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Following World War II, much of Poland lay in ruins and unfortunately found itself on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain. Warsaw was no exception. By the end of the war, the city was virtually destroyed and for a short time, many considered moving the capital elsewhere in Poland. Once the reconstruction efforts had begun, the Soviet Union, eager to spread their influence to the newly-formed communist nation, presented the Polish people with an architectural gift. That gift, the Palace of Culture and Science, was a 42-story Stalinist skyscraper that would be constructed right in the heart of Warsaw.
In the first episode of our two-part series on Warsaw’s Palace of Culture and Science, our hosts discuss post-war reconstruction efforts in Warsaw and the strange origins of this Stalinist colossus. What were the immediate challenges of rebuilding a city that was almost entirely razed during the war? Would the reconstructed city look like it did before the war? Or would older architectural designs be jettisoned in favor 'socialist realism'? Lastly, why would this palace, a manifestation of Stalinist excess, be built in a city that still lay mostly in ruins?
[03:44] What did Warsaw look like after the Second World War?
[05:06] Why did some government officials want to move the Polish capital?
[07:02] What was the conflict between modernists and conservatives during the post-war reconstruction efforts?
[09:28] What was the chosen solution for rebuilding Warsaw?
[11:53] Why did they decide to build a skyscraper in the middle of a ruined city?
[14:48] What problems did the palace present for the devastated city?
[15:22] What were the plans for construction and how were they carried out?
[19:07] What happened to the palace after it was built?
[19:55] Palace: Part II preview
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Beata Chomątowska / for kindly agreeing to tell us the story of Warsaw being resurrected from the ashes. Beata is a writer, journalist and the president and co-founder of the Association of Social and Cultural Initiatives Stacja Muranów.
Michał Murawski / for generously devoting his lunch time to telling us about the social life of the palace. Michał is an anthropologist of architecture and cities based at the Department of Russian, Queen Mary, University of London, and the author of The Palace Complex: The Social Life of a Stalinist Skyscraper in Capitalist Warsaw.
America Programme at the Adam Mickiewicz Institute / for inviting us to the conference about the palace and making the interview with Michał Murawski possible.
SFTEW Team: Wojciech Oleksiak, Adam Zulawski, John Beauchamp, Lea Berriault, Nitzan Reisner & Michael Keller