Long regarded as the remnants of an oppressive regime, the buildings of the communist era are being restored and given a new life in Warsaw. Exit the dormitory town of the 1970s: Warsaw is now becoming a city prized by artists, architects and multinationals.
It’s a hated symbol of the Warsaw people. And yet, the Palace of Culture and Science, an impressive Stalinist skyscraper, has become the local Eiffel Tower, home to major American corporations and art exhibitions. The building, offered by Stalin in 1952, but actually built by the Poles themselves, has nothing to envy the New York buildings of the same time.
Warsaw, now a trendy city, for some even the New Berlin, symbolises the good health of Poland. In 2004, this country, which had long been pillaged by the Swedes, wiped out by Nazi Germany and governed by the USSR, chose to become a member of the European Union and with that, came its subsidies (€106 billion planned between 2014 and 2020, or 11% of the European budget). And since then, it has risen among the few economies in the world that have not experienced the global crisis.
Almost 30 years after the end of communism, Warsaw displays simply incredible activity figures in the building industry. The Polish capital has become an attractive city of 1.7 million inhabitants that has made peace with its past – the elegant Jewish Museum of the Finns Rainer Mahlamäki and Ilmari Lahdelma is there to remember the ghetto. It has reinvented itself to the point of mixing falsely old buildings and pleasant neighbourhoods reserved for the elite of the Communist Party and now populated by hipsters, with elegant and ultramodern residences.
An example of this? The Varso Tower, the highest tower in Poland, which is 310m high, has 140.000 m2 of parquet and 53 floors. The skyscraper, designed by the English architectural firm Foster + Partners, will house multinationals and above all “revitalize the district in the heart of the city” by 2020. Not far away, a 192m high residential tower shows off its silhouette of a ship’s sail above the buildings. This project, entrusted to the architect Daniel Libeskind, took 15 years to become a reality. The result: 250 apartments sold in a matter of a few weeks. Further down the road, rises a glass vessel designed by Norman Foster, an office building that was built 15 years ago.
Recently, however, the capital has been moved by the reconstruction and reopening of the Saski Palace, which was looted and dynamited by the Germans in 1944, like most of the capital’s monuments. In the 18th century, it housed the Royal Court of Saxony, at the time when the Kings of Poland were elected, the Golden Age of the “Rzeczpospolita” – the Polish Republic – before the country was divided among the great powers for more than a century. Today, the heart of Warsaw balances between nostalgia for pre-war and pre-communist times, and the dynamism of a capital where ultra-modern complexes are constantly being created.