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Muranow Housing Estate

Warsaw, Poland
1 of 6

Muranow is one part of Warsaw situated on the north part of the Old Town. The entire quartiers of narrow streets were once densely populated and built-up with long rows of rather low - class tenant houses dated mostly for XVIII and XIX century. Then biggest Jewish community in Europe occupied mostly Muranow. Warsaw's Jewish Quarter kept its unique native character since it never went through any significant urban reconstruction as it has happened to Josefov in Praque that shortly before first World War was converted from classical Jewish borough into an art nouveau quartier.

The II World War and Holocaust was a real catastrophe to the Warsaw's population and brought terrible destruction to its urban structure where more than 80% of architecture substance was completely wiped out. In 1944 after the Jewish Ghetto Uprising the entire Muranow quarter disappeared and Nazis left just a church in the middle of ashes and rubbles as part of their process of converting Warsaw into a new German model town.

Warsaw Social Realism Concept

Shortly after II World War when Social Realism was officially decreed in 1949, the Muranow Quarter was resurrected in a new format. Social Realism as an utopian and never properly described doctrine stated that from now on each new architectural development shall be social in context and national in its form. So the entire Muranow Estate was planned as a showcase of Communist Party strength and visionary development strategy for People's Republic of Poland. The general architectural concept for housing estate with its master plan was brought by Bogdan Lachert, Warsaw's architect and a pioneer of interwar modernism in Poland. A follower of Le Corbusier and functionalist style, he faced a huge moral and professional challenge when his first modernist concept for Muranow housing was critiqued by Communist Party in 1949. Under political pressure the area had to be converted into architectural showpiece following official social realism guidelines.

Warsaw Modernism

To save the time and money the entire Muranow Housing Estate was located on rubbles of the former Jewish Quarter and thus most of the houses has been built much above the street level. Lachert has planned a modern architectural roads network system with a central four lane alley and cameral side streets leading to low-rise housing units. The high-rise houses facing the main alley are a perfect example of how Social Realism failed to provide its original message. Planned as working-class estate and an opposition to capitalism and western value, the main buildings actually resembles rescaled bourgeoisie tenant houses from XIX century academism period.

As for low-rise buildings, Lachert has provided a different sets of standardized units whereas most popular where gallery houses, partly based on Bauhaus concept first used in Houses with Balcony Access in Dessau by Hannes Meyer. All buildings were also properly stylized, so that they could reflect Social Realism message. Those included ornamentation, roofline balustrades, arcades, reliefs and other eclectic and classical architecture elements accompanied by bas-reliefs and monuments representing official propaganda context of the new post-war Polish society. The very first part of the Estate was finished in 1955, just around a year before Social Realism was officially abolished. The next stages were added in 1960s and 1970s following a typical post-war modernism trend.

Green and Human

The entire Estate is a real phenomenon of its period and it seems that it has successfully passed time challenge. With its human scale buildings and greenery look and cranny it constitutes an affordable and quite pleasant living space, located literally in the walking distance from the strict city centre. Since 2013 Muranow is also a home to Polin Museum devoted to 1 000 years history of Polish Jews whereas its building, a masterpiece of contemporary architecture, was a finalist in 2015 Mies van der Rohe Award Competition.

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ibex73, July 20th, 2017
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