Month: February 2016

The first Silesian Skyscaper

The first eight story building in Silesia was built at ul. Wojewodzka 23, Katowice in May 1930. Due to the its steel frame construction the building could be freely built upwards on a relatively small plot of land.

First Silesian skyscraper 2Advantage was taken of the locally produced steel - from the Iron works of Zjednoczone Huty, Krolewska and Laura - who took care of the manufacturing and assembly of the buildings body.

The architect was Eustachy Chmielewski - who designed an asymmetrical building encompassing large rectangular, horizontal windows with stylish corners. The furnished flats were made available primarily to officials and their familaries, in particular to professors of the nearby Silesian School of Technology.The technological experience gained from this project led to "more skyscrapers" - being built in Katowice.

Source: Katowice Modernist Architecture - Urban Strollers' Guidebook ISBN 978-83-62023-26-4

Compared to other regions of Poland, Silesia led the way in "high rise" multi storey building construction.In fact, Katowice became known as the "Polish Chicago" comparable to the high-rise building construction in Chicago in the USA and other US cities. It was the innovative use of steel in the structure of the buildings that led to such developments.

Drapacz Chmur
Drapacz Chmur (Skyscaper) 1930s picture

The Drapacz Chmur (Skyscraper in English) building at ul Zwirki i Wigury 15/17 was completed in the mid 1930s, after five years of construction, and became the largest building in Poland until 1955 consisting of 14 stories above ground and two stories below, dug seven metres into the ground. The building was co-created by Tadeusz Kozlowski, an architect and Professor Stefan Bryla - who was responsible for the iron frame structure. 

Half of the building's floor area was occupied by apartments ranging from studio to luxurious five and six room flats. There was a boiler room, a laundry with mechanical dryers, a transformer, water pump and storage rooms for offices and a vault. It also had three lifts, including a high speed one stopping from the sixth floor only.

steel contruction
Steel construction in Katowice in 1932
men working on steel construction
Men working on steel construction

The Drapacz Chmur building became such a landmark that it was featured on postcards and became one of the themes of a film on iron frame structures shown for the first time in the Rialto Cinema in 1931.

Sources: Katowice Modernist Architecture - Urban Strollers' Guidebook ISBN 978-83-62023-26-4 and Wikpedia


The latest skyscraper to be built in Katowice is the Altus building, finished in 2003, the building is 125 metres high and has 30 floors.

The Altus building, finished in 2003


Where was the Pond in the centre of Katowice?

The plans of 1823, 1865 and 1893 show that there was a large pond near the centre of Katowice. But why was it there?

1823 Katowice map
1823 Centre of Katowice map - crossroads is where Rynek is now
1862 plan of the pond
The 1862 plan of the Centre of Katowice - Source: The Museum of Katowice History
1865 Katowice map
1865 Katowice map - the six sided hexagon shape is Plac Wolnosci
1893 Katowice map
1893 Katowice map
pond from Altus
Looking west from the Altus Building. The pond would have been behind the Superjednostka (the Anthill) - the long buiding - middle to right of the picture and north of Supersam - the darker building roughly in the middle.

It appears that the pond was being used to supply water for Huta Marta - an iron works - from around 1852 coming from the Rawa River that runs through the centre of Katowice. But, the pond is actually a lot older as there are records showing that it also supplied a Blacksmith's Forge going back to 1397. It also appears on maps in the 17th and 18th century.

It would have served a dual purpose. It's likely to have been a fish pond supplying fresh fish for a Friday meal when Catholics don't eat meat. Water flowing out along the artificial canal or "leat" would have powered a waterwheel to drive bellows make the forge hotter for the Blacksmith whilst making iron tools for working on the land.

Later the waterwheel would have supplied power for the Huta Marta Iron works that operated from 1852 till 1928. Around 1858 the mill appeared to have employed 80 men, 92 women and a group of children. It was making rails. In 1892, the mill appeared to have thirty furnaces. In place of Iron works, "Marta" is now a block of flats Superjednostka (locally known as the Anthill) built in the 1960s.

The pond appears to be west of the present day Superjednostka (Anthill) block of flats and north of the Supersam shopping centre - but it has been gradually filled in since the 1823 map. Water would have flowed in from the west and out through two outlets back to the Rawa. Today, the Rawa has been canalised but can be seen to the west and east of Sokolska Street, before being covered to the north of Supersam. The line of the river has recently been exposed with the reconstruction of Rynek (Market Place) before it becomes fully opened again as a canalised route east of aleja Korfantego street.

Rawa across Katowice market square during reconstruction about 2013
Rawa across Katowice market square during reconstruction about 2013

Interestingly, an early 20th century photograph of the Rawa river shows it having a lot more water than it currently does. In fact in 1990 when a survey was done, it was found that the river has a "water deficit" - meaning that less water left the river than went into the river. It is likely to be due to "water leakage" - loss of water into the underground mines in the area. 

Looking west Rawa River with Huta Marta in the distance. The buildings on the south side of the river - is where Supersam is now. The dome building is the Jewish Synagogue, that was burnt by the Nazi Germans in 1939. after being build in 1900.
katowice synagoga
The Katowice Jewish Synagogue before it was destroyed in 1939.The view is looking NW along Mickiewicza Street

Source: Wikipedia - Huta Marta

This re-drawn plan of the eastern part of the pond seems to show the northern output from the pond and suggests that water was used for the Bogucka ironworks (Kuźnica bogucka) in 1823.

