Historic Centre of Warsaw, Warszawa
Narodowy Instytut Dziedzictwa pl
photo

In 1944, the German forces razed Warsaw to the ground. This act of intentional destruction was a form of retaliation for the resistance which the Poles mounted against the occupying power and was intended to deal a severe blow to the Polish statehood. The post-war reconstruction of the Warsaw Old Town, where extent of the damage done was as high as 85%, attained a symbolical significance and became a testimony of care and attention taken to ensure the survival of the capital – a place with an enormous value for the Polish culture and history. It is worth noting that the project might not have succeeded without the immense involvement of the local residents as well as the support given to them by the entire nation.

The works on the reconstruction of the Old Town were being conducted on the basis of a comprehensive design created by the Warsaw Reconstruction Office in the years 1945-1951. Among others, the plan called for the reconstruction of the appearance of the Old Town from the late 18th century, using the preserved architectural elements from the period between the 14th and the 18th century, including the late-mediaeval street plan incorporating the market square and other public squares as well as the remains of the buildings which have survived the war (mostly basements, although in some cases ground-floor level structures and walls up to the level of the first floor have also survived). The reconstruction effort was based on the available iconographic sources and other archival materials as well as surveys conducted by historical monument inspectors both before 1939 and after 1944. In addition, the teams responsible for the reconstruction effort were also able to tap into the knowledge and experience of eminent experts in a variety of fields: art historians, architects and conservators. Some of the buildings have been successfully reconstructed, while others were designed in a manner which ensured their resemblance to historic architecture. The essential reconstruction of the Old Town ended in the mid-1960s, although the entire process was completed with the reconstruction of the Royal Castle, which was finally opened in 1984.

The plan for the reconstruction of the historical centre of Warsaw, with a surface area of 25.93 hectares, provided for the recreation of the historic urban layout along with the Old Town Market Square, the defensive walls, the Royal Castle, the burgher tenement houses and the most significant churches; in order to increase the visibility of the walls and the panorama from the direction of the Vistula river, some buildings were intentionally omitted. The decision was taken to rebuild the Old Town as a residential area, which entailed the need to make adjustment to the post-war regulations and living standards. For that reason, despite the fact that the historical shape of individual plots of land as well as the frontages have been recreated, the internal sections of individual city blocks were deliberately left empty, creating common areas for residents. The interior layouts of buildings and individual apartments have also been modified. A different approach was taken with respect to public buildings, where interiors have been recreated along with period fittings. The façades of reconstructed tenement houses were embellished with quality decorations by renowned artists; in some cases, these decorations hark back to the works of the interwar period and were created using traditional techniques such as sgraffito.

The reconstruction of the Old Town in Warsaw is a successful attempt at the recreation of an urban complex. The entire project is particularly significant due to the fact that it has subsequently been relied upon in most war-torn European countries, contributing towards the revision of doctrines related to solving problems faced by modern cities as well as to the conservation of buildings in urban environments. It should be added that the archive of the Warsaw Reconstruction Office was included in the UNESCO Memory of the World Register in 2011.

The Historic Centre of Warsaw was included on the World Heritage List in 1980 during the 4th session of the World Heritage Committee in Paris (dec. CONF 016 V.12).

Entry made on the basis of criteria II and VI:

Criterion (II):

The initiation of comprehensive conservation activities on the scale of the entire historic city was a unique European experience and contributed to the verification of conservation doctrines and practices.

Criterion (VI):

The historic centre of Warsaw is an exceptional example of the comprehensive reconstruction of a city that had been deliberately and totally destroyed. The foundation of the material reconstruction was the inner strength and determination of the nation, which brought about the reconstruction of the heritage on a unique scale in the history of the world.

The property is accessible to visitors.

Compiled on the basis of materials of the National Heritage Board of Poland, 30-11-2015

General information

  • Type: cultural
  • Chronology: 1945 - 1966 r.
  • Form of protection:
  • Address: Warszawa
  • Location: Voivodeship mazowieckie, district Warszawa, commune Warszawa
  • Copyright owner: National Heritage Board of Poland

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