A cult of Warsaw that never was

temple of promise

Things that never even existed may become a part of the official discourse on the topic of the city, assuming the form of an intensified nostalgia: not for the things that no longer are, but for those that never had a chance to come into being. Stanisław Starzyński, the President of Warsaw who is mythologised as its heroic defender in September 1939, is increasingly being recalled as the patron of audacious visions of its development. Due to articles and interviews authored by Jarosław Trybuś and such documentaries as Porwanie Europy, rich with suggestive animations by the current students of the Department of Architecture in Warsaw, designs that have been covered with the dust of decades are coming back to life.
A grand formal estate with a Temple of Providence over a hundred metres in length was supposed to be built at Pole Mokotowskie; the grounds of the 1944 World Exhibition were to be recreated on the right bank of the Vistula; the city centre was to be graced with new squares and a Central Station, the construction of which was interrupted by the war. This is phantom architecture on a scale that, if not as monstrous as that of Speer’s Berlin, is no less imperial. Before the war, its drawings and plans managed to serve only as propaganda materials, but now it is returning as a point of reference for today’s designs of the Warsaw of the future. The debate on what ought to be built in place of the demolished “Supersam” store, as well as several entries in the resulting contest, referred to the pre-war design of the Polish Radio tower block that was to be built on the same plot of land. That antiquated vision served as an argument in favour of erecting a tall building here. Also, two of three awarded entries in the Temple of Providence contest bore a marked resemblance to unrealised pre-war design, even though today the Temple is to be constructed in what is quite a different part of the city.