The Castlette (Zameczek) – presidential residence, Wisła
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The Castlette (Zameczek) – presidential residence

Wisła

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The presidential residence in Wisła is one of the most esteemed of all avant-garde designs of the interwar period in Poland, designed by Adolf Szyszko-Bohusz, who has earned his place in the pantheon of the Polish architects and monument protection experts of the first half of the 20th century. At the heart of the complex lies the so-called “castlette”, in whose design an avant-garde, modernist form was combined with various features of traditional representational architecture, including the architecture of the castles of old, forming a thoroughly modern, prestigious residence designed for the head of state - a design tour de force invoking the strength and resilience of the reborn Polish state, the Second Polish Republic. In addition, the residence also served as a valuable example of the so-called Gesamtkunstwerk concept, enjoying a considerable popularity in the 1920s, whereby both the building and its fixtures and fittings would be treated as a single, all-encompassing work of art.

History

The initiative of erecting a presidential residence in Wisła was often referred to as “Silesia’s gift for the President of the Polish Republic”, emphasising the symbolic integration of the parts of Upper Silesia as well as parts of the Cieszyn Silesia (Austrian Silesia) region with the rest of the country, following their incorporation into the Polish territory in 1922 and 1920 respectively. By decision of the Silesian Regional Council in Katowice adopted in November 1927, the wooden hunting lodge or castlette originally owned by the archduke Ferdinand Habsburg and subsequently abandoned after World War I was to serve as the presidential residence following its restoration. Unfortunately, shortly after the commencement of renovation works of the castlette on Zadni Groń, a hill situated at the foot of the Barania Góra mountain near the source of the Vistula river, the structure was irretrievably lost as a result of a devastating fire which engulfed it in December 1927. In the early 1928, the regional authorities led by the province governor Michał Grażyński decided that a new residence would be built from the ground up in the vicinity of the site of the destroyed manor house, with the funds for its construction being provided by the Silesian Treasury. The construction of the residence, based on the design produced by Adolf Szyszko-Bohusz, commenced in mid- 1929. At the same time, the interior décor and fixtures and fittings, designed by A. Szyszko-Bohusz and Andrzej Pronaszko, were also being crafted so that they could be installed immediately following completion of construction works. In 1930, the construction of a utility building standing on the site of the now-vanished manor house commenced. The building, known as the lower castle, contained the garages, workshops, kitchen as well as servants’ quarters. The complex also encompassed a park, a number of retaining walls as well as tennis courts. In the late 1930/early 1931, the complex was officially handed over to the Civil Chancellery of the President, with President Ignacy Mościcki visiting the castlette in January 1931. Due to the recurring technical issues with the original mono-pitched roofs which led to major leaks and moisture seeping into the building, in 1939 the original arrangement was replaced with steep, multi-pitched roofs.

Description

The presidential residence is located in the village of Wisła Czarne, on the southern slope of the Zadni Groń hill located at the foot of the Barania Góra mountain, near the source of the Vistula river. The castlette lies in a mountainous, densely forested area, surrounded by a 16-hectare landscape park intersected by the winding road known as the Zameczek street, connecting the Czarne village with Kubalonka pass. The grand edifice of the presidential residence itself stands in the centre of the complex; perched atop the hill, the castlette is preceded by a representational driveway with an oval lawn in the middle, positioned west of the building and linked to the Zameczek street located south of the structure. A wooden chapel of the Habsburg family, dating back to 1909, is located north of the castlette, in its immediate vicinity. A large, modern administrative building lies east of the residence, at a much lower elevation, replacing the wooden outbuildings from the early 20th century. A stone stairway had once connected these buildings to the castlette at the hilltop, but much like the buildings themselves, this structure is no longer extant. The so-called lower castle - the former guardhouse with motor car garages - lies north-east of the residence and north of the site of the now-vanished outbuildings, inside the Zameczek street meander.

The presidential residence is a fine example of modernist architecture, built using stone, brick and reinforced concrete. Its characteristic feature is the elongated, harmonious silhouette designed on a segmental arch plan, consisting of a number of asymmetrical sections of varying height, covered with tall, multi-pitched roofs. The single-storey middle section of the castlette features an eastward-facing observation deck offering a commanding view of the Barania Góra mountain. The middle section is flanked by a pair of taller structures - a two-storey northern avant-corps reminiscent of a medieval fortified tower and a monumental, three-storey southern section with a single-storey terrace and a tall eastern tower. The individual façades of the buildings share the same functionalist approach to design, incorporating broad, horizontal strips of windows piercing the monumental walls of the structure. The stone cladding of these walls, featuring a mixture of irregular masonry and the so-called opus spicatum (herringbone) pattern, is a clear reference to traditional castle architecture. The ground-floor level, performing the role of the piano nobile, consists of a long hallway and a representational porch separated from the said hallway by a glazed partition and opening towards the eastern terrace. The interiors of this part of the residence are adorned with modernist paintings by A. Pronaszko. Other notable rooms include the dining room, the drawing room and the smoking room in the southern wing. A half-turn staircase in the southern section of the castlette facilitates access to the first-floor level, where the presidential apartments are situated.

The interiors are graced by the preserved avant-garde, sumptuous fixtures and fittings inspired by the Bauhaus movement, including the functionalist furniture designed by A. Szyszko-Bohusz and A. Pronaszko and manufactured by the Konrad Jarnuszkiewicz company as well as the chandeliers designed by Edmund Bartłomiejczyk.

The historic monument is accessible to visitors. Reservations required.

compiled by Agnieszka Olczyk, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Katowice, 24-10-2014.

Bibliography

  • Chojecka E., Pomiędzy historią i nowoczesnością. Treści ideowe Zamku Prezydenta RP w Wiśle, Ziemia Śląska, no. 4, Katowice 1999, pp. 231-245.
  • Długajczyk E., Nowy Zamek w Wiśle - jego budowa i użytkownicy (do 1945 roku), Ziemia Śląska, no. 4, Katowice 1999, pp. 215-229.
  • Mrozek J. M., Zameczek Prezydenta RP w Wiśle na tle twórczości Adolfa Szyszko-Bohusza, Ziemia Śląska, no. 4, Katowice 1999, pp. 311-322.
  • Świechowski Z., Awangarda na usługach elity władzy. Wystrój i mobiliaż Zameczku Prezydenta RP w Wiśle, Ziemia Śląska, no. 4, Katowice 1999, pp. 275-285.
  • Świechowski Z., Zameczek prezydenta Ignacego Mościckiego w Wiśle i jego wyposażenie, [in:] O sztuce Górnego Śląska i przyległych ziem małopolskich, E. Chojecka (ed.), Katowice 1993, pp. 279-290.
  • Zabytki Sztuki w Polsce. Śląsk, S. Brzezicki, C. Nielsen (eds.), Warsaw 2006, pp. 934-935.

General information

  • Type: palace
  • Chronology: 1929-1930 r.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Zameczek 1, Wisła
  • Location: Voivodeship śląskie, district cieszyński, commune Wisła
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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