Koło II Housing Estate

Helena and Szymon Syrkus

For living

Koło II Housing Estate

Ożarowska, Czorsztyńska, Deotymy, Prymas Tysiąclecia Avenue, Warsaw

The development of a new residential district on Koło began with construction initiated by the Workers’ Housing Association (TOR) in the mid-1930s. Roman Piotrowski was the designer of the premise. Helena and Szymon Syrkus began preparing the project for the second colony, already being undertaken for the Warsaw Housing Cooperative, while the war was still in progress, and completed it in 1947.
The project consisted of low-rise, straight blocks of four stories, the longest of which was additionally broken by a wavy line in the middle of its length. The distinctive, abstract detailing included primarily the treatment of balcony balustrades and the entrances’ roofing. Expressively curved canopies were supported by walls with circular openings, reminiscent of holey cheese. The circular openings contrasted with the facade’s square grid, marking the module into which all windows and divisions were integrated. The grid itself resulted from the technology used and the size of the rubble concrete blocks. The first floors of the buildings were partially freed up through the use of columns and multiple passageways. Some of the apartments were accessible from galleries stretching along the walls. Adjoining volumes of staircases were designed to enhance the light and shade by gently shifting successive sections of the finishing pieces in relation to each other.
In addition to the residential buildings, schools, kindergartens, nurseries, and community centers were built. Although the size of the apartments remained small, the three-room units were a qualitative leap compared to the first stage of the TOR development. The average unit size oscillated around 37 sqm.
The project was created before the introduction of the Socialist Realist doctrine; maintained in functionalist aesthetics, it met with disapproval from the authorities, who pushed for projects with historicizing detail and monumental scale. Szymon Syrkus was forced to file a self-criticism.
In September 1948, the Syrkus family gave a tour of the estate to Pablo Picasso, who was attending the First World Congress of Intellectuals for Peace. In one of the apartments, the artist spontaneously painted the Warsaw Mermaid, but the work has not survived to this day.
The realization of the Blocks on the Kolo continued after the completion of the first post-war colony, but subsequent parts of the complex were maintained in a more classical, socialist realist style costume.

Archival illustration – …
Archival photo – …
Exhibition photos – Katarzyna Średnicka