provides a frame for the nearly finished blocks of os. Stalowe estate.8 Living himself in os. Wandy estate in Nowa Huta since 1951, Pental recorded the everyday life of the city and its people. In 1958 he used colour Agfa negatives for some shots: the brick red of Nowa Huta developments, still awaiting plastering, is a characteristic element of his cityscapes.

The photographs of Henryk Makarewicz, a Polish Film Chronicle (PKF) newsreel cameraman, provide a complementation of Pental’s shots as he documented Nowa Huta from its earliest days. His photographs, whether aerial or taken from the height of the cranes, documented the successive fragments of an urbanist vision coming true. The vision that Ptaszycki’s team developed within the successively developed design institutions – originally the Central Office for Architectural and Construction Design (CBPAB), after 1950 the Kraków branch of the Central Offers for Residential Estate Construction Design and Studies (CBPSBO ZOR), and since early 1952 – of the PPBM Miastoprojekt Urban Architecture Design Studio. A large share of Makarewicz’s photographs can also be interpreted as a testimony of the cult of physical work promoted by socialist realism, and a particular homage that the photojournalist paid to the thousands of workers building the industrial complex and its residential amenities. Perfectly composed, Makarewicz’s shots are a proof of conscious visual choices and knowledge of global tendencies in contemporary photography: they add the sublime to the work of steel fixers photographed against the background of intricate constructions, steelworkers emerging from within clouds of steam, and technicians climbing concrete walls. They can be at testimony both to the artistic explorations of the photographer as well as implementation of the guidelines of socialist realist propaganda, whose diktat had workers presented as modern heroes. (“The fairly large number of workers I’ve had an opportunity to get to know in my life, saw nothing sublime in swaying the hammer” a witness of the period, Karol Modzelewski, wrote referring to the ideology-instilled myth of the working class in the early years of the People’s Republic. “While I performed heavy physical labour myself in the corrective institutions of Barczewo and Wołów, I got rid of the penchant for poeticising workers’ drudgery.”9)

The photographs logging the process of development of the city also illustrate the technologies used for the construction of buildings, changing within the space of just a few years. Early in the 1950s, traditional bricklaying techniques and wooden roof trusses were used. Tadeusz Binek, an architect who joined Ptaszycki’s team in 1952, and a few years later became a member of the Construction Authority for the City (DBM) of Nowa Huta reminisced that the first residential estates were actually put up without using machinery, and the bricks were obtained from the demolition works conducted in war-destroyed Wrocław. Construction materials were supplied in horse-drawn carts (a means of transport that poses a frequent motif in the photographs of Pental and Makarewicz), and the main tools the workers used were shovels, trowels, hand saws, wheelbarrows, and wooden hods for carrying bricks.10 With the introduction of what became known as the first level of industrialisation, prefabricated ceilings, staircases, roofs, and stanchions began to be used for residential construction in 1954. The change of the technology was reflected both in the forms of the newly developed buildings, and in the landscape of construction sites, now towered over by construction cranes, and the speed of work. In 1955 in os. Stalowe (A-11) estate, the first one to make use of new methods applied broad-scale, saw the construction of an experimental four-storey-high residential building in just a month.11 The development of the prefabricated elements technology was what eliminated the system of shock labour teams, and thus provided a welcome relief for bricklayers, now liberated from the forced super-overefficiency. The first block in the sector D, developed from the late 1950s and being the last section Ptaszycki’s plan, was built in the prefabricated panel (the so-called wielka płyta) technology in 1963, and its development was documented by numerous photographs by Henryk Makarewicz. [1607] [zapas 6].

Finally, the photographs by the Nowa Huta reporters are a log of the dynamic of changes brought by the year 1956 and the political Thaw recorded in architecture. The designers of Nowa Huta, the emblem of heritage of the architecture and urban design of socialist realism, immediately reacted to the change and transformation, by rejecting, nearly from day to day, the aesthetics of historicism, identified with Stalinism, for the sake of modern forms. One of the photographs of os. Handlowe (D3) shows a view towards al. Rewolucji Październikowej (today’s Andersa), with a modernist eight-storey-high block having sprung up in the immediate vicinity of socialist realist developments. The cars, a horse-drawn cart, and the laundry drying over the ploughed land also visible in the photo complement the panorama of Nowa Huta contrasts from the early 1960s. [0025]

This text is an essay in the description of architectural development of the first two decades in the city, using the photographs of Wiktor Pental and Henryk Makarewicz from the collection that has been made accessible. In my description, I focus primarily on the architectural and urban development transformations of the area enclosed by today’s streets Bulwarowa, Kocmyrzowska, and Jana Pawła II, which define the limits of the zoning plan developed by Ptaszycki’s team. This is roughly the area that was penetrated by Pental and Makarewicz recording the emergence of the “old” Nowa Huta in the 1950s and the 1960s.

Ideal symmetry

The plans for the construction of a metal plant started in 1945. It was to be developed in Silesia, by Gliwice Canal, were geological prospecting for the strategic investment started in 1948. The decision to build the steelworks on the outskirts of Kraków was reached at the highest state level, after a visit of a Soviet delegation, who pointed to the area of Mogiła village for the construction of the plant in January 1949. 12 “The great investment was situated at the site least appropriate for it.”13 Stanisław Juchnowicz wrote, arguing that this entailed degradation of the natural environment, posed a threat to Kraków heritage, and meant a powerful reduction of the agricultural backup for the city. The territory earmarked for the construction of the plant and accompanying residential quarters covered 1100 hectares, of which over 800 ha in Mogiła. People living in the area were expropriated.

The year 1949 marks the institution of the socialist realist doctrine in Poland. Town planning and architecture played a leading role here, and their task was to create the spatial symbolism of a new, post-war order to sanction its existence.14 This is how Bolesław Bierut himself justified the importance of architecture for the regime of the early People’s Republic, subjected to Stalin’s diktats: “The party is interested in architecture because it is an especially significant form of ideology, and no ideology can be indifferent to the party. Ideology means demanding values that will be desired in the future, and drawing a picture of the future. And, architecture, by its nature shapes constructions designed for long life. Ideology finds a magnificent form of its incarnation in architecture. How can we present our goals better, if not with these panoramas from new city models?”15

Consequently mockups with Nowa Huta designs, presenting symmetrical, axial arrangements of streets and the monumental scale of the development, were produced to illustrate both the socialist realist principles of urban development and the representations of the ideal shape of the future, new city. In 1949 a competition for designing the future residential district adjacent to the steelworks was announced. Its design was finally approved by the central authorities in 1952. It is the resultant of a number of concepts submitted to the competition. Appointment for the general designer of Nowa Huta was presented to Tadeusz Ptaszycki, born in St Petersburg in 1908, whose family moved to Warsaw after Poland regained independence. Ptaszycki himself was a graduate in architecture at the Warsaw University of Technology, and ran his own design studio with his wife Anna. Persuaded by Marian Spychalski, an architect and prominent communist politician, he moved to Wrocław after the war, where he stood at the helm of the Wrocław Reconstruction Authority (WDO), which he organised, and until 1949 was the head of the Office for the Plan of Reconstruction of Wrocław (BPOW). In the same year, having won the competition for the design of Nowa Huta, he moved to Kraków. He gathered a group of young architects, for whom designing a city for 100,000 inhabitants was often the first major project. In 1949 his team included his peers, Włodzimierz Borkowski, Kazimierz Krasiński, Stanisław Olszakowski, and Andrzej Uniejewski, yet mostly consisted of fresh graduates of faculties of architecture at Polish universities, including Bolesław Skrzybalski (aged 27), Marta Ingarden (aged 28), Janusz Ingarden (aged 26), Adam Fołtyn (aged 24), Kazimierz Chodorowski (aged 24), Jan Suliga (aged 24), Andrzej Radnicki (aged 25), Stanisław Juchnowicz (aged 25), Tadeusz Rembiesa (aged 25), Janina Lenczewska (aged 25), Tadeusz Janowski (aged 26), and Zbigniew Sieradzki (aged 27).16 (The photographers of their achievements, Wiktor Pental (born in 1920), and Henryk Makarewicz (born in 1917) were a few years older, yet belonged to the same generation.) It is, however, worth emphasising that the young designers whether continuators of the prewar tradition in architecture. Stanisław Juchnowicz reminisced: “Our teachers were eminent professors: Tadeusz Tołwiński, Józef Gałęzowski, Marian Osiński, Bohdan Pniewski, Juliusz Żórawski, Tadeusz Bagiński, Stanisław Różański, Władysław Czerny, and many others. We have come from various centres in Poland, with different wartime experiences. Our number included the soldiers of the Home Army from Lwów [today’s Lviv], Warsaw insurgents, and soldiers from the army of Anders. It is hard to believe that the ‘first communist city’ was designed and built by people boasting such pasts.”17 How did these young architects justified before themselves their involvement in the implementation of a flagship project of Stalinist-time Poland? “We shared that awareness that the city will outlive us and probably also outlive that system as well.”18 Stanisław Juchnowicz wrote. The architect describes working in the team headed by Ptaszycki as “an island of happiness, the place where, to a degree, we felt free”. “For a young architect who only embarked on a career, a proposal to build a new city was impossible to reject”,19 he adds. The contemporary narrative on the maintenance of internal independence returns as a chorus in the memories of architects active at the time. The statements made by people related to design in the Stalinist period do not necessarily clearly illustrate the views and attitudes. Karol Modzelewski warns that “the greatest difficulty while attempting to describe the conscience of Poles at the time of Stalinism, is the characteristic mixture of fear, fallacy, and pretended cries of enthusiasm with the authentic support for the dictatorship and its proceedings, at times even bordering on fanaticism. That knot cannot be unravelled, as nearly everyone uttered the same words and phrases, chanted the same slogans, and even if they didn’t fully believe them, they wouldn’t disclose what they believed even to their own children.”20

