The so-called Count Ballestrem Colony in Zabrze-Rokitnica (workers’ housing estate), Zabrze
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The so-called Count Ballestrem Colony in Zabrze-Rokitnica (workers’ housing estate)

Zabrze

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The workers’ housing estate in Zabrze-Rokitnica is a valuable example of a residential complex constructed in several stages and presenting an exceptional value insofar as both its architecture and urban layout are concerned. The complex is a perfect example of an early-20th century company town, its compact layout being easily discernible among the surrounding structures. The housing estate, established by count Franciszek von Ballestrem, was intended as a solution to the housing issues faced by the working class, with the houses being designed as affordable accommodation for the workers of the nearby “Castellengo” bituminous coal mining facility.

History

The housing estate in Zabrze-Rokitnica, founded by count Franciszek von Ballestrem and designed by the Berlin architect Hans von Poellnitz, was one of the most modern company towns in both Poland and Europe at the time of its construction. The housing estate, designed as an expression of the comprehensive welfare and accommodation policy maintained by the Ballestrem company, was designed to provide affordable housing for the miners working at the Castellengo facility, opened in 1899. The housing estate was built in three main stages; during the first stage, i.e. in the years 1905-1908, the north-eastern quarter was built, situated between the Rewolucji Październikowej and Wieczorka streets, along with the school and another, smaller quarter located between the Dzierżyńskiego, Prosta, Szafarczyka and Śniadeckich streets. The central part of the housing estate, the kindergarten and three multi-family houses at the north edge of the complex were built during the second phase, i.e. in the years 1912-1915. In the third, final stage, i.e. during the 1930s, the buildings located north of the square were erected. The housing estate was designed by the

Berlin-based architect Hans von Poellnitz, although the design of the oldest part of the complex, featuring an extensive use of the distinctive half-timbering, is attributed to Albert Kucharz. In the 1960s, a new sports centre was erected on the site of the housing estate, followed by a department store in the 1980s, with neither of those buildings exhibiting any visual links to the rest of the complex.

Description

The housing estate is designed on a distinctive, radial plan, with the Pietrasińskiego street and the Rewolucji Październikowej street serving as its northern and eastern boundaries respectively, while the Szafarczyka street separates the southern and the western fragment of the colony from the square positioned along Krakowska street. The roughly oval-shaped housing estate is surrounded by a belt of greenery reminiscent of a type of municipal ring-shaped park commonly referred to in Poland as the planty. The housing estate itself consists of regular rows of low, free-standing houses, mostly of the semi-detached type, their front façades facing the inner lanes positioned roughly in parallel to one another and forming a concentric layout. A distinctive feature of the housing estate is the fact that the individual houses stand on small parcels of land and are accompanied by miniature front gardens. Most of the colony is made up of low residential buildings, their appearance enlivened by the presence of various types of architectural detailing, variations in roof shapes as well as the use of decorative timber-framing and projecting avant-corps. Public buildings forming part of the housing estate - the school and the kindergarten - have likewise been inscribed into the register of monuments. Of particular importance are the four so-called “steel houses” - experimental structures made of prefabricated steel panels cast at the Donnersmarck foundry in Zabrze (40-42, 41-43, 44-46 and 45-47 Szafarczyka street). The miniature front gardens reminiscent of the green areas commonly seen in front of rural cottages have a substantial impact on the overall nature of the housing estate, creating a somewhat idyllic atmosphere which is also emphasised by the presence of a ring-shaped green area with trees and shrubs surrounding the site, serving as a buffer zone isolating the housing estate from the busy roads beyond. Of particular importance in this regard is the square located south of the complex and designed along with the rest of the housing estate. This area, forming an integral part of the complex, performs the role of a public park.

It can be viewed from outside.

compiled by Agata Mucha, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Katowice, 22-09-2015.

Bibliography

  • Małusecki B., Rokitnica - osiedle robotnicze, [in:] Historyczne Osiedla Robotnicze, G. Bożek (ed.), Katowice 2005, pp. 56-57
  • Pilch J., Leksykon zabytków architektury Dolnego Śląska, Warsaw 2008, p. 1066
  • Studium Konserwatorskie Osiedla Robotniczego w Zabrzu - Rokitnicy, collective work, Pracownia Konserwatorska Akant, Gliwice 1993-1994 (available at the Archive of the Regional Monuments Protection Office in Katowice, file no. 6924)
  • Studium Konserwatorskie Osiedla Robotniczego w Zabrzu - Rokitnicy. Kartografia i ikonografia, collective work, Pracownia Konserwatorska Akant, Gliwice 1993-1994 (available at the Archive of the Regional Monuments Protection Office in Katowice, file no. 6925)

General information

  • Type: spatial layout
  • Chronology: 1905-1908 r.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Szafarczyka, Franciszka Nowowiejskiego, Komuny Paryskiej, ks. Henryka Pobożnego, Śniadeckich oraz Andersa , Zabrze
  • Location: Voivodeship śląskie, district Zabrze, commune Zabrze
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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