Plan Forge Bogucka 1823
Plan Forge Bogucka 1823 with the selected court area, where in the mid- nineteenth century manor house was built

1 - Main Building 2. Ore washer 3. coal deposit 4. Ore Shed 5. Roasting fireplace vent 6. Circular vent Milling vent

Original Source: Herr Kriss - who re-draw the map based on an original map located in the Museum of the History of Katowice Wikipedia Source

pond looking towards 3 May street
The forge pond looking south west towards 3 Maja Street (3 May Street) around 1865. Source: The Museum of Katowice History.
Katowice ok. 1850
The pond in 1850 looking north east with the Zinc Works Huta Fanny on the left and a white building in the middle a manor house. Source: The Museum of Katowice History.
pond looking north towards Marta
The pond looking north towards Huta Marta Iron works. Note: the horse-drawn tramway running along the top of the dam.

The dam holding back the water of the pond, also was the main route to cross the river on the trading route between Gliwice and Krakow. The road from Gliwice came along the northern side of the river then turned south at the present day Rondo, went along the dam, along the line of the present day Korfantego street before turning east at Rynek going in the direction of Krakow along the line of Warszawska Street.

rawa and rynek
Rynek with the pond on the Rawa River and the weir. Huta Baildon Iron and Steelworks is behind the trees. The picture was probably taken at the end or the 19th or early 20th century.
weir on the rawa
The weir (artificial waterfall) on the Rawa river, possibly early 20th century when the pond had become much narrower - but the flow of water had been increased by the introduction of weirs. Huta Baildon Iron and Steelworks is in the background.
Promenade by Rawa
The promenade by Rawa river and pond looking east with Huta Marta on the north side. It probably was around the beginning of the 20th Century when the pond became narrower.

The pond was eventually filled in during the late 1930s or early 1940s when there was a high demand for more land in the centre of Katowice.

Thanks to Michał Dzióbek of The Museum of Katowice History for his assistance and comments on the writing of this article. 

Katowice – UNESCO City of Music

Katowice has been declared a City of Music by UNESCO. Now the city is among 19 global destinations appreciated for its music heritage forming part of the prestigious UNESCO Creative Cities Network. Apart from Katowice, nine other cities have also been given the title today – including Kingston in Jamaica, Salvador in Brazil and Liverpool in the UK.


Katowice has become the first Central and Eastern European city to win the title, joining such destinations as Bogota (Colombia), Bologna (Italy), Seville (Spain), Glasgow (United Kingdom), Ghent (Belgium), Brazzaville (The Congo), Hamamatsu (Japan), and Mannheim and Hanover in Germany. The Silesian city boasts such prestigious ensembles as the National Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra with its recently-opened concert hall, the Silesian Philharmonic, the Silesian Quartet, and the Camerata Silesia Choir. Katowice is also the venue of thirty music festivals. 

Katowice 2

The UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN) was created in 2004 to promote cooperation with and among cities that have identified creativity as a strategic factor for sustainable urban development. The 69 cities which currently make up this network work together towards a common objective: placing creativity and cultural industries at the heart of their development plans at the local level and cooperating actively at the international level. More information.

music concert
© City of Gardens; music concert at the top of the former Warszawa mine shaft (part of Silesian Museum)

The City of Music status has been awarded to Katowice due to intensity and diversity of music in Katowice – classical music, contribution to development of jazz and blues, and commitment to have great alternative and electronic festivals: OFF Festival and Tauron Nowa Muzyka. The city also owes the title to great Katowice composers: Henryk Mikołaj Górecki and Wojciech Kilar as well as to investment undertakings, for example the new seat of the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra.

Karol Szy­manowski Acad­emy of Music
Karol Szy­manowski Acad­emy of Music
rawa blues
Rawa Blues Festival - is the largest indoor blues fes­ti­val in the world. It attracts thou­sands of fans from all over the world every year. Rawa received the Keep­ing The Blues Alive Award in 2012 and has estab­lished Katow­ice as the cap­i­tal of Pol­ish and Euro­pean blues.

More about Katowice - City of Music.

New Year Celebrations at Spodek, Katowice 2015

The 2015 New Year's Eve celebrations centred around Spodek in Katowice with a marathon six hour concert broadcast live on Polsat around Poland and beyond. It formed a fitting end to the year long celebrations of the 150th anniversary of the establishment of the city.

IMG_1323Starting in early December a massive stage was built to cater for 60,000 people to watch the free concert around Spodek and Rondo.







And on the night!


The light show practice on 30 December 2015

Boney M one of stars of the show singing Brown Girl in the Ring.

Christmas decorations at the new SuperSam in Katowice

The new SuperSam shopping centre that was opened in October 2015 was full of Christmas decorations this December 2015.











The building is located at 6 Piotra Skargi St. and was built in the place of a former retail hall, which had been designed by Stefan Bryła and opened in 1936. The architectural design of the new shopping center was prepared by Konior Studio.


The main characteristics of the building are the round corners and historic welded spans, which had been restored and preserved from the former Supersam hall. In the new building, the spans were mounted above an atrium and situated between two main entrances – the area is designed to be the central part of the mall.

IMG_1339The historic spans had been used in the former hall of Supersam, which was demolished in summer 2013. The original building consisted of 10 spans placed at 11-meter spacing. The construction was designed by renowned prof. Stefan Bryła and erected in 1930s, and was unique because of the welded technique, a very modern solution at that time. To show the designer’s intention, Griffin Group decided that four original spans would be kept as a distinguishing feature of new Supersam.

Contruction of Supersam

The former Supersam wholesale market founded in the 1930s.

Around 2000 it was also known as the German Market, probably because there where a lot of new food goods for sale from Germany soon after the fall of communism. This was attractive for local people who had a limited variety of food goods a that time.