To a certain degree, the architectural and planning merits of Nowa Huta resulted from the continuity of the Polish architectural thought reaching back to the days between the two world wars. Obviously, the doctrine of socialist realism had to find its reflection in the city spaces. The symmetrical plan of Nowa Huta defined five main transport routes radiating from the central square, the keystone of the whole urban development composition. However, this rigorous layout was harmoniously inscribed into the extant transport routes and the natural terrain. The broad arch of the several-metre-high riverbank, being the lip of the Vistula River Valley, provided the foundation for the entire composition. Today’s al. Jana Pawła II (whose sections were formerly known as al. Planu 6-letniego and al. Rewolucji Kubańskiej) are at the same time a section of the former road to Sandomierz, some of the old tree stands preserved in the area are a remnant of the protective tree lines along the former carriageway.21 The axis of symmetry is al. Róż, formerly al. Przodowników Pracy (i.e. “the avenue of roses” replacing that of the leaders in production), which strikes of from plac Centralny (originally Stalin Square, later Central Square, and since 2004 Ronald Reagan Central Square) northwards, receiving additional emphasis from two monumental structures that, however, have never been built. One of them was to be the townhall, standing in the place of today’s “townhall park” (i.e. Park Ratuszowy), and the other – the building of the theatre, with expected airspace of 60,000 m³ and decorated with a vast colonnade, intended to be positioned on the closing of the central axis, on the Vistula riverbank. The symmetric quality of the composition is emphasised by another two axes of the whole system, each leaving the Central Square and the angle of 45°: on the western side it is al. Andersa (formerly Rewolucji Październikowej i.e. October Revolution), and on the eastern – al. Solidarności, previously devoted to Lenin. These main thoroughfares divide the area covered by the zoning plan into four sectors: A, B, C, and D; these indications were originally used as names of the residential estates. Those situated by the central square were given highest numbers: A-31, B-32, C-32, and D-31. The numbers diminished towards the external rim in each individual sector, which means that the estates defined as A-1, B-1, C-1, and D-1 were situated on the outskirts of the zoning plan. Although the technical naming convention was replaced by new names in 1959, the quarters directly adjacent to the central square retain it and are known as Centrum A, B, C, and D.22 One of Wiktor Pental’s photos presenting a fragment of sun-drenched central square caught a plaque with a schematic plan of Nowa Huta and the who stopped by: men in long, spring coats are busy talking; they are accompanied by two fair-haired children: the girl with bows in the hair is looking towards the photographer, and the infant lies in a low-suspension pram characteristic of the time. [illustrations: NH_0563a , 0382, NH_3018]

The design work on the main element of the composition, the pentagonal central square, was completed in 1951. The design of the centre of Nowa Huta was the work of the team also responsible for the zoning plan: Bolesław Skrzybalski, Stanisław Juchnowicz, Tadeusz Rembiesa, Janina Lenczewska, and their leader – Ptaszycki. The system of streets radiating from the central square was inspired by plans of ideal modern cities, and the aforementioned town hall, whose successive concepts were developed by TJ, and that, however, never left the stage of design, was to make a direct reference to the building of the town hall in Zamość: a Renaissance city with model, central plan. The symmetrical composition of the square and the importance of the steelwork were to be further emphasised by the never-completed steel obelisk intended to be set in the central part of the whole. The architects responsible for the buildings by the central square, constructed in 1952–56, were Janusz Ingarden, Tadeusz Janowski, Zbigniew Sieradzki, and Adam Fołtyn. The four sides of the square, separated by the arteries, were developed with four-storey-high residential buildings with arcades at the level of the four-metre-high ground floor, featuring commercial and service areas. The historicising detail: cornices, parapet roofs, projections, balcony ballusters, decorated lintels, and stucco decorations in the ceilings of passages belong to the repertoire of forms characteristic of socialist realism, as the promoters of the style considered them far more suitable for inspiring the imagination of the masses than the austere novelty of modernism. The photographs of Pental and Makarewicz showing the finished area around the square, show the balusters in the parapet walls of the buildings that must have been removed in the 1980s, perhaps due to their poor technical condition. By the way, the characteristic socialist realist parapet walls, assuming the forms of quasi-baroque stone balustrades, and/or imitating the Polish Renaissance style, disappeared from many pre-Thaw buildings of Nowa Huta. It was easier to have them removed than reconstructed: in the last years of the People’s Republic there were more burning problems to be solved than the care for maintaining the socialist realist tissue in ideal condition.

Pental’s and Makarewicz’s shots show the many years’ long process of emergence of the most stately space in the urban landscape of Nowa Huta. For some time, the residents of the inhabited buildings by the central square had to acknowledge the hustle and bustle of the construction site under their windows. One of Wiktor Pental’s photographs shows a building by central square, still partially covered in scaffolding, with the excavations and horse-drawn carts in front of it. A proof to the house being inhabited are the net curtains visible in the windows, bedsheets being aired, and a child playing among some abandoned planks. In 1954 Ptaszycki made a promise: “as the dominant part of the city centre, this square will receive [appropriate] cladding in this year, the lavish programme of stonework on the façades of the buildings surrounding the square will bring the final visual effect, designed for this section of the city, closer”.23 [1617] [0922] [1665] [1731] [zapas16] [1573]

Henryk Makarewicz’s aerial photographs from the 1960s present the completed central square, being the main element of the city plan, in its full splendour. Visible in some photographs behind the developments freshly covered with bright plaster are the distant smokestacks of the steelworks, belching smoke. Photographs of the faces of the streets leading to the square also show the metropolitan scale of compact development in the centre of Nowa Huta: this is where the tallest buildings (albeit as a rule not exceeding six floors) from the 1950s are situated: by the square and the adjacent sections of al. Andersa and al. Solidarności. [0553][0209] [1726] The best shops and service facilities (Jubiler, Cepelia, and Desa) were situated in the centre of Nowa Huta. Their spectacular furnishing, with decorative chandeliers, massive furniture, and stucco decorations emphasise the importance of the site. The interiors of the International Club of Book and Press that opened in the central square in 1954 were designed by Krystyna Zgud-Strachocka, one of the most outstanding designers active in post-war Kraków, whose later works include mosaics in the complex of the Cracovia Hotel and the Kijów Cinema. Photographs of Wiktor Pental feature the cult Skarbnica bookshop operating since 1955 for nearly 60 years in the block No. 1 of os. Centrum C, where the furniture was designed by Marian Steczowicz, an architect cooperating in the 1930s with the Ład Artists’ Cooperative, and one of the most important designers of Nowa Huta interiors. [NH_1636a] It is interesting to note that the centre of Nowa Huta, with all the attributes of a city centre, including the scale of development, stately nature of the architecture, and availability of certain services, at the same time defined the border of the zoning plan. A night-time photograph of the central square by Pental shows a neon encouraging to keep your savings in the PKO Bank. Only someone unaware that you enter rolling fields several dozens of steps further could have been hoodwinked by the illusion created by its dazzling light. [NH_0727a]

