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A colorful walk in the evening? A Nowa Huta guide will help

Wiktor Bochenek
06 of February '23

Are you coming to Krakow, but don't want to walk only in the old city again? Maybe you live in Krakow, but Nowa Huta is still a mystery to you? A unique guide will help with that!

Nowa Huta is a land of untapped potential for Krakow, although we are still maturing to this perception. We very often report on how this part of the city is changing — from the changes that Rose Avenue has been waiting for for many years to the restoration of neon signs. After many years of struggle, Nowa Huta will finally become a Monument of History.

Nowa Huta can be toured in a wide variety of ways; a comprehensive architectural guidebook was proposed several years ago by the Krakow Route of Modernism. One more has joined the new ways of sightseeing — the neon trail. The Norwid Cultural Center has created a „Guide to the Neon Signs of Nowa Huta,” with which we can explore one of the most underrated districts in Krakow through the prism of a unique cultural resource — neon signs.

Neony „kino” i „ŚWIT”

neon signs „kino” and „ŚWIT”.

Photo: M. Rymarz | ©. C. K. Norwid Culture Center

The authors of the guide talk about how the idea for the guide was born, the place of neon signs on the map of Nowa Huta's heritage, and the future of making this heritage accessible.

Wiktor Bochenek: It is worth starting from the beginning. How did the idea for the „Route of Nowa Huta neon signs" project come about?

Jarosław Klaś: The beginning was in 2017. At that time, we were implementing a project at the Norwid Cultural Center called „Alternative Guide to Nowa Huta,” which proposed a new look at local heritage and unconventional routes around the district. One of the topics we chose was neon signs, as they were already generating a lot of interest. The walk was led by Michal Ostasz. When he prepared the route and text, it turned out that not much was known about the neon signs... Basically, only that there were a lot of them, they were cool and there were some left. Since then, we have been thinking about treating this topic more deeply and broadly. The opportunity came when the District Council in 2021 passed a resolution to create a neon trail in Nowa Huta. A year later, the Department of Culture and National Heritage of the Office of the City of Kraków proposed that the Center deal with the neon theme. We were already in the starting blocks. We gathered experts and started work.

Neon „Huta Sztuki”

The neon sign "Huta Sztuki"

Photo: M. Rymarz | ©. C. K. Norwid Cultural Center

Wiktor: An important element of the project is the "Guide to the neon signs of Nowa Huta". What can you find in it and why is it worth reaching for when visiting Nowa Huta?

Monika Koziol: The main element of the guide is the inventory, which is the result of a months-long search conducted by Dr. Joanna Suchowiak-Horzemski and Paweł Bochenek. This is the heart of the guide, showing how many neon signs were located in the area of Nowa Huta. The inventory is also accompanied by a trail mapped out by the aforementioned authors, which leads from the Na Skarpie housing estate through Central Square, Al. Róż, Teatralne estate, ending at the Kazimierzowski estate. In addition, the publication includes a text by Dr. Joanna Suchowiak-Horzemski showing the process of creating neon signs, quoting and explaining the most important terms. Ms. Joanna is also the author of the second article, in which this time she outlined the historical outline and genesis of Nowa Huta neon signs. On the other hand, Dr. Anna Zabdyrska focused on the reception of neon heritage in Nowa Huta. In turn, Dr. Agnieszka Konior's text summarized a group interview, conducted with a group of Nowa Huta activists, on the opportunities and threats facing the neon heritage of Nowa Huta.

Neony „Sfinks” i „Ośrodek Kultury im. C. K. Norwida”

"Sphinx" and „C. K. Norwid Cultural Center” neon signs.

Photo: M. Rymarz | ©. C. K. Norwid Culture Center

Wiktor: During your search, did you manage to discover anything that was previously unknown?

Monika: First of all, it was possible to create the inventory of Nowa Huta neon signs, mentioned earlier, which has the form of a table with 173 items. This is the most up-to-date state of research, which we hope will become a contribution to the next ones. For we are aware that not everything has yet been discovered when it comes to Nowa Huta neon signs.

Neon „Markiza”

"Markiza" neon sign

Photo: M. Rymarz | ©. C. K. Norwid Culture Center

Wiktor: In addition to presenting the terminology, delineating the route, defining the value of this heritage, what else can we find in the guide?

Monika Koziol: The guide also presents the „Samosia” font, by Dominika Langosz and Dr. Anna Zabdyrska, which is inspired by Nowa Huta neon signs. Its name comes from the neon sign, which was designed by Anna Pawlak-Suchowiak and was located on the roof of a commercial pavilion in the Centrum D 7 housing development. This font can be downloaded free of charge from the C. K. Norwid Cultural Center 's website and used, if only to design your own neon sign.

Wiktor: What was the reaction of Nowa Huta residents to the creation of such a project and undertaking the publication of the guide?

Jaroslaw Klaś: Nowa Huta residents always react very positively to topics about their heritage, and the neon theme is probably one of their favorites. Neon signs are very sentimental, they evoke interest and memories. Many people helped our experts when there were questions or doubts — if only in comments on social networks.

I think many residents were pleased that someone is finally addressing this issue. Our autumn neon walks and the 2022 workshop (for children and adults) on neon design also attracted interest. Many people are asking when the next guided tours along the trail will take place. The „Samosia” fountain is also getting very positive reactions.


"PHILATELISTIC" neon sign.

Photo: M. Rymarz | ©. C. K. Norwid Culture Center

Wiktor: It is also worth asking about a rather trivial thing, but why is it worth recalling these neon signs?

Monika: Nowa Huta's neon signs were part of the urban fabric. To a large extent, they were created when the district was being built. That's probably why there is so much sentiment among residents for them. But beyond this aspect, what is important is that neon signs are part of the heritage of Nowa Huta. They are also an example of great design, which is worth recalling and promoting.

Wiktor: Is this an item for locals or more for tourists?

Monika: I think the guide will work well for residents as well as tourists. The route marked out in it allows you to traverse Nowa Huta along a neon trail, which can be interesting and surprising both for people who know this part of Kraków, and for those who are there for the first time.

Wiktor: What is the matter of access to the publication? How will the online version be available?

Monika: Currently, the publication can be purchased at the headquarters of the C. K. Norwid Cultural Center (Górali estate 5) as well as at the Cafe Nowa bookstore. In the future, we also plan to post a free electronic version of the guide on our institution's website.

Wiktor: What are your plans for the future related to this project, as well as promoting the heritage of Nowa Huta?

Monika: We will certainly observe with great interest how the „Guide to the Neon Signs of Nowa Huta” is received. We also plan to include walks on the trail of Nowa Huta neon signs in the offer of the Nowa Huta Heritage Laboratory. We will also carry out other projects related to the heritage of Nowa Huta, including those relating to the artistic environment of the district, the history of the C. K. Norwid Cultural Center, as well as greenery in public space.

Już dziś przewodnik można kupić, docelowo będzie dostępny online

The guide can already be purchased today, eventually it will be available online

© C. K. Norwid Culture Center

interviewed Wiktor Bochenek

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