Category: Modernist 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

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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

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.

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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