Warsaw

You Light Up My Life!

26 Sep 2017


In order to see Socialist period neons in their original settings in Warsaw a good starting point is the flagship, early 1950's, Socialist Realist Plac Konstytucji (Constitution Square, F-4). Up until the early 1980's this large square was aglow with vast neon signs. Today, amongst the giant billboards and vulgar fluorescent lights advertising the likes of Samsung and Orange, a gem of PRL era neon is still in place - the "Siatkarka" (the volleyball player) is situated on the corner of the square and ul. Piękna (F-4) this leaping female form blasts a volleyball into the air and then in a sequence of neon lights the ball drops down the elevation of the building. Designed by the famous artist and printmaker Jan Mucharski in 1961 to advertise a sports shop of the time, the neon was restored to its former glory in 2005 thanks to the initiative of artist Paulina Orłowska and the support of the Foksal Foundation Gallery.

Head back towards the city centre to check out the lovely neon roses and letterforms outside the legendary health and beauty centre IZIS (a business establish way back in 1927) at ul. Marszałkowska 55/73 (F-4).

Warsaw's stunning, in our opinion at least, early 1970's Central railway station (Dworzec Centralny) may have undergone an upgrade, but in keeping with the design the façade has kept its chunky neon name. The new pavilions in the main hall are also adorned with retro style neon signs. Cross the road to Plac Defilad (B-4) and check out the 1963 Warszawa Śródmieście (Warsaw City-centre) railway station with its functional, austere and old-school socialist rooftop neon. You'll find more neons by taking a walk round the Palace of Culture. Ironically, the Technical Museum, which is housed in the Palace, has only three of its neon letters lighting up!

One of the crowning glories of Warsaw neons must be the globe which sits atop the Orbis Hotel at the corner of ul. Bracka and Al. Jerozolimskie (C-4). The "globus Orbis" may look spectacular but sadly, the current version is in fact a modern replica. The original, installed in 1951 was one of the oldest neons in the city. Due to corrosion and neglect it was deemed to be unrestorable and was replaced with the new model in 2011.

From the "Globe" take a short stroll down to the palm tree at the crossing of Al. Jerozolimskie and Nowy Świat, look to the right, in the direction of Plac Trzech Krzyży, and you'll see the dynamic "Dancing" sign standing proud on the rooftop of Nowy Świat 3/5 (C-4) . This neon was installed in 1962 to advertise Melodia, one of Warsaw's most popular post-war dancehalls.

One of the more bizarre neons to be found in the city centre can be seen on top of the Emil Wedel townhouse at ul. Szpitalna 8 (B-3). The building dates back to 1893 and was built in front of the famous chocolate manufacturer's original factory. Stop off for a hot chocolate in the glamorous old-world Pijalnia Czekolady Wedel on the ground floor of the building, before peering skywards to see a large neon featuring a rather Brothers Grimm looking young lad riding a zebra and carrying huge bars of chocolate on his back! The whole weird scene is undersigned with the company's trademark - E. Wedel's signature.

New and fashionable businesses in the city now regularly use retro Polish style neon signs for their logos. For a good comparison visit Café Relax, stroll 50 metres along the street, look up, and you'll see the original Relax Cinema (closed in 2006) neon sign at ul. Złota 8 (B-3). The local snack chain Zapiexy Luxusowe (ul. Widok 19, B-4) also uses a neon logo for its shop fronts which is heavily influenced by Polish designs from the 1960's.

Comments

Connect via social media
Leave a comment using your email This e-mail address is not valid
Please enter your name*

Please share your location

Enter your message*
Take your guide with you Download a pdf or order a printed issue Browse our collection of guides
Put our app in your pocket
Top
City Essentials

Download our new City Essentials app

download 4.5