the 20’s, the 30’s

August 5, 2013

Looking at the Barborka Rally at Karowa Street in Warsaw I envied people living in the building on top of the escarpment, an ideal location. After several years, Tarnowski Division was given the task of designing an apartment in that building, in addition on the top floor. My jealousy has become even greater… what a panoramic view from the windows!


Then I started to look at the form and detailing of the building. I started to learn about its history. It was unquestionably one of the finest pre-war buildings in Warsaw, the Rita Hayworth of pre-war architecture. It was built in the years 1939-1940 according to the design by Edward Seydenbeutel (Sułkowski) for the Association of Commerce and Industry “Horacy Heller” SA. Right at the beginning of the war it was seized by the Nazis. The façade has beautiful proportions, it is covered with sandstone slabs. Steel and glass entry door, arched balconies and the internal staircase with geometric glazing all the way to the top of the building from the courtyard are an example of fully elegant prewar modernism. The contemporary stainless steel handrail of the entrance door is very Art Deco. I do not know whether it is a copy of the original damaged element or contemporary work but I have to admit that it is very successful. The outdoor balconies with very low railings are very pretty. It is also thanks to them that the façade seems so proportional. (Railings are far from modern standards so the top floor residents decided on their own to make them higher, which makes no sense. They could have simply cut off their legs). It definitely was a pre-war luxury house for connoisseurs. After the war, expansive suites were brought down to socialist realities. You can see the remnants of the original stucco ‘passing’ through walls, appearing suddenly in a neighboring apartment. The post war period fortunately did not destroy all of the building’s worth. Original terrazzo floors and stairs, wrought iron railings with wooden handles and casement window are still there. Huge windows in simple, irregular steel frames, let in amazing light through the windows of varying texture. This is one of the few brilliant modernist touches, in addition preserved in original state. Of course, the building begs for renovation, especially the common areas. When will it take place? Who knows. For now the corridors have ugly plumbing piping, a nightmarish elevator shaft remembering the years of communism, and the stylistic inconsistency of the doors to the apartments simply hurts. The façade has memorial plaques for famous Polish artists: Jan Cybis, Jan Marcin Szancer (why do people write Schnauzer?), the writer Wojciech Żukrowski. Certainly, a plaque for the outstanding director Jerzy Skolimowski, was resides there, will also be put up one day.