A unique product of its time, one of Warsaw’s best surviving examples of 1990s architecture stands to lose it extraordinary color after plans were leaked suggesting that its exterior would be repainted.
Opened in 1992, and authored by architects Wolfgang Triessing and Maciej Nowicki, the Sobieski Hotel has often enjoyed a love-hate relationship with the Warsaw public.
Looming over Plac Zawiszy in a riot of color, the building’s façade was devised and painted by Hans Piccottini, an Austrian artist that sought to evoke the spirit of Warsaw’s Old Town through his use of bold, striking shades.
Immediately, it divided Varsovians. Eliciting a wave of negativity, the Sobieski was even named the worst building to be built between 1989 and 1995 in a poll conducted by Architektura-murator and Życie Warszawy.
Yet whilst its jarring color schemes still have the capacity to induce migraines, the building has undergone a rehabilitation of sorts – in 2020, it found itself included in the city conservator’s list of contemporary cultural assets.
Indelibly associated with the political and social transformation that the city underwent following the fall of Communism, for many the Sobieski (or the Radisson Blu Sobieski Hotel to give it its full, formal title), has come to symbolize the wild, chaotic 90s in their most vivid glory.
Although undeniably kitsch, several have praised the building for casting color on an otherwise glum chunk of Warsaw; yet others have lauded its ability to evoke childlike smiles through its high-impact colors. In this increasingly sanitized city, many have pointed out how the Sobieski has become an almost historical testament to the most bizarre and energetic period of Warsaw’s recent history.
It is the Sobieski’s colors, though, that are now under threat after it was revealed by journalist Ziemowit Szczerek that the building’s owners were seeking to repaint it using a more modest palette.
With many of the city’s prime examples of 90s architecture already dismantled or otherwise transformed beyond recognition, the news has sparked fierce debate among residents with nostalgists fearing that soon all traces of this thrilling period will be lost forever.
(Lead photo: Adrian Grycuk / Wikicommons)