Image of a Hanseatic city in the latest Polish architectural solutions


  • Ewa Węcławowicz-Gyurkovich



The problem of the reconstruction of centres of Polish towns and cities after the destructions of the World War II evoke discussions even today. Over the first years after the war, in numerous cases the centres of historical cities and towns were lost; in the place of former market squares and networks of streets with tenements crowned with endwall trims, randomly dispersed concrete blocks of flats were erected, in order to satisfy urgent housing demands. The situation changed after 1980, when in Elbląg, Gdańsk, Szczecin, Kołobrzeg, a rule was adopted according to which the peripheral development of city quarters was to be recreated, restoring tenements located in historical plots of land, but contemporary in style, maintaining the silhouettes and sizes from years before. It is also possible to observe other activities in the solutions of the latest public utility buildings, which - often by using a sophisticated intellectual play - restore the climate and character of cities remembered and known from the past centuries. In the west and north of Europe there are many towns and cities, predominantly ports, which used to be members of Hansa. The organisation of Hansa, the origins of which reach back to the Middle Ages, associated a number of cities which could decide about the provision of goods to cities within a specific territory, and secure markets for products manufactured in them. Thanks to that, cities that belonged to Hansa were developing more rapidly and effectively, and the beginnings of their development within the territory of Germany and in the Baltic states date back to the 13th and 14th centuries. The peak period of the development of Hanseatic cities, where merchants were engaged in free trade with people from European countries, fell in the 14th and 15th centuries, but already in the 17th century there was a complete decline of Hansa, resulting from the occurrence of competition in the form of associations of Dutch and English cities, as well as the Scandinavian ones. From amongst Polish towns and cities, members of Hansa were e.g. Szczecin, Gdańsk, Kołobrzeg, Elbląg, as well as Cracow. In 1980 an association of partner cities of North Europe, dubbed a New Hansa, was established, the objective of which is to attract attention to the common development of tourism and trade. Nowadays, this New Hansa associates over a hundred cities, similarly to what once was in the medieval Hansa. Numerous Polish cities faced the problem of reconstruction after the destruction of the World War II. The effects varied. By adopting the programme of satisfying predominantly housing demands in the 1960s and 1970s, historical old towns in dozens of cities from amongst nearly 2 hundred destroyed by warfare of the World War II in the north and west of Poland were lost forever. Today we can still encounter ruins of Gothic churches in Głogów or Gubin, where in the place of a market square and tenements of townsmen, randomly located rows of typical four- or five-storey blocks of flats have been erected.