Category: Architecture

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


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.


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.
























Text Sources:

Wikipedia, Spodex

Wikipedia, Huta Fanny

Wikipedia, Huta Franz

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.

the castle 1930s
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.

Franz Wincker

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)

Katowice centre to rondo map
Schloss = castle - the crossroads to the north of the "castle" is where Spodek is now.
layout of the manor house
Schloss = castle - also showing the layout of the ornamental gardens.
Castle aerial view - 1970s
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.


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.

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.

scarbeck 1975
Scarbek 1975 - just after it had been built
scarbeck 1997-99
Scarbek in the late 1990s
hotel welt 1872
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.

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


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.