The best known showpiece of Socialist Realism architecture in Poland, the Palace of Culture and Science is also one of the greatest tourist attractions in Warsaw. There is a view terrace on its 30th floor which offers a magnificent panorama of the city.
44 floors high, the Palace of Culture and Science has over 3,000 rooms serving as company and institution offices., Moreover, the Palace houses a restaurant, cinema, museums, and theatres. A great attraction, both for tourists and Warsaw residents, can be found in the view terrace located on the 30th floor from where a breathtaking panorama of Warsaw can be admired.
Moreover, the Palace serves as the largest congress venue in Warsaw. It has a capacity of over 4,500. Annually, some dozens of congresses and training sessions are held on its premises.
The Congress Hall within the Palace of Culture is one of the major concert halls in Poland. It has hosted such artists as Marlena Dietrich, Procol Harum, Bruce Springsteen, Cesaria Evora, The Rolling Stones, Woody Allen with a band, and many other world-renowned artists. Since 1965 it has also served as a venue for subsequent editions of the Jazz Jamboree Festival, starring e.g. Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Rollins, and Ella Fitzgerald.
The Palace was opened to the public in 1955. Despite a widespread propaganda campaign carried out by the Communist regime, it was not spared criticism. The poet Władysław Broniewski called the architect’s work the ‘nightmare of a drunk confectioner’. The French actor Gerard Phillippe when visiting Warsaw, sarcastically commented on the Palace: ‘Not too big, but tasteful’. Shortly after it had been opened, a joke was told: ‘What is the most beautiful spot in Warsaw? The 30th floor of the Palace of Culture, since it is the only place from which you can’t see it’.
Although much time has passed, the heated debate on the architectural shape of the building and its vicinity has not ceased. In 1981, young architects from Honk Kong attending the Congress of the International Union of Architects, suggested to have the Palace’s mass fragmented and scattered around the surrounding land.
Incidentally, there was also a US billionaire who wanted to have the Palace dismantled, then transported to the States and reassembled there. Just like other American billionaires had done with the Loire castles. Poland, however, refused to sell the building.
In 1991, a competition was launched to ‘tame the Palace of Culture’. However, just like most of the Palace-related projects, it did not see its happy end, since the conceived on the occasion vision of surrounding the Palace with a circular boulevard has never been implemented.
In 2007, the Palace of Culture and Science became a listed building. This decision of the Provincial Conservator of Monuments in Warsaw stirred up quite a controversy. Some proposals put forth even call to simply demolish the whole structure.
The controversial building has served for years as inspiration to many Polish writers and film makers. The Palace of Culture and Science is the central facility of the ‘Little Apocalypse’ by Tadeusz Konwicki. It is the building in front of which the book’s protagonists plans to commit self-immolation. The interiors of the Palace, its outline, or the Congress Hall have been presented in a number of Polish comedies or comedy series [Pozwoliłam sobie opuścić tytuły, bo żadnemu obcokrajowcowi nic nie powiedzą]. In one of them, the script even provides for the building to be pulled down. The main character, scrambling up from beneath the rubble, looking at the devastation simply comments: ‘We will get this rebuilt”.