Teodor Talowski

25 Mar 2018

Disregarding the famous castle, cathedrals, market square and university, one could still spend years of their life (how many has it been now?) wide-eyed wandering the side streets of Kraków, tripping on cobbles, taking in every architectural detail, every subtle flourish on every facade. Rhinoceroses, roses, elephants, eagles, peacocks, pears and ships with dropped anchors are just some of the many emblematic additions Cracovian architects have affixed to the facades of the city over the centuries in an effort to make each tenement unique and distinguishable from its neighbours; in fact, these embellishments essentially served as addresses in the days before building numbers and street names - a relatively modern innovation that didn’t take hold in Europe until as late as the mid-18th century. Visitors to Kraków today will notice no shortage of buildings and businesses that still go by the medieval monikers established directly as a result of the decorations on their facades - Pod Jaszczurami (Under the Lizards, Rynek 8), Pod Baranami (Under the Rams, Rynek 27), Pod Aniołami (Under the Angels, ul. Grodzka 35), and so on. Some of these architectural details are quite subtle, while others are spectacularly strange and even whimsical, which brings us to one of the city’s most brilliant and unsung architectural talents, Teodor Talowski (take a bow Sir, this is your moment).


Born in 1857 in the small village of Zassów (today Zasów, north-east of Tarnów), Talowski attended school in Kraków before moving to Vienna and then Lviv, where he completed a masters in architecture. In 1881 he returned to Kraków, becoming a professor at the Technical University, and produced the most definitive works of his career here towards the close of the 19th century, before returning to Lviv in 1901 for a teaching position at the Polytechnic. After a long illness he died in 1910 and was buried in the family mausoleum in Kraków’s Rakowice Cemetery; the elaborate tomb, which he designed himself, features a large sphinx clutching a skull under its paw.

Though he was never recognised abroad, Talowski was a popular and prolific architect responsible for hundreds of highly original buildings (including countless churches, chapels, tombs, public buildings, tenements and villas) across Galicia at the end of the 19th century as he worked and travelled between the Austro-Hungarian province’s two largest, most important cities - Kraków and Lviv. In Kraków, two of his largest and most visible works are the handsome Bonifratów hospital (ul. Trynitarska 11) in Kazimierz, and the ul. Lubicz railroad viaduct, which you may have walked across on your way to or from the train station. However, Talowski is best-remembered today for his weirdly asymmetrical, slightly whimsical apartment houses, of which he designed at least 16 in Kraków.


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