Polish cities and towns reflect a sense of nostalgia and a confluence of various architectural styles. Polish cities and towns reflect a whole spectrum of European architectural styles. Romanesque architecture is represented by St. Andrew’s Church, Krakow, and St. Mary’s Church, Gdansk, and is characteristic of the Brick Gothic style found in Poland. Richly decorated attics and arcade loggias are the common elements of Polish Renaissance architecture, as evident in the City Hall in Poznan.
For some time the late renaissance style known as mannerism, most notably in the Bishop’s Palace in Kielce, coexisted with the early baroque style, typified in the Church of Saints Peter and Paul in Krakow. History has not been kind to Poland’s architectural monuments. Nonetheless, a number of ancient structures have survived: castles, churches, and stately homes, often unique in the regional or European context. Some of them have been painstakingly restored, like Wawel Castle, or completely reconstructed, including the Old Town and Royal Castle of Warsaw and the Old Town of Gdansk. Traditional folk architecture in the villages and small towns scattered across the vast Polish countryside is characterized by its extensive use of wood as the primary building material.
Some of the best preserved and oldest structures include wooden churches and tserkvas primarily located across southern Poland in the Beskids and Bieszczady regions of the Carpathian mountains. Numerous examples of secular structures such as Polish manor houses (dworek), farmhouses (chata), granaries, mills, barns and country inns (karczma) can still be found across most regions of Poland. These structures were mostly built using the horizontal log technique, common to eastern and northern Europe since the Middle Ages and also going further back to the old Slavic building traditions, exemplified by the wooden Grod (a type of fortified settlement built between the 6th and 12th centuries).
These traditional construction methods were utilized all the way up to the start of the 20th century and gradually faded in the first decades when Poland’s population experienced a demographic shift to urban dwelling away from the countryside. Postmodernist architecture Postmodernism as a current in the architecture of the turn of the 20th and the 21st century appeared in Poland with a long delay, for its beginning should be considered the turn of the 80s and 90s. In sacral architecture, in which the investor (mainly the Catholic Church) and architect designing for him were not constrained by centrally set standards, and the most serious limitation was the availability of building materials, modern trends from world architecture appeared in Poland much earlier, as already in the mid – 1970s.
At the same time growing criticism of industrialized construction and typical projects, and urban planning appeared in the search for spatial arrangements referring to the historical theme of the street. In single-family housing, the use of pitched roofs has been resumed. In the mid-1980s, the first so-called seals, or buildings filled gaps in the existing urban tissue.
They were erected to make better use of the existing infrastructure and to improve the image of the urban space, whether in places after the historical building destroyed during the war or among large-panel buildings. The infill buildings usually referred to the image of a traditional tenement house, by introducing a mansard, peaks, bay windows or breaks, but not a direct pastiche. The flourishing postmodernist architecture took place after 1989. Commercial buildings, such as multi-screen cinemas or shopping centres, are often examples of completely functionally solved objects, additionally decorated with towers, arches, etc.
At the same time, higher-class objects were created, with a deeply thought-out form, often inscribed in the difficult urban context of the centres of big cities and interpreting the neighbouring with them, old architecture. There are several currents in Polish architecture: the nostalgic trend is very strong, striving to restore the traditional forms of architecture, manifested in the reconstruction of destroyed historical districts of many cities (Szczecin, Elbląg, and Glogow) in the 1990s. There are also neomodernist tendencies, especially in the architecture of Krakow and Warsaw.
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