Neighbourhood unit

Stanisław Juchnowicz wrote that the completed community concept of Nowa Huta refers to the idea of a neighbourhood unit, formulated for the regional plan for New York of the 1920s by Clarence Arthur Perry.24 Perry’s tenets were based on a number of key principles: community life was to focus within the defined quarters that provided the modules of neighbourhood units, and be isolated from the noise of the street and industrial landscape. The centre of each unit, situated not further than a kilometre away from the developments, should feature a school, so that children wouldn’t have to cross any thoroughfare on the way to it. The school should be surrounded by recreational area accessible to all the residents. Clear-cut borders of individual units were to be provided by the main roads, along which the dense residential developments including service functions were to be built. Regular traffic was to be eliminated from the internal zones within the settlements. The urban plan of Nowa Huta, with the clearly staked out axes of the main streets, and quarters of development filled with greenery and community infrastructure separated from them, is thus a model example of Perry’s idea coming to life.25 Individual residential estates were connected to one another with the axes providing long perspectives and vistas. An example of such an opening is the middle section of the central axis of the plan – al. Róż – that defines the perspective towards the central square, with characteristic elements being two towers (that belong to the developments of Centrum B and D settlements respectively) standing symmetrically opposite each other where al. Róż crosses al. Przyjaźni: a view known from many photographs. At the level of individual settlements, the passages connecting the isolated spaces within development quarters play a similar function: that of creating connections and vistas. Such connections within individual units and their neighbourhoods are a significant element in Perry’s concept. In one of Wiktor Pental’s photographs, you can see a passage leading into the depth of the quarter of os. Stalowe residential estate, and the adjacent developments of the successive residential compounds from sector B. In the foreground, teenagers in school uniforms play volleyball, and a fragment of the nursery, designed by Marta Ingarden in os. Willowe residential estate (A1-North, currently Community Nursery No. 5) can be seen, while the cranes visible in the background are a proof that successive fragments of housing units are being built. [0739] [1123] [1666] [0725a] [1621]

The idea that designers of Nowa Huta made direct reference to the American concept of a neighbourhood unit at the time of Stalinism is quite unlikely. Obviously, Western solutions were imitated in the USSR and its satellite countries, with a clear architectural example from the time of socialist realism being the complex of Moscow skyscrapers known as “Stalin’s sisters” that bear the idiom of American skyscrapers from the first half of the 20th century. Yet, for obvious reasons, such sources of inspiration could not have been pointed to. Echoes of the rationality for the principles of a neighbourhood unit can, however, be found in the descriptions of the visions of the infrastructure of “a happy city” serving the community. “While working on the development of the design of the city of Nowa Huta, we followed the principle ‘to give the working man the full range of forms of leisure after work, to let him hone physical fitness, to provide the best health conditions, and to enable intellectual development… The new city is the first city without constricted backyards and dark annexes” said Tadeusz Ptaszycki interviewed by Sztandar Młodych in 1950. “Each flat will be equipped with central heating, and have electricity, gas and running water. All the houses will be connected to a close circuit radio. There will be a telephone in each staircase. Individual estates will have their nurseries and kindergartens. Each district in turn will receive its own department store, a culture centre, sports hub, school, cinema, library, theatre, and premises for clubs.”26 Another enthusiastic description of the future of Nowa Huta from the mid-1950s stroke similar tones: “There will be 27,000 flats with 60,000 rooms developed in Nowa Huta. For each resident, there will be 55m³ of residential space and 21.3m³ of service space: this is the name we use for civil, cultural, educational, and commercial facilities. Nowa Huta will have 300 shops, 100 craft hubs (hairdressers, tailors, shoemakers, clockmakers, carpenters, and locksmiths), 40 nurseries, 40 kindergartens, 20 primary schools, and many vocational schools. A network of people’s inns, bars, and cafés will encompass the whole city, and it is important to remember that cultural facilities will include the construction of the Central Culture Centre, 4 cinemas, a theatre, and dayrooms. Nor have been commercial halls, mechanical bakeries, and laundries forgotten. Catering to the needs of health service, nine health centres will be developed together with a hospital, and numerous pharmacies; there will be post offices, courts and banks!”27

The visions of a community living in happiness that so suggestively address imagination, are luckily a calque of the narratives accompanying the construction of Soviet settlements built in post-revolution Soviet Union since the 1920s. Between the two world wars, owing to the hidden potential for controlling the society, Perry’s model gained a great popularity the totalitarian systems. The residential programs completed in the USSR were the furthest going experiments in the area. Obviously, the main purpose was the potentially most efficient satisfaction of the craving for accommodation, and provision of easy access to the facilities developing social life. The economic efficiency of the neighbourhood unit model was based on limiting the space and on the integration of service and residential functions within single blocks. Besides the quantifiable economic benefits, such collectivisation also made it possible to control the residents of individual units. In result, the ideal city was to develop a model communist community. Yet it sometimes happens so with models that they don’t pass the test in practice. During the martial law, the cellars of Nowa Huta neighbourhood units provided perfect escape routes for the rebelling citizens of the communist city fleeing from the special ZOMO police forces chasing them.

The first settlements 1949–50

The ideally symmetrical design of Nowa Huta is slightly disturbed by one of the first estates to have been built: os. Na Skarpie (A0, A South), venturing far beyond the boundaries of the system defined by today’s al. Jana Pawła II. Its construction started late in 1949, before Ptaszycki’s team managed to have the entire design ready. In the same year in June works started in os. Wandy (A-1 South) and os. Willowe (A-1 North). These two were already within the area of radial development between the main arteries, in its south-eastern section defined by today’s al. Solidarności, ul. Bulwarowa, and al. Jana Pawła II. [1558] The layout of the residential estates (Polish: osiedla) is the work of Tadeusz Ptaszycki and his team. There was no time to conjure up architecture: designs of typical houses, a work of Warsaw architect Franciszek Adamski, was resorted to. They were four-storeys-high residential houses with no service functions at the ground floor level. The hip roofs covered with glazed tiles (replaced with metal sheets since the 1980s), endow the buildings with a slightly rustic appearance, adhering to the guidelines of the socialist realism doctrine that enforced maintenance of traditional forms. The buildings and their deployment also rely on the architecture of German worker settlements from the 1920s. The situation of the original settlements – farther away from the planned city centre – left room for more spectacular design solutions closer to the main axis of the entire development. The suburban, uncomplicated character of the development in the earliest residential estates, so very different from the monumental metropolitan solutions around the central square, resulted both from the need to deliver new residential units and from the situation on the periphery.28 Typical houses designed by Adamski [0377] can also be found on the northern fringe of “the old” Nowa Huta, in os. Krakowiaków (C-2 North) built in 1950. Such progress of city development depended to a great extent on the transport available: roads for supplying construction materials were necessary. Wandy, Willowe, and Na Skarpie estates were constructed along the extant Kraków–Pleszów–Cło thoroughfare and the railway siding of the Tobacco Monopoly in Czyżyny; the construction of os. Krakowiaków was supplied by the Bieńczyce road to end the railway line to Kocmyrzów.29

