The Palace of Culture and Science is located in the center of Poland’s capital city, Warsaw, in Plac Defilad Square (Parade Square). The construction was erected after the Second World War, at Stalin’s request.
He intended the building to be a present to the Polish people, but the gift was in no way received with arms wide opened as it was but an emphasis on the fact that Poland was at that time under Soviet ruling. The initial name of the edifice was Joseph Stalin Palace of Culture and Science, but the name survived only while the Soviets were in power. When the USSR fell, Stalin’s name was crossed out. Thus the edifice bore the simple name of Palace of Culture and Science.
The skyscraper is the tallest one in Warsaw and it positions itself on the 8th place among the highest buildings on the European continent.
There is a lot of controversy revolving around the palace. On the one hand, it is a constant reminder of the grim past, when Warsaw was under Stallinist rule, but on the other, it is an imposing edifice, whose architecture is impresive to the core. Not to mention that the palace was on the verge of being demolished when the Berlin Wall fell.
The 42-storey building which measures more than 234 m has many ‘usages’. There are two halls, one for exhibitions and one for conferences – the latter being big enough to hold 3.000 individuals -, an entertainment and culture section which comprises a theatre, a cinema, a museum and a bookstore, office quarters, as well as a media centre from where are broadcasted television and radio programs.
The idea for the building sparked when the USSR and Poland signed an agreement in April, 1952. But it became an official plan 3 months later, when the Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs at that time confirmed that the construction will not take long to begin. But as determined as everyone was to initiate the construction work, one aspect was still not decided upon: the purpose for which the edifice was erected.
The Soviets had in mind to create a replica of the Moscow State University, but the Polish population was not so fond of the idea, and they wanted instead a center of science and culture. In the initial project, the plan for the building was at a much smaller scale, of only 100 m in height, but the architects raised this number at 230 m. About 7.000 people were involved in the construction work of the Palace of Culture and Science, both of Russian and Polish origin.
The edifice is adorned with an impressive number of sculptural works of art (exceeding 550) – the majority of which were crafted in Estonia expressly for this palace. But for a considerable period of time visitors were not allowed to enter the Palace. Only those that had a special type of pass could step inside the edifice.
The exact reason for which this occurred was not made public and the result was that a number of rumours emerged concerning the feeble structure of the palace. There were other rumours as well which came to life, such as the idea that the palace had 5 basements. The reality is that there are only two underground rooms, but there is one noteworthy characteristic that these hold – each of them measures 5 m in height.
For travelers, it should be mentioned that the Palace of Culture and Science has a “smaller counterpart” in Latvia’s capital city, Riga. The Academy of Science located in Latvia resembles the Polish Palace in the architectural designed conveyed. More so, it has the same origin, as the Academy of Science was also a gift from the Soviet Union, this time to the industrial laborers and farmers of Latvia.