Page last updated at 11:04 GMT, Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Call for demolition of Polish palace

Maciek Bernatt
BBC Ukrainian Service

Radoslaw Sikorski
The Polish Foreign Minister wants the building to replaced by a park

Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski has repeated a call for the Palace of Culture and Science to be demolished.

The Stalin-era building dominated Warsaw's skyline during the Communist years but the minister says it is vey expensive to maintain.

Mr Sikorski told Polish radio that the building was colossally wasteful of energy, and would soon need a major overhaul costing tens of millions of US dollars.

He said it would be much better "to have a park, with a pond, where the inhabitants of Warsaw could go for a picnic."

Just days after Berlin celebrated the fall of the wall that divided the city and was a symbol of Europe's wider division, Mr Sikorski said destruction of the Palace would be highly symbolic.

He said it would be a "moment of catharsis" for Poland, comparable to the demolition of the Alexander Nevsky Russian Orthodox Church in the mid-1920s.

His remarks are all the more pertinent since Poland has just celebrated National Independence Day.

The public holiday marked Poland's assumption of independent statehood on 11 November 1918, following more than a century of partition by the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Germany and, most recently, the former Soviet Union.

Soviet gift

The Joseph Stalin Palace of Culture and Science was built between 1952 and 1955 as a "gift" from the Soviet Union, mirroring designs seen in Moscow and other cities.

The reference to Stalin was removed in the wake of de-stalinisation, following the Soviet leader's death in 1953.

Palace of Culture and Science, Warsaw
Warsaw's Palace of Culture and Science: A communist-era monolith

The Palace is enormous, standing more than 230 metres tall, with 44 floors.

A monument glorifying Communist ideology, it was designed by the Soviet architect, Lev Rudnev, one of the leading practitioners of Stalinist architecture.

The Palace was long seen by many Poles as a powerful symbol of Russian-Soviet domination of their country.

Some have described it as ugly. But others believe it is now an integral part of the city even if it is not attractive to look at.

The building is home to, among other facilities, offices, cinemas, a conference hall, museums and bookshops. It contains more than 3,000 separate rooms.

But the Palace's dominance is now challenged by a number of high-rise hotels and office buildings, built since the fall of Communism.

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