Model-maker creates delightful miniatures of pre-war Warsaw – and ends up on cover of Iron Maiden album
It’s early morning in the north of Warsaw and to escape the hustle and bustle of rush hour mayhem we are sitting in a cosy basement studio.
Housed in a 1960s multi-storey tower block, the place is crammed with hundreds of cheerfully colourful miniature buildings, resembling a hatchery of old-school Warsaw houses.
This is the domain of model-maker Paweł Chmurzyński, who for over ten years has been painstakingly designing the chocolate box-style miniatures.
“It is difficult to count exactly, but so far I have made at least 500 models,” the 42-year-old tells TFN.
“From what I know myself, and from what I have been told by other people, I have every right to claim that thanks to my Studio Miniatur, Warsaw is the most ‘miniaturized’ city in Europe. Or, maybe, even the most ‘miniaturized’ city in world,” the 42-year-old chuckles.
It’s hard not to agree, and harder still not to admire the craftsmanship behind them.
A graduate in the History of Art, Chmurzyński initially planned on becoming a university lecturer before his childhood love of design and manual activities took over and he began combining his historical knowledge of the Polish capital with his passion.
“I try to make the models as accurately as possible, which is not an easy task, taking into account their scale, mostly 1:200. I would say that now, after years of experience, they are about 98 percent accurate,” Chmurzyński admits.
“The most important thing,” he continues, “is photography.
“When I intend to make a model of a building that still exists, I take photographs of it from all angles possible, to have clear 3D vision of it.
“But the real challenge is when it comes to making a model of a house that was destroyed during WWII.
“Then it takes a lot of research in the archives to find photos of facades. Sometimes that’s not enough and I need to get additional material, like old aerial photos or original architectural plans,” he explains.
Then comes the painstaking work of carving out the shape of the building.
“For sure it’s the most time-consuming part,” he admits. “But I am sure it would surprise you to know, the most difficult part is something else. It is getting the colours right.
“I am always trying to create a model that looks like the original. And virtually all archive photos I get are in black and white. So, sometimes it’s a true detective task to find out what the original colour of a particular building was.
“You can never be 100 percent sure, it’s always a guess. But there are some clues.
“For example, in pre-war Warsaw there were rules concerning the use of paint in which a building could be coated.
“The vibrant, intensive shades of blue or green were strictly prohibited.”
Although most of Chmurzyński’s creations are buildings, on occasion he does make other things too – and on one occasion in particular.
He told TFN: “I like Iron Maiden a lot, and also Bruce Dickinson’s solo albums.
“On the cover one of them, Accident of Birth, there is a painting of a jester holding a club with spikes. I liked it so much that I made a real-life model of this figure.
“And then, when Dickinson was playing in Warsaw, I managed to get backstage and gave it to him as a souvenir.
“The musician was delighted, but at the same time bit concerned about putting this thing covered in spikes into the cockpit of an airplane, Dickinson is also a pilot.
“So Imagine my surprise, when later I saw on the cover of Iron Maiden’s Flight 666 soundtrack a picture of a panicked Bruce Dickinson in the cockpit of the plane, accompanied by my jester with the spiked club,” he chuckles.
Chmurzyński says his next challenge is to recreate houses and buildings which were later subsumed into the Warsaw Ghetto.