The arrangement of the first residential estates in Nowa Huta with their simple, vernacular architecture and suburban atmosphere is closer to the spatial ideas of Ebenezer Howard’s garden cities than Perry’s concept of a neighbourhood unit. Yet the outskirts became a favourable location for the first important investments providing the community infrastructure of the emergent city. The construction of the Żeromski Municipal Hospital, designed by Stefan Porębowicz and Henryk Skrzyński, started in 1951. The building can be seen in an aerial photo by Henryk Makarewicz. It was one of the first hospital buildings to be raised in post-war Poland. The architecture of the hospital, with socialist realist detail, on an axial Baroque plan, consisted of 17 two- and three-storey pavilions covered with hip roofs, and separated with internal courtyards. [0305, NH_0680, NH_1388a, NH_1389a] One of the colourful photographs taken by Wiktor Pental late in the 1950s shows a moving scene: a cluster of children with a guardian, against a clearly socialist realist building, that, nevertheless carries certain traits of modernity. The construction is the nursery in os. Wandy (A1) designed by Marta Ingarden in 1951. Not much taller than the green grass, the few-year-olds, dressed in identical bib-and-braces overalls, red scarves on heads, cluster around the woman in white. The bucolic atmosphere of Nowa Huta is complemented with trees in blossom. The nursery, covered with hip roof and with a characteristic glazed cube jutting out from the southern façade of the building, is a frequent motif in Pental and Makarewicz’s archive. [zapas 39, NH_0579a, NH_0580a, NH_0581a, NH_0584a, NH_0743a]

The first post office in Nowa Huta (os. Willowe 28, A-1 North) also opened in 1951. The Dom Handlowy (i.e. department store) set up in its vicinity (os. Willowe 29) opened in the same year. The complex also housed a catering compound with a restaurant, café, confectionery, and milk bar under the joint brand Gigant.30 The two buildings provide the northern and western sides of Nowa Huta’s first square: a particular market square in the central part of the A-1 estate. One of the photographs from Wiktor Pental’s archive illustrates the rank of this small space in the early period of functioning of Nowa Huta. A perpendicular pillar supporting the arcades of the post office can be seen on the left-hand side, the centre of the square is taken up by a structure built of historicising elements: a 3D set for a glazed display crowned with an almost illegible inscription, of which I only managed to read the beginning: “The fight for the living conditions is the duty…” The standards for such constructions, providing the setting for propaganda messages, were sent straight from the USSR. They were set up in Polish cities and towns in key locations in the early 1950s. (In the very heart of Kraków, the Main Market Square, an exhibition presenting the intentions of the 6-Year Plan was unveiled with quite a pump on 22 July 1950. The displays that contained a vision of development of heavy and mining industries and improvement of the standard of life of the working masses were hung between few-metre-tall replicas of Renaissance columns.31) The significance of the smallish empty square being the central space of os. Willowe estate was, however, emphasised not only by the presence of the bombastically set display cabinet promoting the party drivel. The first post office in Nowa Huta situated here was home to the Inter-Union Worker Club. Its interiors were designed by Professor Marian Sigmund himself, a lecturer at the Faculty of Architecture at the Kraków Academy of Fine Arts, who was commissioned by Ptaszycki with the organisation of Poland’s first Interior Design Studio. It was Marian Sigmund, together with the team of designers at whose helm he stood, who was responsible for the key interiors of Nowa Huta. Handful of Pental’s photographs investigate the interiors of the post office: one of them show round marble plates surrounding the columns, a design of Sigmund. Most important, however, are the works that document the work of the postal office: prewar, horse-drawn mail coaches against rustic architecture of the post office and the neighbouring department store providing illustration to the pictures from the life of a small town in Poland between the two world wars. Yet other ones, where dozens of mailmen set forth on foot and on bikes to run their errands, are a clear illustration of the dynamic of the city growing next to the huge industrial plant. The background of one of the shots is taken up by the building of the department store, and you can see a woman with a pram moving towards the shop’s door. The interiors of the restaurant housed in the same building, part of the Gigant food court were designed by Marian Sigmund and Marian Steczkowicz. Pental’s photographs show the space of the restaurant with two rows of columns covered in ceramic decorations, the ceiling bearing to stucco ornamentation.32 [NH_118b, NH_1473a, NH1479a, NH-1496a, NH_2345]

Could, however, the construction of a commercial and alimentation facilities, however elegantly decorated and provided with furniture designed by Sigmund and Steczkowicz, suffice to satisfy the daily needs of the inhabitants of the estate? The 6-Year Plan, which also included the construction of the Nowa Huta steelworks, resulted in the breakdown of the economic balance in Poland in 1950, due to the significant increase of investments into the arms industry, as commanded by the USSR. Shops began to show empty shelves, therefore, some products were rationed, and coupons were introduced. Early 1953 the coupons were discontinued, and the slight pay rise that made up for their withdrawal was accompanied by a drastic price increase. The propaganda spread in the daily press explained it as an important step in improving the level of the working people’s lives.33

Condensing the city

Osiedle Sportowe (B-2 North), one of the oldest in Nowa Huta, constructed by the northern bounds of the district, whose plan was a work of Stanisław Juchnowicz, also features in the photographs of Pental and Makarewicz. Its development, reaching the edge of the city planning scheme, is close to suburban character of the original residential facilities of Nowa Huta in its northern section. Photographs show rows of still unplastered low houses covered with steep roofs, rhythmically deployed along the central street of the estate. One of the photographs of os. Sportowe shows clearly the northern boundary of the scheme defined by the course of ul. Bulwarowa; the buildings among the trees visible deep in the shot must have predated the construction of the industrial plant. The young schoolchildren (some have schoolbags) on the first plane are penetrating the fields turned into construction site around the estate. [1692] [1685] [1677]

The border of os. Sportowe staked out within the city planning scheme is of an entirely different character, and so are the neighbouring estates built (or designed) in the first half of the 1950s: Zielone (B-2 South), Szkolne (B-1), and Teatralne (C-1). Changes in the topology of residential estates are perfectly well illustrated by Henryk Makarewicz’s aerial photograph with the Hutnik Stadium, opened in 1950, visible on the first plane, and the houses of os. Sportowe, evenly spaced and covered with steep roofs standing behind, next to the stretches of curtain developments of the quarters of the successive residential estates in Sector B. [NH_2820a,1595]

The loose developments of the original residential compounds – Wandy, Willowe, and Krakowiaków – began to fall under criticism for hardly economic use of the land. In 1949–50 development intensity rates ranged from 195 to 270 residents per hectare in the estates on the periphery, yet after the introduction of new orders, the population density, especially in the estate situated closest to the central square, exceeded 700 people per hectare.34 The changes in designing Nowa Huta residential complexes after 1951 were best visible not only in the greater density of the developments, but also in the long stretches of residential curtain buildings separating the internal parts of the settlements from the main roads, in this way, defining the limits of subsequently built neighbourhood units. Several hundred metres long fronts of residential complexes, with shops and other service functions at ground floor levels, gradually began to sill the sides of the main arteries. The standardised designs that provided the uncomplicated architecture of the original settlements were abandoned to be replaced by a variety of socialist realist detail and spatial layouts that until 1956 were designed by the architects from Ptaszycki’s team.35

The first settlement characteristic of the that time of change was os. Górali (C-2) estate. Its infrastructure was complemented by the kindergartens built in 1950–51 to the design of Marta Ingarden. In 1951 the chronicler of Nowa Huta wrote that “there are the finished shells of buildings standing in the complexes of the estate C-2 that reach 800 m in length).36 The description of the residential complex in C-2 developed in 1952–53 to the design of a team managed by Janusz Ingarden, recorded in Kronika Nowej Huty / Nowa Huta Chronicle renders the spirit of the time very well at the same time illustrating the clear architectural, artistic, and functional guidelines of the estates built at the time: “the blocks are to provide a single coherent whole, and the uniform wall will be turning at an open angle where the streets meet. (…) The shops and food courts situated on the ground floor introduce plenty of variety. Shops situated in these blocks are another step forward in the matters of organising trade. All together, they create a complex with joint management and joined back facilities. These are spacious venues for the sales of bread, milk products and eggs, cold cuts, fish, groceries, and fruit and vegetables. The windows of the shops provide the ground floor wall, and the entrances are situated to the side, in niches supported on columns. The food court consists of a fish bar, a restaurant with a meat bar, and a café. These food joints are the first luxurious interiors to be designed in Nowa Huta. The fish bar was designed by the Section of Artistic Ceramics at the Wrocław School of Visual Arts. It is a work of Professor Marian Sigmund. The walls of the bar have been decorated with mosaics showing fishing scenes.”37 [0766]

