Ul. Rzymkowskiego. Fot. Emptywords, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Służewiec-Prototypes: an experimental housing estate in Warsaw

The Służewiec-Prototypes Estate, also known as the Prototypes Estate or Służewiec Awary Estate, is a unique residential development located in Warsaw’s Mokotów district. It is located on a 66-hectare area between Lotników Avenue, Zygmunta Modzelewskiego Street, Bokserska Street and Obrzeżna Street. The central element of the site is Wincentego Rzymowskiego Street, previously given the working name Nowowołoska.

The estate was built between 1960 and 1965 by a team of architects from the Office of Typical Projects and Studies of City Building, comprising Jerzy Skrzypczak, Urszula Ciborowska, Aleksander Łyczewski and Zdzisław Łuszczyński. The communication project was designed by Bohun Zwolinski and the greenery project by Barbara Tucholska.

Służewiec-Prototypy housing estate. Photo from Adolf Ciborowski’s book “WARSAW – about the destruction and rebuilding of the city”

The housing estate was intended to be a place to test various architectural and functional solutions in large-panel technology. It was the first and largest centre of its kind in Poland. The construction of different types of buildings and their observation was aimed at improving new designs and avoiding mistakes with larger-scale repetitive housing estates. The estate was planned with a usable residential area of over 122,000 square metres for approximately 17,000-20,000 residents. A number of services such as schools, kindergartens, crèches and shops were also built here. The volume of the development amounted to almost 1 million cubic metres.

“Delicate trees and leftover grass – walking with a child here is not a pleasure” – the photo comes from the weekly Stolica no. 28 (1179) 12.07.1970

The estate was a testing ground where various building technologies were tested. One of these was the WUF (Warsaw Universal Form) system, which allowed buildings ranging from single-family houses to 13-storey buildings to be constructed from repetitive elements. Buildings with different types of flats were constructed under the WUF system, and the experience gained during the design and construction of the housing complex was later used in other projects, such as the Skarpa Puławska housing estate.

Estate in 1996. Source: NAC – National Digital Archive www.nac.gov.pl/

The second system tested was the WPP (Warsaw Portable Polygon), which also included large slab buildings. The “Stolica” monolithic poured concrete building system was also tested, the effects of which were later applied to the erection of the Za Żelazną Bramą housing estate.

Rzymkowskiego 43. Photo by Emptywords, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The general design of the estate determined the overall urban framework, the pedestrian and traffic routes, the height dominants or the layout of the green areas, but the individual housing micro-complexes were designed individually by different teams of architects. The designers of the prototype housing estate also took care of the surroundings of the residential buildings. A primary school and kindergarten, a public library and retail and service pavilions were built on the estate in 1967. The location of the housing estate was related to the housing needs of the workers created by the expansion of Służewiec Przemysłowy to the west. It was designed for easy access to work on foot.

Rzymowskiego 47 built with WUF-60 technology, added four storeys later. Photo by Emptywords, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The architecture of the estate represents modernism and stands out for its originality against the background of the Polish housing construction of the time. Glass skylights on all floors gave the buildings lightness during the day and illuminated them at night. Some buildings were set on rarely used anthropomorphic pillars called pilotis to give them lightness and create arcades. The residential blocks were given a black and white colour scheme to avoid the typical grey of concrete. Visible kitchens and balconies were rare and often abandoned on other housing estates.

Niegocińska 5. Photo author: Bogdan JS/photopolska.eu, License: CC-BY 4.0

The Służewiec-Prototypy housing estate was a pioneering large-panel housing project in Poland. It provided housing for more than 17,000 people and became a testing ground for various construction technologies. Although the factories for which it was built no longer exist, the estate is still a testament to the innovative architectural experiments of the 1960s and 1970s in Poland.

Source: magazynkontakt.pl,

Also read: Architecture in Poland | Curiosities | History | Modernism | Warsaw

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