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When did a “Flying Saucer” arrive in Katowice?

It happened in 1971. But, rather than landing, it grow from the ground a few years before earlier. It is in fact a sports and cultural arena, that is 45 years old this October 2016. It is also an iconic innovative architectural feature that dominates the northern edge of the central part of Katowice.

Spodek arena after facade renovation in 2011
Spodek arena after facade renovation in 2011

Spodek (meaning “saucer” in Polish) is a multipurpose arena complex in Katowice, Poland, opened in 1971 at ul. Korfantego 35 under the name Wojewódzka Hala Widowiskowo-Sportowa w Katowicach (Voivodeship Sport and Show Arena in Katowice), It was built on the site of former Zinc Smelters Huta Fanny  founded in 1822 and Huta Franz in 1818. There was also an iron works on the site.

Aerial view of Spodex taken from the Sky Bar at the top of the Altus building February 2016
Aerial view of Spedex taken from the Sky Bar at the top of the Altus building February 2016

The idea of building a large venue originated in 1955, while Katowice was temporarily renamed Stalinogród. A contest was held to select the best design. Initially, it was to be constructed on the outskirts of town, but the Voivodeship National Council decided it should be built near the city center.on a mining waste dump site classified “2A” was chosen for construction.

1883 map of Huta Fanny formerly on the site now at Spodex
1883 map of Huta Fanny formerly on the site now at Spodex

The classification “2A” indicated medium mining damage with a possibility of local cave-ins. While excavating the foundations, the workers dug through coal instead of soil. Soon after construction began, rumors of design flaws in the new building spread, including the rumour that the dome would collapse when the scaffolding was removed. Because of this, in 1964, construction was halted for 18 months. Spodek’s architects and chief engineers entered the dome when the supports were dismantled as a response to those rumours; clearly they survived. Before opening the building to the public, endurance tests were conducted – 3,500 soldiers marched into the hall and vibration of the building was measured. The outcome was positive.

1958-61 map before Spodex was built
1958-61 map before Spodex was built

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Maciej Gintowt and Maciej Krasiński, architects of Spodek, designed the Spodek as one of the first major structures to employ the principle of tensegrity. The roof uses an inclined surface held in check by a system of cables holding up its circumference.

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Since then Spodek arena is of great events and entertainment. It’s Spodek starring, among others, Sting, Jean Michel Jarre, Chris Rea, Cliff Richard, Joe Cocker, Tina Turner, Brian Adams, Elton John, Vanessa Mae, Deep Purple, Metallica, The Cure, Genesis, Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, Black Sabbath, Saxon, Mike Oldfield , The Kelly Family, Rammstein, Iron Maiden, Robbie Williams, Depeche Mode, Korn, Slipknot. 34 years on stage Spodek guests Rawa Blues Festival, 29 years ago was here the first edition of the cult Metalmania, and 15 years ago Mayday – a festival of techno music.

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Text Sources:

Wikipedia, Spodex

Wikipedia, Huta Fanny

Wikipedia, Huta Franz

Rawa Blues – largest indoor Blues Festival in the world

Katowice is the host to the largest indoor Blues Festival in the world – Rawa Blues. 2016 is its 36th year. It’s name comes from the Rawa river that runs through the centre of Katowice. It takes place around the end of September and the beginning of October in Spodek, the large flying saucer like arena near the centre of Katowice and since it was built next door also in NOSPR – the home of the National Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra.

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The Beginnings

The idea of the Rawa Blues Festival was introduced in 1981. The first festival was organized in the Katowice Theater and gathered about twenty blues bands from all over Poland and 500 fans. Organizing the festival on that times was a big challenge, considering the political background. It was the time when Polish people were struggling with the socialistic system. In 1980, there were the beginnings of Solidarnosc (Solidarity) movements. In 1981, a martial law was introduced in Poland by gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski as head of the authoritarian government. It was the time, when even basic items were hardly available.

