Constructed in 1955, the building is the tallest in Poland and one of the tallest in Europe with a height of 237m (778ft). Although respected, the building is not like by all Varsoviansand as result has numerous nicknames. Pekin (because of its Polish abbreviation PKiN), and Pajac (which means “clown” … sounds similar to Pałac (palace) in Polish) the most common. It s also referred to as Stalin’s syringe, the Elephant in lacy underwear and the Russian wedding cake.
The building was originally known as the Josef Stalin Palace of Culture & Sciences, with the downfall of the Soviet Union, Stalin’s name was removed. The removal of all references to Stalin was not only from the name, his name was taken off the colonnades, interior lobby as well as all the building’s sculptures, on which it was written.
The construction began in 1952 and was completed in 1955 for its grand opening. It was planned as a gift to the people of Poland from the Soviet Union and was made using Soviet plans, 5000 Soviet workings along with 4000 Polish ones. The architectural style of the building is similar to several other constructions within the former Soviet Union, including the Moscow State University. The architect Lev Rudnev, travelled Poland looking for Polish inspiration to incorporate into his new design. Eventually, several Renaissance houses from Kraków and Zamość were used with their features being incorporated into the design.
The 6.3m (21ft) clock faces were not part of the original design but were added to the building for the millennium celebrations in 2000.
Controversy and uses
Shortly after its opening, the building hosted the 5thWorld Festival of Youth & Students, whilst in 1967 the Rolling Stones performed their first concert behind the ‘Iron Curtain’. The building is, by far, the city’s most visible landmark, however it has created controversy since day 1. Many Poles consider it a symbol of Soviet domination and have argued for it to be destroyed. Many others want the building to be removed purely for aesthetic reasons as it looks vastly out of place with other buildings of the Polish capital. With this in mind, an attempt to give the area a more homogenous appearance with the construction of many new skyscrapers has been made in the area in the past decade. Despite all its controversies, the building continues to be internationally recognized as a symbol of Warsaw.
The building today serves as an exhibition centre and office complex. It also has cinemas, four theatres, two museums, stores, a swimming pool, an auditorium which holds 3000 people and a university. The terrace on the 30thfloor at 114m (374ft) gives incredible views over the city.