Warsaw

Round & About the Plac Unii Roundabout

21 Nov 2016

Plac Unii Lubelskiej finds itself situated in the area where one of Warsaw’s main thoroughfares, ul. Marszałkowska, blends into the never ending Ul. Puławska. Plonked between these two major arteries, the area never really established much of an identity and in general was pretty much just a place one passed through while trying to get from A to B.

The name Plac Unii Lubelskiej means the square of The Union of Lublin and refers to the creation of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1569 which saw the dissolution of the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The new commonwealth was ruled by one elected monarch who took on the roles of both King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania and was governed by a separate senate and parliament. Although, seen as a democratic and peacefully instigated change, where trade thrived and shared laws were beneficial to both nations, one can argue that this was the point where the Polish nobility rose to the height of their powers, creating a class driven society which ultimately led to the partitions of Poland towards the end of the 18th century. Some Lithuanian historians take things a step further, claiming the commonwealth simply installed a ruling class of Polish noblemen within the formerly independent territory of Lithuania.

Over the past few years, Plac Unii Lubelskiej and its surrounding area has slowly started becoming quite a buzzing and popular place to hang out. The opening of the Plac Unii City Shopping mall in 2013 heralded in the beginnings of a new lease on life to this previously neglected zone.

When I first moved to Warsaw, way back in 2000, one of the highlights of the week was a visit to the Supersam store at Ul. Puławska 2 (now the site of the luxury Plac Unii City shopping mall). When the store opened in 1962, it was Poland's first self service supermarket. Its stunning modern design by architects Jerzy Hryniewiecki and Ewa & Maciej Krasinski, featured bow shaped suspended roofs and featured walls of glass and corrugated aluminum. The building stood as a flagship of communist era construction, with its innovative design ideas and was a master class in architect/structural engineer collaboration. By the time I would frequent the store, in order to carry out the weekly shop, it was already a somewhat uncared for and melancholy shadow of what it had been in the past. The shopping experience itself was always a whole lot of fun, with grumpy old ladies in nylon housecoats forcing you to take a plastic basket before entering, then proceeding to follow you around the store, eyeing up your every move with more than suspicion; each customer a potential member of Fagan’s gang of miscreants, pickpockets and shoplifters. Of course, none of that could detract my attention from the fading glory of the building itself. When plans for the new mall were passed in 2009, this fabulous, retro space-age construction was demolished without anyone even batting an eyelid. Any other country would have slapped a listed building order on the structure but, as usual, Poland has an uncomfortable relationship with its past. In fairness, Supersam now operate a conventional looking and well stocked supermarket in the basement level of the new mall.

Plac Unii City Shopping

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