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"Ursula turn up his tail" - paintings and mosaics at the railway station in Gdynia

23 of December '20

Pandemic times don't make it easy for us to discover new places and travel. Galleries and museums remain closed while we look for new ways to experience architecture and art. The past year has changed our thinking. This is definitely not a time for exclusive investments, but it is a good time to rediscover what we have.

mozaika na dworcu Gdynia Główna

EN: photo by Czupirek | Wikimedia ©CC-BY-SA-3.0-PL

In opposition to the praise of this "new, bigger, more glass, more concrete" and what amounts to a huge investment by a Tri-City developer along Trasa Kwiatkowskiego, we take a walk along the Route of Gdynia Modernism, one of the best options for outdoor architectural entertainment. So we take the train to the Gdynia

Gdynia Główna train station

The author of the design of the Central Railway Station is architect Waclaw Tomaszewski. The building, as expected - is an architectural landmark of modernist Gdynia, in a style combining the trends of late Art déco with elements of socialist realism. The design of the new station in Gdynia was carried out in successive stages in the period 1950-1955. The original design envisaged ticket offices, a waiting room and a youth common room on the first floor, while a cinema room and a cafeteria were planned on the first floor. Ultimately, the entire upper floor was occupied by Gdynia's largest café under the then prestigious ORBIS banner.

Under the supervision of the city and provincial conservationist and prominent architectural and art historians, the station underwent a major renovation, completed in 2012. The decorative element that is by far the most impressive are the ornate glass mosaics in the main lobby and the ceiling painting.

©Gdynia osobista | Instagram

mysterious painting

To the left of the entrance, where there used to be an upscale restaurant and now a beauty store, is an unusual wall painting. It was covered in January 2011, during preparations for renovation work. The painting dates back to 1957. Its author is most likely a team of artists led by Prof. Juliusz Gizbert-Studnicki. Initially thought to be only on the ceiling, the work was discovered on the walls of the room as well.

© Route of Modernism in Gdynia |

"It depicts a dragon with three heads, a bear, the sun, the zodiacal bull, a ram and fish suspended in the black sky. The dragons and stars found their way into the Gdynia station not by accident - they symbolize travel. The painting was made in 1957, by painters Krystyna Lada-Studnicka, Urszula Ruhnke-Duszeńko and Maks Kasprowicz, according to a design by Professor Julian Studnicki. He made the design on a scrap of paper measuring 20 by 20 cm. In order to fit somewhere with a sheet of paper the size of a train station ceiling, we needed a lot of space, so we found a dance hall in a pub on the market square in Chmielno," Urszula Ruhnke-Duszeńko recalled in Dziennik Bałtycki, "First we transferred the drawing onto the huge paper. We corrected each line with a knurl and punched holes. The sheet prepared in this way was attached to the ceiling of the Gdynia station and with the help of charcoal through these holes applied to the surface. Prof. Studnicki personally supervised the work, shouting, "Krystyna, add an expression to that dragon's eyes," or "Ursula, turn up its tail." We painted with tempera. The paint had to be diluted, so we mixed it with eggs, milk and vinegar. And when the painting was ready, we varnished it with beeswax. I remember that the artwork was very popular. People used to come to the train station to admire it."

mosaics by Teresa Pągowska

In addition to the painting, the glass mosaics, designed by Teresa Pągowska, catch the eye. Finding them was a huge surprise for restorers, as no mention of her appeared in the project documentation. The largest of them, to the left of the entrance, depicts a pair of winged horses and the symbol of railroad workers - a winged wing against a starry sky, as well as grids meant to symbolize meridians and parallels. The theme of the smaller mosaic - vis-a-vis the side entrance from Constitution Square - is the life of the port. And where the main entrance to the restaurant was originally, you can admire on the mosaics the fauna and flora of the underwater world and the sky above the marina with flags decorating the masts of sailing ships.

Also noteworthy are the coffered cove ceilings, black marble wall coverings and interior details.

Photo Pomeranian | Wikimedia CC-BY-SA-4.0,3.0,2.5,2.0,1.0

let's go for a walk

Art galleries and museums remain closed, travel hampered.... Our own backyards are experiencing their architectural moment. We are slowly appreciating what we have, these seemingly familiar buildings and interiors that we pass by, visit every day. It's worth taking a walk and looking around the city before it is overshadowed by the shadows and glare of glass-and-concrete developer massifs.

Marta Kowalska

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