source: Michelle Provoost, 2010
In 1949 construction of Nowa Huta began in typical Soviet realist/stalinist fashion. Nowa Huta was to be an idealist socialist city, similar to Dunaújváros, with a radial layout based around a central square. Plans applied the neighbourhood unit concept while New York’s regional plan was also referenced.
The city’s steel plant was at the epicentre of the town’s development plans. In its heyday the plant employed 40,000 workers, producing 7 million tonnes of steel.
The core was designed within a semicircular shape with a central pentagonal square on the south side, where the five directions of Nova Huta's streets meet. Each district was intended for 20,000 inhabitants, divided into neighbourhoods of 2-5,000 inhabitants. High density was a key attribute of Nowa Huta, encouraging community living. Initially buildings were built traditionally, but in 1954 prefabrication was introduced.
The 1950 masterplan allowed for a population of 100,000. In 1978 the population was 278,000. Housing supply failed to meet demand and many people were placed in worker’s hotels. Despite many buildings being of poor quality, the housing crisis did not permit reconstruction.
Today Nowa Huta is less reliant on the steel mill, instead it is using EU money to transform itself through tourism and housing renovations.
Nova Huta reflects successive phases in Polish history. Successively, the great influence of Soviet urbanism, the application of the neighbourhood unit, political relaxation with consequent space for Western and Scandinavian examples, the industrialisation of housing and the trade union system in Poland can be found as background.
In planning the first part of Nova Huta, the neighbourhood unit is applied, looking at the Regional Plan for New York.
The centre of Nova Huta is in the style of 'Soviet realism', or Stalin style. This makes it recognisably belong to other socialist cities like East German Eisenhüttenstadt, Hungarian Dunaujvaros and Bulgarian Dimitroffgrad.
Nova Huta was meant to be an ideal socialist city. Like other ideal cities, it has a radial layout, with roads leading to a central square. This central square serves as a representation of the power of the proletariat. All radials and the magistral lead to the factory -instead of to the palace as in Versailles, for example.
The factory in Nova Huta is a steelworks. Soviet experts determined the best site in 1949: 10 km east of Kraków in a rural area. Important location factors were space, water and coal; iron ore was brought in from the USSR. Nova Huta was to be the workers' town that would transform the royalist anti-communist city of Kraków as a communist stronghold.
Construction began in 1950, with steel production beginning four years later. The second half of the 1970s saw a peak production of 7 million tonnes of steel. Due to various shortages, things then went downhill and a general strike was called in 1981. Environmental measures worsened the financial situation and a restructuring proved difficult. By 1998, only 1.8 million tonnes of steel were produced with 17,500 workers; an insanely low labour productivity compared to foreign steel mills.
Construction of Nowa Huta's core begins in 1949: four sections in a semicircular shape with the central pentagonal square on the south side, where the five directions of Nova Huta's streets meet. Each district was intended for 20,000 inhabitants, divided into neighbourhoods for 2-5,000 inhabitants with beautiful poetic names. Hierarchical-geometric-monumental construction in social realist style, from the late 1950s more plattenbau of porch flats, five storeys without lift.
Lots of amenities, as the ideal socialist city took advantage of the fairly high density of residents to encourage community life. Unlike Western new towns or the garden city movement, there is certainly no anti-urban attitude in the Eastern Bloc, but density is celebrated and seen as necessary. The city was a compact city, serving to create 'of a new society based on the human substrate from the villages, without the burden of capitalist urban life'.
In 1949, agricultural land was expropriated for the construction of the city and construction of housing (two-storey, gabled-roofed blocks) began without having a master plan yet. 10,000 youths were deployed as construction workers. From 1950, they work on a master plan of 100,000 inhabitants.
Until 1954, construction was completely traditional, then prefabrication was introduced. At the end of the 1960s, 200,000 inhabitants live in 36 siedlungen in Nowa Huta. In 1978, 218,000 inhabitants live in Nowa Huta on 10,000 ha in 158,460 housing units. Construction of facilities lags behind plans. In 95 workers' hotels, 15,000 workers were waiting for housing; today these hotels are used for student accommodation.
The symmetrical, socially realistic office buildings are located at the end of the magistral, which connects the factory to the central square. Architectural quotes by Guarino Guarini.
Plac Centraly is called the central square, built between 1952-1958. Renaissance and Baroque influences, with columns, risalites and colonnades. The cultural palace that was supposed to close the square was not built out and is now a park. In the cinema from 1953 (on the outskirts of the city, therefore called 'Taiwan') one can find a video store and a billiard room. Another cinema now houses a restaurant and a furniture shop.
From around 1956, the influence of 'Swedish architecture' can be seen, open, austere, concrete architecture.
Relation to Kraków, a modern city: Kraków was the city of civilised, intelligent Poles, Nowa Huta was the struggling workers' city, insecure, dangerous and dirty. Because of the composition avn the population, Nowa Huta worked not as a communist stronghold, but as a mobilisation against the communist party.
No church was planned in Nowa Huta for the often very religious peasant population. Karel Woityla, the later pope was first a bishop in Kraków. Because of Nowa Huta's poor image, people ignored the town even in the recent year of Kraków Cultural Capital 2000.
At the beginning of the city's development, most of the male population (almost half of them between 20-30) lived in working-class hotels.
East of the city, on a higher plateau, lies the factory, separated from the city by a wide buffer zone with amenities and allotments.
Current trends are particularly extensive and interesting. This applies to both the restructuring of the afbrike and the housing. The stable-style blocks are all good quality but hated. The plattenbau are poor quality and small, but there is still housing shortage so there can be no question of vacancy or demolition.
European money and funds are being used and people are looking at Emscher Park as an example of how to transform an industrial area like this. Tourism opportunities, ecologic projects and housing renovation and new construction go hand in hand.