Os. Teatralne (C1), the next area to be constructed, was designed by the team of Andrzej Uniejewski, Tadeusz Uniejewski, Marian Uramowski, Janusz and Marta Ingarden, Stanisław Reński, Zbigniew Jaroszyński, and Ewa Mańkowska.38 It was furnished with additional public utility buildings and others catering to cultural functions. The memoirs of Stanisław Juchnowicz suggest that the impulse to build these only came in 1955 in the wake of Adam Ważyk’s Poemat dla dorosłych / Poem for Adults, supposedly lashing an attack at the lack of such functions in Nowa Huta. The Światowid theatre cum cinema was literally completed a day after the poem was published”, Juchnowicz reported. “I received a telephone call from Warsaw (Ptaszycki just happened to be away) ‘Immediately deploy a cinema in Nowa Huta!’ was the demand”.39 And indeed the construction of the Światowid Cinema began in 1955 in what today is Centrum E. It must, however, be mentioned that the first stationary cinema in Nowa Huta, the Stal, opened in os. Willowe; earlier, locals could only watch films thanks to travelling cinemas. The modest building of the Stal (currently the gym of Lower Secondary School in os. Willowe) can be seen in one of Pental’s photos among a crowd of people leaving it or waiting to be let into the cinema hall. The clothing, women’s light dresses and men’s white shirts, suggests a holiday in the summertime. [NH106b]

The Świt, the next cinema in Nowa Huta, was built in os. Teatralne in 1951–53. Its designer was Andrzej Uniejewski, who by the way, also designed the Światowid; both of the buildings with the colonnades on their façades and historicising detail used in interior decoration are exemplary cases of the Polish socialist realism. Wiktor Pental photographed the interiors of the Świt designed by Marian Sigmund and Irena Pać-Poleśna.40 His photos show the designers’ pursuit of elegant simplicity. The harmonious proportion of details, solid woodwork, the fretted radiator and vent grills, stone cladding on the walls, lamps providing pleasantly scattered light from their discreetly hidden mounts in cornices by the ceiling, fabrics on the walls of the cinema hall, and the straight columns: all these elements evoke the atmosphere of the interiors of public buildings in Poland between the two world wars and are a proof of the great knowledge of design, and artistic skill and experience of Sigmund, born in 1902, who stood at the helm of the Ład Cooperative of Visual@Artists early in the 1930s. The external guise of the building strictly follows the canon of socialist realism: in one of his photographs, Wiktor Pental perfectly well contrasted the monumental static nature of the historicising façade of the cinema with the dynamics of the passers-by moving in various directions. The cinema opened in 1953, with a projection of Czesław Petelski’s propagandist movie Trzy opowieści / Three Tales. Today, the renovated building has been taken over by a Tesco supermarket. [NH_200, NH_0205, NH_1634]

Os. C-1 owes its literary name to the building of the Ludowy Theatre, designed by Janusz Ingarden and Jan Dąbrowski, and built in 1954–55. Although the architecture of socialist realism brings a repertoire of historicising forms, quite on the heavy side, to mind, it is hard to deny elegance to the socialist realist building of the Ludowy Theatre, expressed in the harmonious proportions of the form and detail, and the lightness of the two lanterns situated symmetrically over the front façade. The interiors of the theatre, decorated with marble floors, crystal chandeliers, and mirrored walls, were designed by Janusz Ingarden cooperating with architect Krystyną Wąsowicz. The socialist realist luxury of the downright smallish theatre building is a substitute for the unfulfilled promise from the first plans of Nowa Huta: to construct a gigantic theatre building at the closing of the central square axis. One of Pental’s photographs has a solitary horse, tied to a cart that somebody parked by the pavement, contemplating the ersatz splendour of the silhouette of the Ludowy. [0776] [1711]

The theatre opened on 3 December 1955, premiering Wojciech Bogusławski’s Cud mniemany, czyli Krakowiacy i Górale / The Presumed Miracle, or Krakovians and Highlanders. When the names of Nowa Huta estates were changed from the dry letter and digit identifiers to literary ones, the title of the play inspired the names of the estates C-2 North and C-2 South, adjacent to the Theatre, which were renamed into Krakowiaków and Górali (i.e. Krakovians’ and Highlanders’), respectively.

The photograph taken by Pental from the scaffolding raised near os. Uroczego shows one of the side walls of the Ludowy Theatre and the empty adjacent plot, whose borders were defined by today’s Ludźmierska (formerly Karl Marx) and Obrońców Krzyża (Defenders of the Cross, formerly Mayakovsky) streets. It was the space of the first serious conflict between the inhabitants of the city and the central authorities: it was played out in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Quite obviously, the stencil of a model communist city held no place for a church, yet the residents of Nowa Huta did not intend to pay for their class shift by giving up their deeply rooted religious needs. The claim to have a church built came on the wave of the Thaw, and initially elicited a favourable reaction among the highest level party authorities. The church building committee was set up, and Bogumił Korombel, managing the development of Nowa Huta after 1956, indicated where the church was to be built: in the empty plot near the Ludowy Theatre, on the corner of Marx and Mayakovsky streets. However, Władysław Gomułka realised that the Catholic Church was a serious competitor in the struggle for the reign over the Polish soul. The permission for the construction of the church was withdrawn, and an attempt to remove the wooden cross that stood in the place of the designed church was made on 27 April 1960. This is the moment caught by Wiktor Pental in his photo. [NH_101b] The attempt resulted in vehement protest and civil strife brutally quenched by the ZOMO special police forces. At the time, the central authorities were already implementing – a reaction to the celebration of the Millennium of Baptism of Poland, announced by Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński – a multi-year programme of observing the Millennium of the Polish State. A significant infrastructural remainder of the programme was the “utilitarian monument” consisting of 1417 “schools for the Millennium”. In 1960–61, one of these modernist “Millennium” schools (Primary School No. 87) was built on the plot in the place of the church. An accomplished design by Józef Gołąb – an architect of a number of modern and original school buildings built in Kraków at the time. [NH_2759a, NH_2762a, NH_2762a, NH_2763a]

The empty plots in the photographs of Pental and Makarewicz make it possible to trace the processes of the city developing in layers from the periphery to the centre. One of the photographs presents a distant perspective defined by the axis of today’s al. Solidarności: the distant contours of the metal plant loom in the horizon, sections of the os. Szkolne (B-1), can be seen far away, with the os. Stalowe (A-11) towering on the other side of the thoroughfare over the low developments of the os. Willowe (A-1 North). Majority of the shot is taken by an empty hardened plot, which in the few following years will be the construction site for the os. Hutnicze (A-33) and Centrum A (A31). [0908] [1668] Visible in the photo are also the outskirts of the city planning scheme, and the metropolitan architecture of the new residential estates built there differs significantly from the first residential estates hailing from the dreamy suburbia, and Wiktor Pental’s photograph illustrates this contrast perfectly well. The scale of change is shown in other photographs of os. Szkolne: the one offering largest air-space in Nowa Huta, whose monumental development was partially created by the complexes of vocational schools: mechanical, cooking, and construction together with the accompanying facilities: workshop and dormitory buildings.41 the socialist realist architecture of one of the schools in the estate, currently the General Mond Football Sports School, can be seen in Pental’s photograph showing the building, constructed on an axial symmetrical plan, and accentuated with a projection and crowned with a parapet wall, whose main walls still await plastering.

The redbrick colour of the unplastered buildings of os. Szkolne, towers over the Nowa Huta Reservoir in the photographs of Wiktor Pental. Its waters, together with the surrounding park, separate the residential area of Nowa Huta from the industrial plant. In one of the colour shots, taken on tram (light railway) tracks leading to the steelworks, where today’s al. Solidarności crosses ul. Struga, the developments of os. Szkolne, still lacking plaster, yet decorated with the coxcombs of the parapet walls that will not survive to our time can be seen on the left-hand side. The greenery has not grown tall enough to obscure the view of the prominence with the buildings of the Administrative Centre of Lenin Steelworks, which can be seen at the end of the tram line.

