Urban architecture, modern and historic.

Mazovia is packed with urban architecture from different historical and cultural eras. The capital of the country is most diverse, due to its size, importance and past. Historical cradle of the capital city – Old Town, is a typical 17th and 18th century architecture, but at the same town it is located on a middle-ages town plan, and surrounded with a ring of defensive walls from 14-15th century. The old district of Warsaw is happily situated at the banks of Vistula River; composed of the Old Town and the New Town; and as it is so charming that it is very often used for film locations. Tenant houses – each different, have three or four floors, high roofs, are colorful and full of ornaments. The Old Town is full of secret cul-de-sacs, big and small churches, little gardens, narrow stairs, wide squares and markets full of cafe umbrellas. This is a touristic center of the town. What’s interesting, it is also a UNESCO listed heritage, which is almost fully a reconstruction, as 90% of the Old Town was completely destroyed during WW II.

The Old Town is a beginning of a so called Royal Tract which runs as far as to Wilanow and covers a vast part of the reconstructed historic architecture. One of the most popular Polish film sceneries are beautiful historic renovated streets: Krakowskie Przedmiescie with beautiful 19th century University of Warsaw and Nowy Swiat, the trendiest street of Warsaw, with neighboring charming, green backyards. There are more examples of the historic architecture in Warsaw, e.g. classical Saska Axis, which is nowadays just a piece of previous construction; spacious Bankowy Square with gigantic city hall.

Historic conditions have made almost all towns of Mazovia full of historic or reconstructed buildings from past eras. Radom has not so far been much used in films despite its effective Zeromskiego Street that runs through the town with classical, light tenant houses, beautiful churches and squares, or a bit grayish and gloom,  but charming old town with some of the buildings dating back as far as to the middle ages. We should also remember about Radom ghetto, which kept its original character much more than Warsaw, and you can still feel the peril there. One of the most beautiful and oldest Polish towns is Plock. From the Tumski Hill, a sixty meter high slope, on which the city is located, you can see Vistula and green areas of town. You can walk on charming 19th century streets of Plock, visit churches, synagogue and watch granaries which are typical for Vistula banks.

Film crews will find much more historical urban architecture in Mazovia, because even small towns kept its old character. Gora Kalwaria, a town nearby Warsaw, is an interesting place as it is built on a plan of a Latin cross with characteristic post-military buildings and numerous historic objects, like old school or town hall. Warka, situated upon Pilica River, is very picturesque with its square market and old parish church. Pultusk is one of the most popular destinations of film crews. Its old town includes rectangular market which is almost 400 meters long and considered to be the longest in Europe. It is highly valued by photographers as it allows taking impressive film pictures.

Dozens of little towns and cities of Mazovia that can be used as scenery for different films as the catalogue of styles and historic traditions are countless. There are little towns like Glowaczow or Brok with old wooden architecture, or towns with spa or summer holiday architecture, like Konstancin-Jeziorna or Swider upon Vistula. Warsaw is special also because of pre-war villa districts, with sometimes very interesting architecture, flooded in green. Zoliborz, Ochota, Mokotow, Saska Kepa are full of these inspiring houses, often with gas lanterns that highlight the pre-war charm of these boroughs.

On the other hand, even in downtown Warsaw, Siekierki, or Praga, you can find estates full of simple buildings, single-storey houses, and dark alleys which bring you back to early 20th century Warsaw. Praga itself, currently the trendiest borough of the city, attracts film crews with contrasts – you can find here grey, climatic streets from the 1960s, and old quarters of poverty, as well as extremely interesting postindustrial architecture. One of the most beautiful objects there, is Koneser – former vodka factory, currently a venue for cultural events.

You can find many postindustrial buildings in Praga, and all around Warsaw. Other towns and cities of Mazovia also offer such locations, e.g. Radom, former industrial town, has such objects in city center; or Zyrardow, where you can find the most beautiful old factories, lofts and facilities in Mazovia, as well as other examples of industrial architecture similar to Lodz (e.g. red brick).

Anotherworth mentioning style is socialist realism with its most interesting examples in Warsaw. Constitution Square (Plac Konstytucji) and MDM district, built in the 1950’s was inspired with the same style, to include street arrangement, squares, monumental sculptures and lanterns. The most important example of the socialist realism is the Palace of Science and Culture in Warsaw, monumental structure designed to match similar buildings in Moscow.

All Mazovia towns are full of panel housing estates from the 1970s and 1980s. The most prominent example is Sluzew nad Dolinka in Warsaw, which became scenery for Kieslowski’s "Decalogue", and the biggest housing estate in Poland – Ursynow (Warsaw), which is very popular for shooting contemporary feature films. Today, the concrete estates are flooded with green which tames and tones down their standard architecture.

It has to be mentioned that Mazovia towns and cities are exceptional because of the number of green areas. Warsaw is considered to be one of the greenest cities in Europe. There are few reasons for that. Vistula banks, on which the city sits, are natural areas of urban green. The Vistula boulevards are just there, dominated by the effective Copernicus Center, a modern technology park. The other side of the Vistula river, the Praga side, is not regulated and astonishes ecologists with its natural river flora. One of the greenest boroughs of Warsaw is currently Powisle which is situated in between the Center and Vistula banks. Its social life is most active under the pillars of the Poniatowski Bridge that was built in early 20th century and near the University of Warsaw Library. Cascade architecture of Powisle reminds towns of southern Europe, and the most beautiful parts of it are step-streets: Gornoslaska or Profesorska.

Warsaw has two beautiful palaces with parks which are known world-wide. Lazienki Royal Park is an exquisite example of classic architecture: romanesquetic Palace on the Water (Palac na Wodzie) and Old Orangery (Stara Pomaranczarnia), with original 18th century court theatre, one of the few left in that shape in Europe, to be the two most recognized. Geometrical but at the same time romanesquetic park is cut with canals, ponds and interesting tree clusters. It is impossible to list all historic objects in Lazienki, but we should definitely remember about the green amphitheater, Temple of Sybilla or Belvedere, currently residence of the President of the Republic. Lazienki have fine competition for the title of capital city’s biggest attraction: 17th century Wilanow Palace, royal summer residence, one of the most valuable monuments of European baroque, surrounded with geometrical garden that has been lately completely renovated.

Ujazdowski Park, Morskie Oko Park, Saski Park, Skaryszewski Park, Praski Park, Saski Garden, Jazdow – are only few of the many green areas of Warsaw. A great example of the modern green architecture can be found on the roof garden of the University of Warsaw Library, which is an interesting public building itself. The capital city has two forests within its city limits: Kabaty in the south and Bielanski in the north. But urban green can be also found in other towns and cities: Radom, Plock and  by riverside of Ostroleka.

Warsaw also has the finest cemeteries in Mazovia. Powazki would be the first to mention – with diversity of grave stones and sculptures, depicted in many Polish films, but also its Jewish and military cemetery. You can find interesting necropolis outside the city as well: Military Cemetery in Palmiryoverwhelming with rows of crosses, with graves of over 2000 Poles murdered during WWII. A somewhat necropolis, or rather a monument of the victim of War is a former concentration camp – Museum of Fight and Martyrdom in Treblinka, which is a branch of the Regional Museum in Siedlce.

The biggest and most effective center of modern architecture is found in Warsaw, which has been dynamically growing since the 1990s, in the area of industrial and housing infrastructure. Every year the capital welcomes new skyscrapers, office buildings and hotels. Parts of Wola, a borough adjacent to the Center, seems to be most interesting for film crews. Next to the modern shape of Hilton hotel, you can see old empty tenant houses, dark alleys contrast with glass and steel of new objects.

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