27 May


I have been travelling a lot recently. I was in Warsaw all last week organising and running a conference. It was the first time I had stayed in Warsaw as opposed to passing through en route to elsewhere in Poland. Our hosts were great and the hospitality was forthcoming. My view of Warsaw was that it has a lot of old 1960s concrete flats in the ‘Corbusier‘ ‘machines for living’ aesthetic we have seen across the whole of Europe, with a great deal of building in the post war period and the 1960s and 1970s. [[Those from Eastern Europe think these are Communist buidlings, I often have to explaoin to them that we in the West built them too with similarly depressing consequences.]] This are scattered and intermixed with the newer glass and steel towers we see worldwide for business and retail. There seems, and the locals confirm, that there has been very little (sensible) town planning and that the city lacks a centre, a retail circuit or a logical area for nightlife. It is fairly higgly-piggledy, but at the centre is a huge skyscraper, the Palace of Science and Culture (PKiN), built by the Russians as a gift from Stalin. Now I am told the citizens love-hate the tower, but I found no-one who didn’t hate it or was indifferent. I thought it was kind of impressive and definitely worth keeping, but I am a Brit who hasn’t been opporessed by the Russians for hundreds of years, and I think it is not the style, it is not the Communist origins, it is the fact that it is Russian that makes the locals dislike it. How can I comment, I don’t come from this history and culture and yet I do hope they bear with it, it’ll be fascinating to Poles in a hundred years. Given that that demolished a huge Russian Orthodox Cathedral in the centre of Warsaw on reaching independence after the First World War, I suspect that it may not survive. Interestingingly the Czechs have a similar tower, it is now the Hotel Intercontinental!