A product of the Moscow GIPROMEZ (Soviet State Institute for the Design of Metallurgical Plants), the design of the steelworks accounted for a stately building for the management of the facility and administrative back office. Ptaszycki, however, believed that the architecture of administrative buildings offered in the Russian design would not fit Nowa Huta, and he managed to convince the management of the steelwork construction project to announce a competition for a new design of the centre.42 The winning concept came with the work of architects Marta and Janusz Ingarden and Janusz Ballenstedt, and it was their design that was used to build two twin buildings set up symmetrically at the end of today’s al. Solidarności, the axis connecting the industrial plant to the central square, in 1952–55. The two 3-storey-high buildings (Z and S), connected with an underground corridor, are built on the plan of squares, whose 50-metre-long sides provide wings embracing the internal quadrangle. The corners of the buildings are reinforced with projections, and their highest floors are emphasised with a monumental pseudo-Renaissance parapet wall supposedly reminiscent of the architecture of Kraków’s Cloth Hall. There are plenty of other references to Renaissance in the office buildings of the steelworks: decorative door fittings, turrets, loggias, spiralling staircases: enough to have won the buildings the mocking moniker of “the Doges’ Palaces”. The interior design of the Administrative Centre of Lenin Steelworks was developed under Marian Sigmund, who cooperated with the Ingardens at Miastoprojekt design studio. Sigmund’s concept for interior decoration was fully implemented in building Z (being the seat of the management), and only partially in the building S. Preserved to this day are marble floors, decorative parquet floors, and the coffered ceiling in the hall that was to remind of the decorations of Wawel Castle. [zapas 43] [NH_2800a] [1289] [1293]

The Thaw

The Administrative Centre is the most spectacular example of local socialist realism; its artistic dimension can be compared to the Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw. Completed a year before the Thaw, the project showcased the creative capacity of the team that developed in Kraków-based Miastoprojekt in the first years of the construction of Nowa Huta. And yet the icecap confining and impeding the countries of the Soviet bloc began to melt: the signal to change was broadcast from the very command centre of the part of the world situated to the east of the Iron Curtain. Open criticism of Stalin delivered in the paper On the Cult of Personality and Its Consequences delivered by Nikita Khrushchev standing at the helm of Soviet party structures during the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in March 1956 was a prologue to change in politics. In Poland, power within the party was seized by Władysław Gomułka, rising on the wave following in the wake of October 1956. The political Thaw, a reaction to the bankruptcy of the Stalinist system and eruption of civil unrest, brought relief of repressions and expansion of the field of public debate. In culture, the doctrine of socialist realism was rejected, with the currents of postwar modernism and pop culture blossoming in the West at the time becoming points of reference for the artistic life liberated from its constraints.

After 1956, the architects, building Nowa Huta spurned the forms of socialist realism almost immediately, which proves their true attitude to the style. Marta and Janusz Ingarden began working on the Swedish block in Nowa Huta’s os. Szklane Domy (B-32), the first Kraków construction to put the ideas of Le Corbusier into effect in Kraków after the war, just two years after completing the construction of the Administrative Centre for the Lenin Steelworks. To design the Swedish block, Janusz Ingarden went for a study tour to Sweden, where he had an opportunity to become familiar with the Western incarnations of post-war modernism. Work on the project commenced in 1956, coinciding with the political change and the opening to new ideas and architecture. The name “Swedish block”, which is the term most frequently used to define the characteristic oblong form of the modernist residential unit developed by Marta and Janusz Ingarden connects not as much to the foreign tour of the designer but rather to the technology applied. The construction of its external walls made use of blocks of Siporex® (autoclaved cellular (i.e. aerated) concrete) delivered since 1953 to Nowa Huta from the factory in Łaziska Górne in Silesia, which licenced the production from Sweden. Offering plenty of advantages (light, incombustible, providing high thermal insulation), Siporex had one significant limitation: as a material it was hardly resistant to compression, which meant that in bearing walls it could only be used for the houses not exceeding two storeys. The solution to the problem was the use of a modern construction that transferred the bearing functions of the building from external walls to its internal skeleton. In the Swedish block, the load of the building is borne by the transverse bearing walls that separate individual segments of the structure.

Thus liberated from the function of bearing the ceilings, the external walls could be built from light Siporex blocks, which allowed the entire block to stand seven storeys high.43

Resigning from the quarters of socialist realist development, and having them replaced by modern blocks surrounded by greenery was in equal measure connected to aesthetic nature and to superior efficiency of technologies that built the post-war modernism. The historicising character of the Nowa Huta street faces built in the first half of the 1950s began to be complemented, without much ado, with stretches of modernist elevations and complexes of free-standing blocks after 1956. With 14 staircases and 272 apartments, the Swedish block was completed in 1959, and filled up the 260-metre-long plot in today’s al. Przyjaźni, in close vicinity of the area, where a monumental socialist realist town hall had been planned until not much earlier. In the photographs from the archives of Pental and Makarewicz, the Ingardens’ building, photographed in the rays of the spring sun, represents a lesson in modernism that Kraków architects learned from Le Corbusier. Freed from the construction load, the façades of the Swedish building feature a rhythm of windows, loggias, and balconies that, together with the glazed shop windows of the ground floor earned the Ingardens’ design yet another nickname: “the house of glass” (this is also the origin of name given to os. B-32 in 1959: Szklane Domy i.e. houses of glass). In another photograph, the Swedish building is juxtaposed against a fragment of the French aka experimental block designed by Kazimierz Chodorowski and built at the same time. It was yet another building in Nowa Huta that symbolised the post-Thaw change in the architecture of Nowa Huta. The photograph shows round supports that separate the highly glazed ground floor façade, and two men sitting on a bench in front of the block. They can be seen again in another photograph, showing the interior of a ground-floor furniture shop designed by Zdzisław Szpyrkowski. [0260] [0256][0258] [zapas21]

The adjacent solids of the Swedish and French blocks became an emblematic space of post-Thaw modernity in Nowa Huta and a proof of the architects implementing the ideas proposed and promoted by Le Corbusier in the Athens Charter.44 In the photographs of Henryk Makarewicz, both the residential units stand out against the surrounding of the nearby Szwedzki Park, a clear illustration of the modernist claims of access to light, air, and greenery. [NH_1030a, NH_1031a, NH_1032a, NH2747a]

Yet before the post-war urban development ideas in the spirit of Le Corbusier could assume the form of residential estates composed of cubes of prefabricated blocks distributed freely in the space, modernism began to fill in fragments of Ptaszycki’s plan, originally designed for the socialist realist quarter developments. The clash of the two styles returns repeatedly in the photographs of Pental and Makarewicz; especially the aerial photographs of the latter illustrate perfectly well the accrual of quickly changing typologies. One of the most meaningful takes showing the speed of transformations in the architecture of Nowa Huta after the Thaw was taken from the perspective of today’s ul. Andersa in the latter half of the 1950s: scaffoldings on the first plan still entwin a socialist realist façade of a building in os. Centrum D, while deeper in the shot you can see the shell of the modernist block No. 14. in os. Handlowe (D-3), designed by Józef König and Andrzej Rudnicki. A similar type of modern developments: eight-storeys-high blocks devoid of decoration, with glazed ground floor used for services is captured in the photographs of Wiktor Pental showing walkers in Ratuszowy Park: the place intended for a monumental city hall drawing on the traditions of the Polish Renaissance still on the eve of the Thaw. [NH_022b, NH_0186, NH_0217]

The first modernist estates composed of freestanding blocks began to be built in Nowa Huta in Sector D, the last sector of Ptaszycki’s plan not to be developed before the Thaw. In 1957, a closed competition was announced in Kraków Miastoprojekt; it concerned the design of residential complexes in the last undeveloped part of Ptaszycki’s plan: Sector D, on the western side of the central square, the space taken by today’s os. D-3 (Handlowe), D-2 (Kolorowe), and D-1 (Spółdzielcze). Three teams participated in the competition: one under Stefan Golonka and Kazimierz Chodorowski, another with Janusz Ingarden at its helm, and the third directed by Adam Fołtyn. Golonka and Chodorowski’s team won, and the residential estate complexes developed in this part of Nowa Huta consist of Swedish blocks they designed with diagonal construction solutions, and external walls filled up with Siporex. The same blocks will be repeatedly copied in the estates built outside the Ptaszycki Plan: Wzgórza Krzesławickie and Bieńczyce, and also in several other residential developments in Kraków. Tadeusz Biniek wrote that if you counted architecture by the cubic metre, you could call Golonka and Chodorowski millionaires. The demand for Siporex was big enough to have its production started in Skawina near Kraków in 1961.45 The scale to which the new forms of residential architecture spread, determined by the development of construction technologies, is illustrated by the cityscapes of os. Kolorowe and Handlowe, photographed from the roofs of the buildings. [0545][0554]

