Palace of Culture and Science

Warsaw, Poland | C.1955

Photo Credit: @laurakayefeltham

Standing above the other buildings of Warsaw Poland is the prominent high-rise building of the Palace of Culture and Science. Known in Polish as the Palac Kultury i Nauki, and abbreviated “PKiN”, it stands at 237 meters tall and is the tallest building in Poland, is the eighth-tallest building in the European Union and one of the tallest on the European continent.

Despite its notable status, this building has been a source of controversy for the Polish people. The building was constructed between 1952 – 1955 when a majority of the city was still in ruins after World War II. It was “gifted” to the capital city by Stalin from the Soviet Union, and utilized 3,500 soviet workers to construct the grand structure.

While it was originally known as the Joseph Stalin Palace of Culture and Science, in the wake of destalinization the dedication to Stalin was revoked. In turn, Stalin’s name was removed from the colonnade, interior lobby and one of the building’s sculptures.

The building now symbolizes both the destruction and resurrection of a new Poland at the hands of an unpopular Soviet regime. At the time of its construction some looked to the audacious building as a beacon of hope emerging from the destruction of a war-torn city, while others felt it made a mockery of the Polish nationality because of its obscene size and opulence for the time.

The architecture of the building is closely related to several similar skyscrapers built in the Soviet Union of the same era, most notably the Main building of Moscow State University. It is a mixture of nationalist and socialist architectural forms and there is also inspiration taken from Polish renaissance architecture. Elaborate statues grace the edifice of some of history’s greatest thinkers, including Copernicus and Marie Curie.

The PKiN is a public domain and serves as an exhibition center and office complex with a multiplex cinema, four theaters, two museums, offices, bookshops, a large swimming pool, an auditorium hall for 3,000 people and an accredited university, Collegium Civitas. The terrace on the 30th floor, at 114 meters, is a well-known tourist attraction with a panoramic view of the city.

On occasions throughout the years the building has been threatened with demolition to clean the city of their history of communism. Though the building may have its controversies, it is a staple of the modern-day Polish city and encourages the growth of Polish culture within its walls.

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