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8 October 1999, Friday
1999 Photographs from Kostrzyn | Poland Site Index | Home

Tomek Wolender arranged a trip on Friday morning to Kostrzyn, a small town to the southwest of Szczecin on the German border. Tomek and I met during my visit to Poland 2 years ago. He is a conservator currently working at the Szczecin-based office of regional preservation office. Since he had not visited the site himself, he was as curious to see what was being planned for the town. Along the way, I was able to view the many rail structures and outbuildings along the train line. I remembered them on my last visit because the quality of the brickwork on these simple buildings is extraordinary. They are incredibly well detailed, assembled and crafted.

Arriving in Kostrzyn, we found our way through the town with generous directions from a grandmother who was out grocery shopping for the day. At the town hall, we met with the town planner and architect overseeing the studies and development plans for the reconstruction efforts. His shelves contained huge piles of notebooks, maps and plans depicting the town's history and directions for future development.

The reconstruction site is situated on an island in the middle of the Odra River, the present day border between Poland and Germany. The medieval town was initially placed here for defensive purposes and remained active for centuries until its destruction during the second World War. The site has been abandoned since. For the present-day reconstruction effort, computer illustrations showed the intention of the project. The images are one portion of a package developed by the city to entice developers to invest in the site. Located at a border crossing point, the small island has the potential to grow as desired. The computer illustrations were very thorough and a much higher quality than those I had seen for other projects 2 years ago.

Historic and computer images courtesy of the City of Kostrzyn.

It was raining lightly outside, so we took a car to the reconstruction site. As we passed through the entrance gate on the island, we saw something unexpected: nothing, total emptiness. Rough dirt roads lead through the former town and the roadsides are defined by the remaining stone ruins of sidewalks. The construction of the sidewalks and streets are typical for the German and Polish towns of the area. We found the ruins of the church and the town hall. The remnants of the houses are 1 meter high brick walls and each remaining ruin encloses a dense jungle of vegetation. Occasionally, the remaining steps of an entryway can be found, leading up into the thicket. Two years ago, the entire site was covered in vegetation and it was impossible to navigate the terrain. The ruins of the buildings were virtually forgotten. It was incredibly powerful to realize that an entire town flourished here for hundreds of years and then quickly disappeared in a concentrated act of destruction. Aside from the few building elements remaining today, the original fabric of the town lives on in places like Warsaw and Gdansk. The bricks were trucked to these other sites to supply the reconstruction efforts occurring in the major cities in the decade immediately following the war.

Fortifications from various eras surrounded most of the town at the river banks. These are still visible at most areas surrounding the site and we were able to walk deep into the masonry artillery stores. Here, the walls are buried partially underground and are built several meters thick. The masonry vaults are impressive structures because they are so massive and pure in form. The artillery stores reminded me of similar military sites I had seen at Ft. Wadsworth and Ft. Totten in New York City. The remains of the historic entry bridge and flanking towers also remain near the artillery battery. After about 45 minutes of guidance, Mr. Wolender and I were left on our own to wander through the site.

The city is currently soliciting proposals to finance and carry out the reconstruction of the area. A prototype or sample house is currently under construction by the Podzamcze group from Szczecin. On our return to the present town hall, we were invited to meet with the mayor of Kostrzyn. I asked him how the community would populate the reconstruction when it is completed since it seemed that the population of the would increase by 50-60% or more. The mayor did not seem to think it would be too difficult. He was mostly hopeful for the increased trade and transit across the German border. The plan also had the support of the local community.


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