The first block to be built in the prefabricated slab technology, Domino 60 system, was put up in Nowa Huta in 1963, just next to the socialist realist developments of the central square, inside os. Centrum D. The architect of the building and the author of the technology applied for its construction was Stefan Golonka. The construction of the block in a pioneering construction technology was recorded in numerous takes by Henryk Makarewicz. The thin and relatively light wall and ceiling slabs made of ferroconcrete were commonly used at construction sites all over the country in the following years, while attempts were made to improve the Domino system in its subsequent versions.46 Especially the acoustic insulation properties left plenty to be desired. [1439] [1341] [1430]

Stefan Golonka and Kazimierz Chodorowski, cooperating with Anna Anlauf and Michał Wędziagolski, designed another characteristic building in this part of Nowa Huta, also eagerly photographed by Pental and Makarewicz. Block No. 7 in os. Centrum D (D-31) was the highest building to be built in Nowa Huta late in the 1950s. It is colloquially referred to as the helicopter, for the sake of the characteristic shape of the roof, below which four artistic studios were situated on top floor. The nine-storey-high high-rise block was connected with the low-rise commercial pavilion. One of the photographs, taken from the roof of the pavilion, shows empty fields on the other side of today’s al. Jana Pawła II, where an icon of Kraków, post-modernism, os. Centrum E designed by Romuald Loegler, will be built a few decades later. [0802] [0876] [0720] Block No. 7 also served as a backdrop for a series of marvellous photographs of children looking through a huge window towards the inside of Sector D; depending on the angle of the shot, the photographs show both the socialist realist developments of the os. Centrum D, and the post-modernist blocks standing in ul. Andresa. [NH_0600a, NH_0675a, NH_0677a, NH_0721a, NH_1238a] Some photographs of Block No. 7 with the accompanying commercial pavilion taken from the side of today’s al. Jana Pawła II might have been intended as evidence of a densely developed communist metropolis. The carefully cropped shots show passers-by reflecting in the great panes of the commercial ground floor, over which the residential skyscraper towers among the convoluted ramifications of neon lights: emblems of the metropolitan modernity of the 1960s. However, the archive of Pental and Makarewicz also holds several shots showing the modernist blocks of Sector D photographed from the perspective of the nearby Vistula embankment in: the space that in some shots could pose for the city centre, in others proves to be the limit of development adjacent to the void of Nowa Huta Meadows that, in the proper metropolitan way, offered recreational functions. [NH_0570, NH0721a]

“The new” Nowa Huta

A photograph taken from an upper floor of Block No. 7, most probably in 1963, features the interior of os. Centrum D, already referred to at the beginning of the text, which is separated from the stately space of the central square by a line of socialist realist development, invisible in the photo. In the top left-hand part of the frame, you can see a block recently completed in Domino technology (which allows to date the photograph), and the modernist developments along the al. Róż. The central part of the photo is taken by heaps of rubble and strings with laundry left to dry stretched on poles among them. A woman accompanied by children is hanging fresh laundry on another string. The aerial photos of Henryk Makarewicz prove that from an even higher perspective, you could notice the hilly landscape that in the following decades will be taken up by the blocks of the successive Kraków residential districts: Bieńczyce, Mistrzejowice, Wzgórza Krzesławickie. [zapas 1]

Decisive for the extension of Nowa Huta and development of the successive districts was the/was increasing production in the steelworks. Late in the 1950s it produced 1.5 million tons of steel a year. The Cabinet of the Government established a goal to increase the production capacity of Lenin Steelworks to 3.3 million tons of steel a year.47 This meant an increased demand for labour and the need to build new settlements for another 50,000 people. A national competition for the design of a new residential complex was announced. Initially intended for 40,000 residents, it was to be situated on the western side of Nowa Huta, in the vicinity of Bieńczyce village, which gave the name for the district developing here. This was a logical course of development: Nowa Huta was limited by the industrial developments from the east and north, investments in the south were blocked by the Vistula flood-lands, while the area in the West, between the older district of Kraków and Nowa Huta was asking for development and stronger connection of the two parts of the city. The competition was won by a Warsaw architect Jadwiga Guzicka, and her vision of urban development fulfilled a number of demands of post-war modernism that defined the development of residential districts in the latter half of the 20th century on a global scale. Her design assumed loose deployment of freestanding cuboid residential units (some of them standing 11 storeys high) within the space of an estate, and separation of functions: commerce and services were moved to free-standing single or two-storey high pavilions built by major communication routes within the estates. With respect to the scale of development and arguments around the competition, Bieńczyce became a symbol of triumph of the partisans of urban development branded by the Athens Charter and the final departure from the socialist realist quarter structures of Nowa Huta. However, the implementation of the Bieńczyce project was delayed by a range of technical problems, the greatest of which was the neighbourhood of the Czyżyny Airport. Bieńczyce was within the approach and manoeuvring airspace for taking off and landing aeroplanes, which is why the construction of the largest and tallest blocks had to be put on hold. Only in 1963 the airport was liquidated and a new one was opened in Balice. In the meantime, a shortage of apartments became dire. A decision was therefore made to start the construction of a new estate in a territory that was initially rejected as proper for residential functions due to the proximity of the industrial plant: the next largest construction site after Nowa Huta was established on the premises of Wzgórza Krzesławickie situated to the north of it. The first blocks were standing there already in 1959, and were copies of typical projects from Sector D.48 In 1965 the completion of the block with the 70,000th room built by the KBM Residential Construction Facility in Nowa Huta was lauded and applauded in os. na Stoku, being part of Wzgórza Krzesławickie.49

Wzgórza Krzesławickie is precisely the fragment of “the new” Nowa Huta that was documented in the photographs of Henryk Makarewicz. His aerial photographs show the hedge arrangements of low residential units contrasted with the nine-floor-high Swedish blocks. Some photographs feature the characteristic form of Primary School No 98, broken into a number of pavilions, as per design of Józef König; in the days of the People’s Republic, it was named after Małgorzata Fornalska, a recognised communist (currently Henryk Sienkiewicz Primary School No. 98 with Integrative Education Classes). [NH_3001, NH_3225a, NH_3226a, NH_3002]

The modernist estates built beyond the original plan of the Ptaszycki look magnificent from the bird eye’s perspective. Photographed from the perspective of a passer-by they, however, disclose the features that have made the modernist urban developments and sciences hated: the prefabricated boredom, and the mono-functional emptiness snuffing civil life. Tadeusz Binek mentioned the dispute accompanying the competition for Bieńczyce, in which he stoically opposed the creation of the huge modernist “wardrobes”, opting for the retention of street development and combination of residential and service functions: a solution characteristic also of the modernist estates built within Ptaszycki plan.50 However, Le Corbusier’s vision of urban development won in the case of Bieńczyce and Wzgórza Krzesławickie, to be distorted by economic shortfalls and technological limitations of the days of Gomułka, when the priority was on the provision of the greatest number of rooms built within the binding norms, at the expense of solutions favouring the development of community ties. An attempt to create a space more friendly than in Bieńczyce was the design of os. Mistrzejowice: a work of a team conducted by Witold Cęckiewicz. Its implementation, however, continued for two decades, from 1963 to 1983, with the final result being strongly divergent from the initial assumptions. Today, it is the socialist realist Nowa Huta that is the touchstone for the high quality of residential environment, capable of competing not only with the block developments from the days of the People’s Republic, but also with the new residential developments built during the three decades of systemic transformation after communism.

