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The longest block in Poland. What is the phenomenon of the Gdańsk Falowiec?

30 of October '23

First they were the pride of the Gdańsk construction industry, in the 1980s and 1990s they were shrouded in disrepute, but today the wave houses are back in favor. And as an icon of Gdańsk architecture they find their way into an exhibition at the Gdańsk City Gallery.

Although some are delighted with the falowiec, while others are completely unable to see the beauty in it, it cannot be denied the title of the most distinctive residential building in the capital of the Pomeranian Voivodeship. In total, there are eight such long blocks of flats, whose shape and arrangement of balconies resemble a gentle wave, in Gdańsk. The most famous is the one on Obrońców Wybrzeża Street, built in 1970-1973. It has no equal in Europe, the longer residential building is only Karl-Marx-Hof in Vienna. The ten-story building is 860 meters long and has as many as 5,000 residents. It was designed by Tadeusz Różanski, Danuta Oledzka and Janusz Morek.

impossible to take your eyes off

Exhibition curator Klaudiusz Grabowski, working on an exhibition about a couple of distinguished architects: Danuta and Daniel Olędzka, he came across a lot of material about the Danzig wave building. He decided that it would be a sin not to use them. The result is an exhibition telling the story of the phenomenon of this icon of Gdańsk architecture. The exhibition can be seen until January 21, 2024 at the Gdańsk City Gallery.

I was born in Gdańsk, the Wave House has made a big impression on me since I was a child," says Klaudiusz Grabowski in an interview with AiB.—The long buildings stretching towards the sea are visible in the landscape of Przymorze when driving a car or a streetcar. It is impossible to take your eyes off them.

The project? Up to three once apiece!

And yet, remind the organizers of the exhibition, the wave towers might not have been built at all—their place could have been taken by a row of skyscrapers. Anyway, the realized project is the third version of the building, the first two were rejected. The first assumed the construction of a building with a very varied body with varying heights—from two to twelve stories. The second version lived to see design development, it envisaged covered, suspended galleries, but this idea was also lost as too expensive. Thus, the wave towers we admire today are the third of the proposed variants.

Falowiec, zdjęcie archiwalne

Wave tower, archival photo

Mat. by Danuta Olędzka

"When they began to be built, they aroused a lot of interest—they were described as the pride of Danzig construction. Along with the Crane or the Oliwa Cathedral, the wave towers were a must-see on the tour route in all guidebooks. With time, the wave houses began to enjoy a bad reputation. Like other „block housing estates,” and in fact Polish society as a whole, they were affected by the economic crisis that took hold in the 1980s and 1990s. Since then, however, much has changed, the buildings are being renovated, and apartments in them have become a desirable address. Falowce is located in a well-communicated district, and a remarkable advantage is the proximity of the sandy beach and the sea," the authors of the exhibition "The Phenomenon of Falowiec—the genesis and reception of an icon of Gdańsk architecture" argue .

In the exhibition we start from why the wave houses were built in the first place," says Klaudiusz Grabowski, curator of the exhibition.—The postwar baby boom meant that the demand for housing was very high. In search of a solution, a competition was announced for a large residential district of Przymorze, and the result is the wave houses. In the exhibition we discuss the shaping of the block itself, which was heavily influenced by the investor, and the architects were limited by the normative. We show what the interiors of the apartments looked like, and outline the social theme thanks to the work of Milena Banaszewska, who documented the life of the residents of Falowiec. We look for an answer to the question of how the wave houses interact with other branches of art. We present an excerpt from the documentary film „Blocks” by Konrad Królikowski, which analyzes housing construction of the period.

The exhibition consists of archival photos, books, postcards, documentaries, commemorative medals, a comic book with a wave house, prints and photographs from an exhibition of equipment and furniture held in 1972 in three wave house apartments. The creators of the exhibition, using audio materials, also give voice to the residents themselves. Visitors to the exhibition, when they look under their feet, will see on the floor a projection of a typical M3 in a wave building.

Plakat promujący wystawę Fenomen Falowca w Gdańskiej Galerii Miejskiej

Poster promoting the Phenomenon of the Wave House exhibition at the Gdańsk City Gallery

press mat.

Chaos in place of carefully designed spaces

Today, along with the image of the wavy buildings, their surroundings are also changing in the blink of an eye. Like mushrooms after rain, new housing projects are springing up, which, unfortunately, are often characterized by low-quality architecture. We write about the latest project planned in the vicinity of the falowiec in the text "99-meter Big Boy will grow in Gdańsk Przymorze. But it's not the height that provokes discussion."

A tak prezentuje się nowa zabudowa, która powstaje w okolicy

And this is how the new development being built in the area looks like

Ewa Karendys

The winners of the 1959 competition for the urban-architectural design of the Oliwa-Przymorze residential district in Gdańsk Tadeusz Różanski and Jozef Chmiel carefully designed the surroundings, emphasizes Klaudiusz Grabowski.—They planned spaces for common areas, green areas and large shopping malls. On the other hand, years later we see the sealing of this space, today we have spatial chaos, because the idea, the original urban design proposed by the designers, is being crossed out.

Ewa Karendys

The vote has already been cast