Old Town Square

more than a year ago

On the face of it there’s very little to see in Łódź’s Old Town Square – for a start it’s grey, barren and not old in the slightest. The buildings you see in front of it are Stalin-era finest, and went up right after the war. Indeed, the grandiose squares of Kraków and Warsaw have little to fear, but to ignore it entirely would be a schoolboy error. Firstly, and rather obviously, the square didn’t always look like this. Before the war this was the heart of what was a thriving Jewish community, and in its heyday was home to a timber town hall and a small lake on the southern end. Houses of sturdier material were added in the 19th century, and in the 20th century the western front was occupied by market stalls designed by the eminent architect of the time, Marconi, and the square was deemed sufficiently upmarket for one of Izrael Poznański’s sons to take up quarters there. When WWII broke out it formed the very southern edge of the ghetto, and a wooden bridge was added over ul. Nowomiejska to link the square with the western side of the ghetto. Following the war the communists decided to get rid of the old buildings and demolished everything in the sight. The architect in charge of the project was Ryszard Karlowicz, and he was under orders to follow the ideals of Socialist Realism – a severe artistic style pegged to strict guidelines from a Soviet masterplan. He didn’t disappoint, coming up with a network of uniform looking streets with a simple classicist form that were designed to honour both patriotic and socialist ideals. The square was later topped off in 1964 with a statue of commie agitator Julian Marchlewski, though that fell victim to the iconoclastic fury that erupted once the communists were booted out. Instead, today you’ll find a memorial stone in its place, added in 1998 to mark the 575th anniversary of the first recorded mention of Łódź. While it might look a bit bleak and boring the area is certainly well worth a snoop – see if you can spot the hammer and sickle on ul. Podrzeczna.


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