Katowice shares a lot of similarities with Ostrava; the town has mostly developed in last 180 years after industrialization; it used to be the most important mining town in the post war Poland. Over the years it became a cultural centre as the capital of the Silesian region.
We arrived in Katowice station on Sunday afternoon. Our hotel was the highest building in town and the view from 27th floor stretches for miles. I couldn’t decide if I preferred the look of Katowice from above or below. The city landscape with monumental mining shafts erected almost in the city centre with high tower blocks from each side of the town left from communist area of the town are overwhelming when viewed from the top of the tower hotel. When you are in the centre itself there are many opportunities to appreciate the dynamic town of Katowice. The central part of town formed in 19th century and in the present day is a mixture of 19th century eclectic buildings, examples of Art Nouveau mixed with modernist architecture and communist “giants” such as Spodek (concert hall) and Superjednostka (15 floors block of flats almost 2km in length, housing up to 30,000 people).
The Rynek – main square (which is not square at all) is under reconstruction at the moment. The streets are dug up and some of the traffic is stopped. During our stay the trams were still going through the partly blocked square, but it was obvious they will be redirected soon too. From the square there are some nice streets with cafes and restaurants such as Starowiejska or Mariacka street with neogothic Mariacki church at the end of the street. Mariacka street is a popular night destination for students who are a large part of population of Katowice in term time.
The main train station has been under reconstruction for last 2 years. The new design of Katowice Station created lots of controversy and protests from architects and local activists. The original station was built 1972 and it was the best example of the Brutalist form of Modernism in Poland. The building was designed by Wacław Kłyszewski, Jerzy Mokrzyński and Eugeniusz Wierzbicki. Using reinforced concrete they constructed 16 pillars of parabolic hyperbola shape popularly called “goblets” (kielichy); making a sculptural form that created the main station hall of 76 314 cubical meters. The station alongside Spodek became an iconic symbol of Katowice and its architecture. Unfortunately over the years the building became neglected and in 2008 there was a discussion about whether to renovate or rebuild the station. The Spanish Neinver firm won the design competition to rebuild the station, with a plan for an integrated shopping centre on the side of the station. To start with a decision was made to keep the original “goblets” form of the building but the developer using an excuse that the pillars were unsafe proposed the demolition of the vital part of the station (the developer wanted to build a road under the pillars to a new underground car park). Unfortunately despite the protests and efforts to list the building, the original pillars were pulled down, the last one fall in January 2011.The developer rebuilt all 16 pillars in the new structure. In my opinion it is a real shame that original pillars had to go and that the main form of the station is now going to be covered by new shopping centre.
I’m sad that I didn’t get a chance to record in the large hall of this iconic building. It made me think of projects that try to preserve the acoustics of the places, which will disappear with the time. Unfortunately I was too late.
I have decided to try to capture the sound of Katowice just as they are now with the sounds of a giant building site. It is interesting how much investment is going into this post-industrial city. There is a positive note in these sounds of construction sites; they give the city a feeling of growth and vibrancy, which is at once alarming with its jangling and crashing but also reassuring; sounding a positive note for the future growth and development of the city.