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The Modernism Route

The concept of modernism defines the general phenomenon of world trends in architecture, which has developed mainly in the years 1918-1975.

Modernism not only assumed shift from historical styles, but also from any styling. Others capture modernism slightly wider, dividing it into three phases: an early, notable from 1890 until the outbreak of World War I (Art Nouveau, Secession, Expressionism), mature, covering the interwar period (Functionalism, also known as International Style), and the late phase, which is attributable to post-war years until the end of the 1970s (eg. brutality, architecture, sculpture). The aesthetics of modernism have not disappeared, and still are reborn in the form of neomodernism, acting as an important component of contemporary world architecture.

Modern movement did not developed homogeneous forms of style. However, in many buildings built during this period you can see some similarities:

- curtain walls,

- free plan divided with light partition walls,

- flat roof with a terrace,

- wide windows letting in plenty of light,

- minimally invasive in relation to the nature foundation of buildings on the pillars (pilotis)

- large, flat and uniform surfaces of elevation,

- windows without internal divisions,

- the use of concrete and steel,

- extensive glass staircases, and sometimes the whole facade.


However, not all modernist buildings are characterized by features described above.

Architects and city planners of modernism set themselves the goal of proper planning of whole quarters of the city. To ensure decent housing conditions of the population, they concentrated on the planning of settlements so that their individual components were primarily functional. Urban industrial zones were to be completely separated from residential, commercial and administrative centre. The border of each zone were to be green spaces and recreational areas.

Modernism developed a variety of urban trends. During this period the concepts of linear and star-shaped city have arosed. Most important part of the city was to be the center, planned as a service and commercial area, as well as administrative and cultural with extensive parks, squares and pedestrian tracts. Both residential housing and industrial infrastructure areas were separated from the city centre.

Leading representative of the international modernist style was a French architect, urban planner, painter and sculptor Le Corbusier (his real name is Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris). In 1915 he formulated the famous five principles of modern building construction:


1. timbered house built on poles,


2. freedom to compose floor plans,

3. free elevation (windows deployment flexibility, a lack of preference of any of the facades)

4. horizontal bands of windows (so-called ribbon windows)

5. flat roof and drainage inside the building (internal gutter).

These principles relate to the idea of a modern house in which there is free transition of an interior arrangement. Le Corbusier tried to pursue the idea of mass construction of houses, and as a city planner, he was publishing city plans with a complex of identical skyscrapers located symmetrically, surrounded by parkland.

Katowice is a city founded as a result of a very rapid industrial development in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Were attached to Poland in 1922, becoming the capital of the new Silesia, with its own autonomy and headquarters of the Silesian Parliament. The authorities soon had to face the problem of the lack of both government buildings and residential units for the growing number of city residents.

Architects and city planners have made every effort to meet this great challenge. Among them are: Tadeusz Michejda, Karol Schayer, Zbigniew Rzepecki, Lucjan Sikorski, Tadeusz Kozłowski, Leon Dietz d'Arma, Jadwiga Dobrzyńska and Zygmunt Łoboda.

This phase of development of the city helped make the Katowice special MODERNISM ROUTE which creates a canvas of 16 buildings selected from the whole of modernist buildings from the 20s and 30s of 20th century by the Silesian Cultural Heritage Centre in Katowice. These are objects representing the functional and utilitarian diversity with a unique, inter-war modernist architecture by which Katowice were called "Polish Chicago."

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