In Nikiszowiec, the housing is terribly terribly permanent. Coming from a place where company housing was built, picked up, moved, rebuilt, swallowed by pits, this seems very strange. It has all the weight of New Lanark, if not quite the grace. It is solid in red brick, windows, doors and balconies picked out in bright red paint and wonderful details built into each and every facade.
It is beautiful. I know that does not mean it is necessarily a beautiful place to live. It does have a vaguely institutional feel, like the Peabody estates in London, which are from much the same time period.
From a local guidebook, Katowice in Your Pocket:
Built between 1908 and 1912 to house workers in the backyard of their place of employment – the large smoke-churning Wieczorek (formerly ‘Giesche’) coal mine – the enclosed residential complex of Nikiszowiec is composed of six compact four-sided three-storey blocks with inner courtyards. Distinguished by its uniformity of style – red brick buildings accented with red-painted windowframing, and narrow streets joined by handsome arcades – the neighbourhood was designed by Georg and Emil Zillman of Berlin-Charlottenburg to be a completely self-sufficient community for 1,000 workers with a school, hospital, police station, post office, swimming pool, bakery and church. Thanks to WWI and the subsequent Silesian Uprisings – St. Anne’s Church (Pl. Wyzwolenia 21) wasn’t able to be finished until 1927, but it became the crowning glory of the neighbourhood as soon as it was.
There is almost nothing written about them online in English, a fragment from google books notes that the Zillman’s were inspired by worker’s housing built by Krupp, and just as paternalistic. It is still owned by the company, but has become the subject of town regeneration and an attempt to get it declared a UNESCO heritage site. This explains both some of the crispness and the roughness around the edges, which I confess I liked very much.
A model of the development as a whole:
Nikiszowiec: Public Spaces:
A large central square, with church, hall, pubs, shops, cafes:
Each courtyard had room for ovens, playgrounds, animals…
Arches, and long beautiful streets. We heard they are normally filled with children, but weekends they are more for the tourists. The locals eyed us with indifference if not annoyance, and traces of an array of opinions about just why we thought this should be worthy of visiting at all:
The ‘Naive Art’ fair just starting as we left:
One rumour goes that every arch is different, and these differences were introduced to ensure that drunk miners always found their way home to the correct door…
Graffiti that means ‘fuck the police’, though an alternative explanation is that it means something like Put Your Windows in Your Basement from the days of a rumour that the police were raiding people looking for pirated copies of Windows.
And finally the mine itself:
Building community, building housing…and this is only the first of the two complexes of worker housing the Zillman’s built. The other, Giszowiec, is completely different and also for another post.
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