Music Conservatory, near the site.


Presentation made upon our arrival.


Existing ruins at the base of the palace yet to be reconstructed.


Main Plaza. White building and brick building immediately to left are being fully reconstructed.


Installing roofing tiles.


Buildings near completion.


Building facade nearing completion.


Kent Diebolt examines wall construction, former City Hall in background.


2 December 1997

The Old City Reconstruction was the first project our group was able to visit; we were at the site within a couple of hours of completing our journey from New York. After driving to the site, we got out of the cars near the entryway to the castle gates at the top of a hill overlooking the backside of the reconstruction site. It was difficult to see exactly what was taking place at the site, especially after a long overnight travel. After entering the office of Podzamcze the scope of the project's undertaking became more clear.

Walking through the hallway and into the meeting room, presentation boards were on display exhibiting historic photographs, construction photos and proposed plan, elevation and perspective drawings of the area and individual buildings. None of these drawings appeared to be computer generated. Most were in color, rendered with marker, pencil or watercolor. The most striking aspect of the boards were the images they recalled from the book on the Warsaw reconstruction Vitek had shown us before leaving New York. The scale of the structures was very similar. Now, before the meeting began, I had an idea of what we were going to be told.

The project is for the construction of new housing in the historic center of the city. The area below the castle, "Podzamcze" it was called, had existed since the war as a grassy field situated between the reconstructed hill-top castle and the new highway built along the river's edge in the 1970s. The area had been flattened by Allied carpet bombings during the war. Documentation and archaeological investigation was done in the area (though I am not sure exactly when and to what extent this was completed, where the ruins always known to exist or partially forgotten in the 50s, 60s or 70s?). Nearest the castle, evidence of habitation was found dating to the 8th century with most other foundations of the area dating to the 10th century. The entire area has the status of a landmark district (I assume this includes the castle buildings, music conservatory and other surrounding structures; I'm not sure how the "modern" apartments already built directly across from the site play into this).

From my notes, the chronology of the project is as follows:

1984-Architectural competition held for the site. The selected plan was not undertaken because, as our historian stated, it was undertaken at a different time for different people. We did not see the winning entry or any other submissions but I think they would be very interesting.

1986-Decision made to develop the site.

1988-Co-op established.

1994-Work began, permits and grants obtained. The first steps were to uncover the foundation walls of the old buildings, research the findings and determine structural stability and needed repairs.

2000-Target for significant completion of the project.

The co-op developing the site seems to act as a manger and co-ordinator for the design and construction of all individual building sites. The co-op (I believe) conducted all preliminary survey, historical research and archaeological work for the site. A master plan was established and design guidelines were determined for each individual building. The kind of reconstruction undertaken for each building varies from lot to lot depending upon the building's location, historical importance and/or historical information known. Prominent buildings at important locations, such as on a defining corner of a central plaza, are reconstructed as true to the original as possible. Other buildings are only regulated by items such as facade height, roof configuration or window and door locations. However, all new construction must preserve the original medieval brick foundations. Designs are done by individual architects and approved by the co-op and then (I assume) by other city and government agencies. Individual contractors construct each building as selected by the owner. There is no single contractor. The co-op's job is to co-ordinate design and construction between the individual architects and contractors hired by each owner. To maintain commitment from all parties, the owner receives full title after construction is completed.

It sounds like a lot to manage but it seems to be working well. The process has proceeded relatively smoothly. Visiting the site, the different approaches taken by individual owners was immediately evident in the construction. Some buildings used masonry bearing walls. Some used brick piers with clay tile infill. Others used concrete piers. A seemingly random mix of these methods was also seen. The most common method of floor slab construction seemed to be reinforced concrete or concrete poured over a system of interlocking clay tiles. Most exterior walls consist of exterior stucco on an outer masonry wythe, airspace with insulation, inner bearing or clay tile infill wall and interior finish system (plaster typically). This construction method is used for all buildings whether fully restored or only falling under the auspices of the design guidelines.

With the different construction methods, the buildings are able to respond to different owner's programmatic requirements. Most all buildings are intended for commercial space on the ground floor and/or basement with 3-4 residential floors above. Many of the commercial uses have already been established with specific design accommodations to suit each. Uses included retail stores, restaurants and clubs. Though it seemed odd at first, the various construction methods may be an asset. A subtle layer of variation has been added to the various buildings rather than a uniformly assigned system or module.



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