Independent of the judgements on the residential complexes developed for the needs of the steelworks, one thing is certain: it was Nowa Huta that helped to transform Kraków into Poland’s second-largest city. In 1945, Kraków was a city of 250,000 inhabitants and in the first two decades following the decision to build the steelworks and accompanying residential district, the population of the city more than doubled. In 1970 Kraków already boasted 585,000 inhabitants, of which number 160,000 lived in Nowa Huta.51 Photographs by Wiktor Pental and Henryk Makarewicz, recording the birth and development of the city in the shadow of the steelworks in the first two decades of its existence, make it possible to recreate the fascinating dynamic of the process.

1 S. Juchnowicz, Nowa Huta – z doświadczeń warsztatu projektowego, [in:] Nowa Huta. Architektura i twórcy miasta idealnego. Niezrealizowane projekty, Kraków: Muzeum Historyczne Miasta Krakowa, 2006, p. 26.

2 Nowa Huta: miasto gniewu i nadziei, a documentary dir. by T. Klimczak, P. Moskal, TVN, 2007.

3 A. Ważyk, Poemat dla dorosłych [in:] Wiersze i poematy, Warszawa: Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy, 1957, p. 145

4 B. Klich-Kluczewska, Nowa Huta, [in:] Moja Nowa Huta 1949–2009. Wystawa jubileuszowa, Kraków: Muzeum Historyczne Miasta Krakowa, 2009, pp. 7–8.

5 S. Juchnowicz, Nowa Huta – z doświadczeń warsztatu projektowego, op. cit., p. 30.

6 L.J. Sibila, Nowa Huta – architektura i twórcy „miasta idealnego”, [in:] Nowa Huta. Architektura i twórcy miasta idealnego, op. cit., p. 38.

7 https://digitalcamerapolska.pl/wydarzenia/373-zmarl-wiktor-pental-dokumentalista-nowej-huty (accessed in December 2017).

8 H. Makarewicz, W. Pental, 802 procent normy. Pierwsze lata Nowej Huty, Kraków: Fundacja Imago Mundi/vis-a-vis etiuda, 2007.

9 K. Modzelewski, Zajeździmy kobyłę historii. Wyznania poobijanego jeźdźca, Warszawa: Iskry, 2013, p. 70.

10 T. Binek, Moje pierwsze budowy w Nowej Hucie, grudzień, 1999, http://www.tadeusz.binek.pl/ (accessed on 18 December 2017).

11 L.J. Sibila, Nowa Huta – architektura i twórcy „miasta idealnego”, op. cit., p. 43.

12 Ibidem, p. 36.

13 S. Juchnowicz, Nowa Huta – z doświadczeń warsztatu projektowego, op. cit., p. 26.

14 W. Baraniewski, „Obrazy pozytywnego człowieka”. Rzeźba, architektura, socrealizm, [in:] A. Gzowska, Figury retoryczne. Warszawska rzeźba architektoniczna 1918-1970, Warszawa, 2015, p. 111.

15 A. Skalimowski, „Budowniczy stolicy”. Warszawski mecenat Bolesława Bieruta w latach 1945-1955, Pamięć i sprawiedliwość. Pismo Instytutu Pamięci Narodowej, 2014, No. 2(24) [quoted after:] P. Lipiński, Bierut. Kiedy partia była bogiem, Wołowiec: Czarne, 2017, pp. 158–159.

16 L.J. Sibila (ed.), Twórcy „miasta idealnego” wybrane biogramy [in:] Nowa Huta. Architektura i twórcy miasta idealnego, op. cit., pp. 99–107.

17 S. Juchnowicz, Nowa Huta – z doświadczeń warsztatu projektowego, op. cit., p. 33.

18 Idem, Wspomnienia [in:] Moja Nowa Huta 1949–2009. Wystawa jubileuszowa, Kraków: Muzeum Historyczne Miasta Krakowa, 2009, p. 56.

19 Ibidem.

20 K. Modzelewski, Zajeździmy kobyłę historii, op. cit., p. 60.

21 W. Komorowski, Wartości kulturowe Nowej Huty. Architektura i urbanistyka, [in:] J. Salwiński, L.J. Sibila (ed.) Nowa Huta przeszłość i wizja. Studium muzeum rozproszonego, Kraków: Muzeum Historyczne Miasta Krakowa, 2008, p. 110.

22 Ibid.

23 T. Gołaszewski, Kronika Nowej Huty, Kraków 1955, p. 636, quoted after: W. Komorowski, Wartości kulturowe Nowej Huty, op. cit., p. 107.

24 C. Perry, The Neighborhood Unit, Regional Survey of New York and its Environs, Vol. 7, New York: Russel Sage Foundation, 1929.

25 A. Lorek, Nowa Huta na tle miast socrealistycznych [in:] Nowa Huta. Architektura i twórcy miasta idealnego, op. cit., p. 21.

26 R. Radłowska, Inżynier, który wymyślił Nową Hutę, Gazeta Wyborcza daily, Kraków supplement, 31 January 2008 http://krakow.wyborcza.pl/krakow/1,42699,4888231.html (accessed on 12 December 2017).

27 D. Bieńkowska, Żywe miasta, Warszawa 1955, pp. 273–274, [quoted after:] W. Komorowski, Wartości kulturowe Nowej Huty, op. cit., p. 114.

28 T. Gołaszewski, Kronika Nowej Huty, op. cit., p. 66–67, [quoted after:] W. Komorowski, Wartości kulturowe Nowej Huty, op. cit.

29 Ibidem, p. 155–156, [quoted after:] W. Komorowski, Wartości kulturowe Nowej Huty, op. cit., p. 105.

30 L.J. Sibila, Historia wnętrz i ich twórcy, [in:] Nowohucki design. Historia wnętrz i ich twórcy w latach 1949–1959, Kraków: Muzeum Historyczne Miasta Krakowa, 2007, p. 13.

31 M. Karpińska, Scenografie polityki historycznej. Realizacje pomnikowe Witolda Cęckiewicza z epoki rządów Władysława Gomułki [in:] M. Karpińska, D. Lesniak-Rychlak, M. Wiśniewski [ed.] Witold Cęckiewicz. Vol. II, Socrealizm, socmodernizm, postmodernizm. Eseje, Kraków: Instytut Architektury, 2015, pp. 83–84.

32 L.J. Sibila, Historia wnętrz i ich twórcy 1949-1959 [in:] Nowohucki design. Historia wnętrz i ich twórcy 1949-1959, Kraków: Muzeum Historyczne Miasta Krakowa, 2007, pp. 13–14

33 K. Modzelewski, Zajeździmy kobyłę historii, op. cit., p. 63.

34 S. Juchnowicz, Nowa Huta – z doświadczeń warsztatu projektowego, op. cit., p. 183.

35 Ibidem.

36 T. Gołaszewski, Kronika Nowej Huty, op. cit., p. 67, [quoted after:] W. Komorowski, Wartości kulturowe Nowej Huty, op. cit., p. 104.

37 Ibid.

38 L.J. Sybila, Architektura i twórcy „miasta idealnego”, op. cit., p. 40.

39 S. Juchnowicz, Wspomnienie, op. cit., p. 60.

40 L.J. Sibila, Historia wnętrz i ich twórcy w latach 1949-1959, op. cit., p. 17.

41 W. Komorowski, Wartości kulturowe Nowej Huty, op. cit., p. 112.

42 L.J. Sybila, Nowa Huta – architektura i twórcy „miasta idealnego”, op. cit., p. 36.

43 T. Binek, Technologie wielkopłytowe w latach 60. w Nowej Hucie, [in:] Modernizm w Nowej Hucie, Kraków: Muzeum Historyczne Miasta Krakowa, 2012, p. 84.

44 Le Corbusier, Karta ateńska, tłum. T. Swoboda, K. Szeronos Warszawa: Centrum Architektury, 2017.

45 Ibidem, p. 87.

46 Ibidem, p. 100.

47 T. Binek, Technologie wielkoblokowe w latach 60. w Nowej Hucie, op. cit., p. 92

48 Ibidem, p. 94.

49 Ibid.

50 Ibid.

51 Ibidem, p. 106.