Building Utopia

Features 17 September 2013 ilabs 0

Building Utopia Building Utopia

Intended to be a beauty, it transpired to be beast. The Insider takes a walk around Oskar Hansen’s ambitious Grochowski housing project.

Having used ‘open form’ approaches to build housing estates twice before (first in Rakowiec, then Lublin), Oskar Hansen landed another opportunity in 1963, this time at the beachhead in Grochowski, Warsaw. 

The task handed him was simple: the housing cooperative wanted a dozen apartment blocks, but minimal elevators – no doubt to save on costs. Inspired by the plight of his sick mother, who at the time was virtually stranded in her high-rise due to the erratic workings of the lifts, Hansen and his team set about designing a low-lying, inter-locking set of buildings: 1.5km long, and broken in 22 places. 

The estate was designed to encourage a feeling of safety and closeness, as well as to suit practical purposes: if one of the few elevators did break down, residents would still be able to walk from one gallery to the next. 

Today though, this once ideal living environment is now anything but. Noise and crime concerns led to both windows and galleries being sealed and barred, destroying the original aesthetic and social vision. Comprising of 1,800 flats, and housing some 7,000 people, it wasn’t long before Hanson’s bold blueprint was dubbed Beijing – an overcrowded settlement beset with troubles.

Find it on ul. Ostrycka 2/4. 


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