Place Grunwaldzki i Narutowicza w Warszawie - odmienne realizacje przestrzeni publicznej. Historia i dzień dzisiejszy

Sławomir Gzell


The planning analysis of Warsaw’s public squares shows that one cannot talk of a “typical Warsaw square” – it simply doesn’t exist. Warsaw squares are not repetitive by nature; they are all different instead. As a result, if we wanted to create guidelines for a new square in Warsaw on the basis of an analysis of the existing squares, it simply can’t be done. On the other hand, we can say that the formal diversity of these squares is their strength. As part of a larger interconnected system (best seen on the city map), these squares provide passers-by with an opportunity to look at various urban interiors, and to locate a variety of services for residents. Squares are also an opportunity to create an individual identity for urban spaces, provided that the squares have a characteristic identity. Above all, they must be squares in the most common sense of the word, that is, they should be easily readable fragments of space limited by walls of a height appropriate for the size of the square. It is almost impossible to establish how much time is needed to create a public square in contemporary urban planning. In the archives, there are of course various annotations on plans and some dates entered by architects, but experience suggests that such information should be approached with caution. This is the result of the dynamics of urban life which dominate everything, often conflicts in the competitive effort to secure valuable space. Such processes are rudimentary elements of the planning and urban planning, and should not come as a surprise. It is, however, a real skill in the management of urban space to be able to keep the spirit of the place, or what we otherwise call the identity of the place, despite various events and changes. Two excellent examples are Warsaw’s boroughs of Żoliborz and Ochota, although this does not mean that urban planning has always been excellent there. Between 1921 and 1923, two new public squares were planned there – Grunwaldzki Square in Żoliborz, and Narutowicz Square in Ochota. In Żoliborz, this was done in connection with the creation of an entirely new district, built around a new city axis. This axis started in the former Citadel, which lost its role as a defence area, and ended in the new semi-circular Grunwaldzki Square. Narutowicz Square was planned as the official centre of the Ochota district. Both Grunwaldzki Square and Narutowicz Square were created as fragments of larger metropolitan projects built in the tradition of the historical French urban planning. At the same time, the architects used more modern trends in designing cities and green suburbs. The combination of the two produced interesting results in Warsaw – a city full of green spaces designed on a grand metropolitan scale. Thanks to such projects, Warsaw was able to evolve and lessen the difference in living conditions between older and newer boroughs. The civilizational aspect of both projects is evident.The fate of the two squares was different. While Narutowicz Square was carried to completion thus fulfilling its promises, significant parts of Grunwaldzki Square were never completed. An urban truth was confirmed here, that the delay in the execution of a project (regardless of the reasons) causes such far-reaching changes in the space that it loses its initial character. However, if one asked about these reasons, one should look for answers in the prosaic confrontation between intentions and possibilities. Narutowicz Square was located within a defined urban structure more modest in terms of planned buildings, and therefore easier to implement. Grunwaldzki Square was situated in an empty space at the far end of the city plan, and had to wait for the building work to reach it when shifting from the Citadel towards the west. Unfortunately, when this had happened after the Second World War, different urban planning rules were already in place in Warsaw. Such conclusions, however, are not entirely legitimate, since there is no tangible evidence that the events took this turn.
Author Sławomir Gzell (FA / CUDRL)
Sławomir Gzell,,
- Chair of Urban Design and Rural Landscape
Other language title versionsGrunwaldzki Square and Narutowicz Square in Warsaw – two cases of public spaces in the past and now
Journal seriesRocznik Historii Sztuki, ISSN 0080-3472, (C 10 pkt)
Issue year2018
Publication size in sheets0.55
Languagepl polski , en angielski
Score (nominal)10
Score sourcejournalList
ScoreMinisterial score = 10.0, 16-01-2020, ArticleFromJournal
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