A city destroyed and rebuilt – but is it deceptive?

A city destroyed and rebuilt - but is it deceptive?
These historic old buildings are beautiful, 
but they’re not that old.

99% invisible calls itself "A tiny radio show about design, architecture & the 99% invisible activity that shapes our world." This episode is about the rebuilding of Warsaw, Poland.

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Like many cities in Central Europe, Warsaw is made up largely of grey, ugly, communist block-style architecture. Except for one part:  The Old Town.

Walking through the historic district, it’s just like any other quaint European city. There are tourist shops, horse-drawn carriage rides, church spires. The buildings are beautifulbut they are not original. 

During World War II, German forces razed more than 80% of Warsaw.  After Soviet troops took over, much of the city was rebuilt in the with communist style: fast, cheap, and big. They built apartment blocks, wide avenues, and heavy grey buildings. It was communist ideology in architectural form.

But when it came to the historic district of Warsawthe Old Town and a long connecting section called the Royal Routethey decided not just to rebuilt, but to restore. Builders would use the same stones, and use special kilns to make special bricks to preserve its authenticity. After six years of reconstruction, the new Old Town was opened. Poles were ecstatic to have it back. Even in the West, it was seen as a triumph of the human spirit.

But here’s the thing: Warsaw’s historic Old Town is not a replica of the original. It’s a re-imagining. An historic city that never really was.

Read more: Episode 72- New Old Town, 99 percent invisible>>

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