New interactive map celebrates Gdynia’s rich modernist heritage
Gdynia’s growing reputation as an architectural gem has been given a further boost by the launch of a new interactive map celebrating its rich modernist heritage.
Titled Szkło, metal, detal (www.szklometaldetal.pl), the website was created by the Gdynia City Museum and co-funded by the Ministry of Culture as part of their ongoing “culture online” programme.
Marketed as “a virtual compendium of knowledge relating to Gdynia’s architecture”, the page drew inspiration from an acclaimed exhibition of the same name held four years back. Making its online debut last Friday, it’s now hoped that the exhibition’s transfer to the virtual world will open the copious glories of Gdynia to a new, wider audience.
Addressed towards researchers, historians, tourists and architecture buffs, the bi-lingual resource offers a detailed romp through the city’s modernist era, with an exhaustive haul of images supplemented by often detailed texts relating to each featured building’s history and background.
Already enthusiastically received by both the press and general public, the page’s early success is the latest PR triumph for a city that has often struggled from a touristic point of view to emerge from the shadow of nearby Gdańsk.
Recently, however, this balance has been redressed thanks in no small part to surging interest in the aesthetic values of the modernist period – and in this regard, no Polish city can compete with Gdynia.
Christened in 1919, Gdynia was intended to serve as “Poland’s gate unto the world”, a modern seaport that would represent the dreams and aspirations of the newly independent Polish state and act as an economic rival and counter-weight to what was then the semi-autonomous Free City of Danzig.
Keenly promoted by the government of the time as “a monument to the entrepreneurship and culture of a great nation,” it rapidly became a booming economic success story that attracted a deluge of ambitious newcomers.
With investment buoyed by the promise of generous tax breaks, its population soon rocketed upwards; in a matter of years, what had been an insignificant backwater had transformed into a thriving fledgling city.
“Nothing can compare to the astonishment of seeing Gdynia after five years,” wrote novelist Maria Dąbrowska. “Surely such a transformation can only happen on the boundaries of California.
“The alleyway I walked along eight years ago, treading on sand among rows of thatched cottages, is no more – it has been replaced by a broad avenue filled with banks, hotels and tenement houses, surrounded by an entire city of today or tomorrow, a space for all kinds of experiments, giant blocks of cubist buildings.”
Upcoming architects converged on Poland’s youngest city with their over-arching style strongly favouring new architectural philosophies that placed an emphasis on social justice; everyone, went the mantra, was entitled to light, views and air.
Functionality became a buzzword and Gdynia’s architectural aesthetic embraced simplicity over the gauche excesses of yesteryear. Less became more.
Yet while its architecture caught the zeitgeist during the inter-war period, in later years the buzz began to flicker and fade. Where once the pristine white colours that adorned the modernist facades seemed to reflect the vibrancy and optimism of the inter-bellum, over time the lustre was lost.
Now, however, the city has come full circle. Revelling in a deserved reputation as a dynamic urban centre, its profile has grown in tandem with a rediscovered appreciation of its architecture.
With Gdynia’s modernist layout entered into the Register of Historical Monuments in 2007 – a decision later ratified in 2015 by the Ordinance of the President of Poland – it now finds itself lauded as both a “symbol of Poland’s Second Republic” and a living monument to history.
To read detailed information about the buildings and to take a full virtual tour click here.