Katowice - Nikiszowiec Industrial Quarter, Katowice
Narodowy Instytut Dziedzictwa pl

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Katowice - Nikiszowiec Industrial Quarter

Katowice

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Works of art by Silesian painters, sometimes referred to as naïve art, depict fantastic creatures wandering through phantasmagorical forests growing on coal heaps, beautiful naked girls (as beautiful as Wichta in Kazimierz Kutz’s film) posing in a coal mining landscape, old men seated outside brick-built houses, rows of workers’ tenements, their uniformity broken by lines of drying clothes and colourful flowers growing in pots. Families sit at tables and colliery orchestras perform, all set against the backdrop of Szopienice or Nikiszowiec.

The Nikiszowiec settlement was built on the outskirts of Katowice between 1908 and 1912 for workers from the Giesche colliery, taking its name from the mine’s Nickisch Shaft. In time it became an icon of industrialisation, the jewel in the crown of Upper Silesia. It was designed for the Bergwerkgesellschaft Georg von Giesches Erben company by the architects Emil and Georg Zillmann, and was part of the popular early 20th-century movement which saw industrialists build model villages for their workers. The villages were built near large factories and plants in order to retain qualified workers, for example, by offering attractive forms of payment, and providing a wide range of services, education and healthcare. In 1904 standards of hygiene and sanitation improved markedly, enforced by the Prussian Settlement and Buildings Act, which made it compulsory to provide residents with potable water, and install lighting and waste removal systems. The first residential block in Nikiszowiec was put in use in 1911. A total of some 1000 residences were built, a park (4.4 hectares), an administrative building, an assembly room, a bath-house with boiler room, a hostel, an inn, a police station, shops, a laundry, and a school with accommodation for teachers. A standard residential tenement consisted of 165 flats; together with the courtyard and street it occupied an average of 1300 m2. A typical flat of c. 63 m2 comprised two rooms and a kitchen. In 1914 work began on the construction of a Neo-Baroque church in the central square. The church was also designed by the Zillmanns. Grievous changes were made in the 1970s by dismantling outbuildings which were neatly arranged in the inner courtyards of each block and provided evidence of the residents’ way of life. Several buildings were also remodelled or altered in function.

Nikiszowiec is of particular significance because of its excellent state of preservation, retaining its original compositional integrity, its architectural homogeneity and rich array of social amenities and services. Nikiszowiec aspired to be an ideal village. Its clearly defined, enclosed layout represents an interesting concept based on division into various functional zones and on providing tenements, which were usually of modest form, with attractive architectural designs. The architects introduced subtle details to distinguish the almost identical buildings. Monotonous stretches of brick façade were broken up by adding shallow bay windows of various shape, appealing glazed facing tiles, decorative motifs laid in brick, and by painting the window frames red (these were regularly repainted by the tenants). Nikiszowiec also has distinctive arcades built over its streets, linking individual buildings to one another.

The famous naïve artist Ewald Sówka believed that the layout of Nikiszowiec was a mirror image of the mine’s underground layout - the other side of the Silesian mirror. However, it is also a symbol of hope for other mining villages, demolished or left to suffer the destructive effects of time and poverty.

General information

  • Type: urban layout
  • Chronology: 1908 - 1914
  • Form of protection: Historical Monument
  • Address: Katowice
  • Location: Voivodeship śląskie, district Katowice, commune Katowice
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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