Snapper creates amazing pics of ‘enchanting’ castle - but what is the mystery surrounding it?
A Łódź-based photographer has fired the imagination of the web with a series of stunning images of Zamek Łapalice, a half-finished, Harry Potter-style structure viewed by many as the greatest modern folly to be found in Poland.
Operating under the name of Arecki Photo Video, the 37-year-old snapper, originally from the town of Konstantynów Łódzki, was drawn to the Kashubian landmark as part of an ongoing flirtation with urbex photography
“I like photographing abandoned and forgotten places,” he tells TFN, “and while Łapalice technically isn’t abandoned – after all, it was never completed – its castle-like appearance is a really big draw for people like me.
“I find all such abandoned places interesting,” he continues, “but you won’t find many buildings with quite the same style as Zamek Łapalice.”
That much is an understatement. Unique not just to Poland, but also the entire planet, Zamek Łapalice has entered urbex folklore on account of its outsized dimensions and sheer spellbinding power.
Rising from the treetops of the Notecki Forest, its feast of turrets and towers is simultaneously eccentric, eclectic and completely unexpected. As if snatched from the pages of a J.K. Rowling fantasy, the striking aesthetics are nothing if not breath taking.
“When I’m photographing,” says Arek of Arecki Photo Video, “I’m 100% focused on the job in hand so I don’t pay attention to anything but the process of shooting pictures, but even so, I could definitely feel a sense of mystery whilst walking around the place, not to mention emptiness and sadness that the object has never been finished.”
The story of Łapalice dates back to 1984 when a Gdańsk sculptor by the name of Piotr Kazimierczak was granted a building permit to build a residence and art studio of 1,026 sq/m, or, according to some, just 170 sq/m.
Either way, what emerged was something altogether more ambitious. Covering a footprint of approximately 6,000 sq/m, Kazimierczak’s creation was designed – much like the 17th century castle in Krzyżtopór – to closely reference the calendar: steeped in allegorical meaning, the 352 windows were meant to represent the days of the year and the 52 rooms the number of weeks. The dozen towers, meanwhile, were intended as a nod to the twelve apostles.
But the similarities to crumbling Krzyżtopór did not end there, and as such Łapalice now stands in ruined disrepair.
With Kazimierczak only providing sporadic comment over the decades that have followed, much intrigue and speculation surrounds Łapalice. What is known, however, is that having employed local residents to help realize his vision, work came shuddering to a halt in 1991 and never restarted.
Reasons for this depend on the source and range from a dispute over electricity bills to, simply, local authorities realizing that the project had far exceeded the scope of the original proposal. What is clear, though, is that the end of construction marked a period of intense misfortune for Kazimierczak.
Prolonged court battles with the authorities followed, and worse, so did repeated financial setbacks affecting the business he had started to finance his vision. When the 2001 floods that struck Poland left his workshop two-and-a-half metres underwater, Kazimierczak’s accounts were left heavily crippled.
Previously stating that he was ultimately the victim of a political witch hunt, it is unlikely that Kazimierczak’s “life work” will ever be finished. Subject to a demolition order in 2006, while this ruling has since been revoked the castle finds itself living in a form of suspended reality.
With an ownership status that can best be described as murky, it’s all a far cry from old. Speaking in his last known interview in 2006, Kazimierczak told Kurier Kartuski that his plans had foreseen the castle filled with sculptural works of art of the highest craftsmanship.
Beyond that, quite what the true purpose the castle was to serve remains a topic of conjecture. Adamant that it was never meant to be his private home, Kazimierczak has fuelled gossip by remaining otherwise tight-lipped. Featuring a ballroom and a swimming pool, a hotel appears the most sensible suggestion though others have claimed it was to be an extravagant gallery or, even, an old peoples home.
As years have passed, yet others have chosen to write Kazimierczak out of the story entirely with some of the more lurid rumours found swirling around the internet alleging that Łapalice was to be a secret meeting point for a chapter of the Freemasons and others declaring it was built on the orders of Michael Jackson as part of his infamous plan to create a theme park in Poland.
Such tales and stories have flourished, and paranormal phenomenon have been reported by some: among others, these include unexplained gusts of wind on otherwise still days and lights shining from inaccessible towers.
The creeping general decay and dereliction has, paradoxically, acted as a lure. Set forty kilometres from Gdańsk, the castle’s otherworldly atmosphere has installed it as a cult sight for those ready to ignore the warnings meant to discourage the public – and these are not simply teen drinkers or urbex photographers that are flocking, but also newlywed couples, paintballers and picnicking families.
Just five years ago, hopes for the castle’s future flickered briefly when it was announced that an international group of Harry Potter fans were crowdfunding a bid to purchase the structure and convert it into Hogwarts-style attraction. Unfortunately, the campaign soon fizzled out.
Seemingly doomed to disintegrate and be swallowed by the forest, today Zamek Łapalice makes for an astonishing sight. Enchanting, surreal and spooky, it is these qualities in the castle that Arecki Photo Video captures the best: with staircases spiralling into nothingness and empty windows staring out like hollowed eye sockets, it’s impossible not to feel the sweeping, ethereal beauty of a place lost in time.
Using both a Sony a6500 camera and a Dji Mavic 2 pro drone to reveal the full glory of the castle from both above and inside, the array of perspectives captured by Arecki Photo Video have been met with widespread excitement by the urbex community.
Seeking to introduce “a fairy tale aspect” to his images in the editing phase of his work, the gloomy, granite skies and shimmering sunset serve to only deepen the mysterious, melancholic mood.
Yet despite only first handling a drone in 2017, and a camera in 2018, Arecki Photo Video has built a strong following of devoted fans. Specializing in urban photography, abandoned structures, architecture and landscapes, his so-called “Death Star” image of Łódź found itself going viral last year with its success spawning collaboration with a local advertising studio.
“As it stands photography is just a passion and a hobby,” says Arek, “but paid jobs are starting to crop up, so who knows what will happen.” Judging by the success of his latest round of images, it’s a future that’s markedly brighter than that facing the castle in Łapalice.
To see more of Arecki Photo Video’s incredible work click HERE.