Monthly Archives: November 2011

…the fascinating fractured city.

Having fought two empires in the WWII, first the Soviet and then the German one, having survived (still controversial) uprising with great losses, it had its centre bombed in 1944. 

The defiance its citizens showed in restoring it is truly astonishing:Leonard SempolinskiReconstruction took 14 years. In my opinion, the vibrant colours of the Old Town buildings add a surreal sense to them when one learns that they are copies of the original. 

Wandering around the city, which is split in two by broad Vistula river, one can come upon a void, a ruined aristocratic palace or cross a metal line on the pavement outlining the border of the Ghetto.

From the formidable “Palace of Culture” (being even advertised as an identification sign of the city for the tourists) to tall buildings (not quite skyscrapers yet, but still claiming a presence on the flat plain the city is spread on) to new shopping centres – there is a lot of new construction, however, some of the old buildings are not reused nor converted. Although sad, this gives the city the contrast and almost dramatic tension. Old buildings give many opportunities for discovering hidden passages and courtyards.

The craftsmanship required for restoring certain buildings has been lost, perhaps as this image demonstrates:

Leonard Sempolinski

Apart from 20th century photographs, learning about Warsaw’s own “Canaletto” (Bernardo Bellotto) gave yet another perspective for perceiving the city.

  The Church of Ascension

It is interesting that the city has been restored and that the people, instead of building a “new world” with all the after-war years optimism wanted instead to bring back the past, as if to deny that it was interrupted. Contrasting Dresden with Warsaw, the question is to what extent restoration becomes necessary and whether leaving one ruin as it is is enough of a justification to rebuild another.

The city even has a small trendy furniture workshop, where it is possible to have old tables, chairs or cupboards re-decorated in contemporary style.

Old photographs by Leonard Sempolinski.


Brief: A group project to design a party for appropriate event of local or international importance.

Design: Our team chose the ruin of a former railway station in Glasgow Botanic Gardens on Great Western Road. Built at the height of Glasgow’s prosperity at the end of the 19th century, the station building has been demolished after a fire in 1960s. 

However, of the rare industrial ruins in Glasgow, the tunnel and the platforms remain. The specific typology of railway structures gains evocative meaning when unused. The possibility of being transported not only in space presents itself to a visitor of any abandoned railway tunnel. 

The party would be designed around the notion of travelling in time and reviving the former industrial accomplishments of the city, celebrating it through an ephemeral digital exhibition of slides and, in keeping with the present re-invention of Glasgow as a cultural centre, by performances from current Glasgow artists.

When considering the scale of intervention, seeing the ruin as a structure started by man and “accomplished” by time (nature), it was agreed that lighting should enliven it for the purpose of the party. To serve as lanterns guiding to the entrance of the tunnel through Botanic Gardens, a series of canopies which could be lighted or projected on was designed. The canopies as well as stages, renovated staircase and a walkway through the tunnel would be the only permanent additions to the ruin. 

Initial (clumsy) canopy studies:

While working on the project, it was necessary to recognize at which point in the life of a structure/ruin any intervention stays complementary or becomes a separate object, an addition rather than continuation. A question of how permanent the intervention should be was resolved by providing permanent facilities that could be used in consequent events or projects in the ruin.

As in research and mapping of Scottish ruins, this project demanded critical selection of what remains, what is to be pursued and what is to be abandoned/allowed to perish, without the fear of touching of/destroying what is.

Railway station image source: CANMORE; Tunnel photograph courtesy of Adam Archibald


Images © Daniele VoarinoThe railway and the tunnel have been brought down to human (and bikers’) scale in this project for re-use of a disused train link in Italy. Although the promenade is intended to make people sit and enjoy the sea vistas, the idea of flux is still there in the lining of timber seats. (I cannot restrain from objecting to the railings, though…)

Inside, there is a space for exhibitions: 

Images © Daniele VoarinoThe two towns are now connected by the walkway. has more information on the project designed by 3S and Voarino Cairo Voarino.

Images © Daniele Voarino