Irek Dudek
Irek Dudek

And in that hard times, a group of people, mainly students and blues musicians, decided to organize a blues sessions in Katowice, starting first Rawa Blues edition. On the beginnings, during the 80s the festival systematically received more and more recognition. Polish blues journalist and musicians consider that times of the festival as a key element in fostering the development of Polish blues scene. Rawa Blues Festival is the only festival, where all legendary Polish blues artists have played, and where a lot of them started their artistic career. The list include: Tadeusz Nalepa, Dżem, Easy Rider, Jan Kyks Skrzek, Irek Dudek, Martyna Jakubowicz, Jan Janowski, Silesian Blues Band, Nocna Zmiana Bluesa to name only a few.

The festival director is Irek Dudek  a Polish singer, composer, multiinstrumentalist and songwriter. He is well known in Poland and western Europe for his blues achievements

Corey Harris
Corey Harris

The first night of the 2016 Festival held at NOSPR featured Corey Harris solo during the first half Keb’ Mo’ & NOSPR orchestra with an appearance from Rawa Blues organiser Irek Dudek – himself a well-known Blues artist who increased the popularity of Blues in Poland.

Keb Mo
Keb Mo


More information on the Rawa Blues website

Where was the castle in Katowice?

Well, it was not actually a castle, but a large manor house - known locally as the castle or palace because it was the largest building at the time it was built. It used to stand on Wojciech Korfantego Street, just north of Hotel Katowice and west of the Pizza Hut. near Rondo. In fact, the grounds of the house still exist in the form of a small park -Park Powstańców Śląskich (Silesian Insurgents Park) - which has the monument commemorating  the Silesian Uprisings.

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The "castle" in the 1930s

This mansion was built in 1841 as the seat of the Counts of Thiele-Winckler, by Franz Von Winckler on the site of earlier court buildings. It had a ground floor, one floor and attic.

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Winckler was a local mining entrepreneur, who through marriage, acquired large areas of land in the Katowice and Myslowice areas that were developed for mining and smelting purposes. The entire estate management was transferred to this manor house and Winckler appointed his school friend Friedrich Wilhelm Grundmann.

Friedrich Wilhelm Grundmann
Friedrich Wilhelm Grundmann

At various times Wojciech Korfantego street was known as Castle Street or Schloßstrasse - German for The Castle. (source: Wikipedia)

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Schloss = castle - the crossroads to the north of the "castle" is where Spodek is now.
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Schloss = castle - also showing the layout of the ornamental gardens.
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An aerial view of the "castle" in the 1970s before it was knocked down. It's the building in the middle of the picture.

Although there had been plans to use the building for the Museum of the Silesian Uprisings, it was demolished by the authorities and the Secretary of the Provincial Committee of the Communist Party of Zdzislaw in December 1976.

Hotel Katowice and the manor house
The Manor house ("castle") is in the bottom left corner of the picture which was probably taken in the 1970s.

The first eating, drinking and sleeping place in Katowice

The first tavern or inn - an eating, drinking and sleeping place - in Katowice was established at the crossing point of the Rawa River in the centre of Katowice, in the now market place, where the Skarbek building is now.

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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 (market place) going in the direction of Krakow along the line of Warszawska Street.

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The Tavern appears on the right hand side this picture of about 1850. It is on the south-East side of the pond. Source: The Museum of Katowice History.

This was a natural resting place for travellers along this important trading route between Gliwice and Krakow. It appears to have been established before 1816 near the Bogucka blacksmith's Forge - which goes back to 1397 - so it is likely that the inn could go back hundreds of years, although perhaps not the same building. It would have had stables and there is evidence that it also had a brewery. An unknown visitor in writing a letter in 1832 reported that the tavern towered over the thatched houses as he approached it.

Unfortunately, the tavern, which appears to have been a wooden building, collapsed in 1864 - just before Katowice officially became a town. Six years earlier the more substantial Hotel Welt was opened in 1848. In 1850 Johann Strauss played there with his orchestra.

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Scarbek 1975 - just after it had been built
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Scarbek in the late 1990s
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Hotel Welt 1872

The hotel Welt was burned down in 1945 by invading the town Red Army.The Zenit department store now stands in its place.

Source: Wikipedia

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.

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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.

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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.

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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
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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. 

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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.
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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
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The forge pond looking south west towards 3 Maja Street (3 May Street) around 1865. Source: The Museum of Katowice History.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.

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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. 

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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.

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© 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
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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.
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And on the night!

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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.

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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.

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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.
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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.