Looking at the map of Polish design initiatives, you can get the impression that all of them take place either in Łódź, Poznań or Tricity. Warsaw may not have a flagship event dedicated to design, that would be recognized internationally and also supported by city authorities. But when looking closer, you will find out that the capital has a lot to offer too, and the number of the most interesting venues are often propositions that come from bottom-up initiative. Let the journey begin.
We start our trip from Prague North – one of the oldest Warsaw districts, located on the right bank of the river. Its pre-war architecture combined with post-industrial buildings creates a very specific and original mix. Considered as rather inferior neighborhood and forgotten by city officials for years, northern part of Prague became a target of independent artists activities and alternative clubbing enclave. After a number of successful restorations of old industrial buildings and changing them into cultural venues, the district started to lean towards more artistic and cultural status.
The right bank of Warsaw: Soho Factory
Soho Factory is the living example of such transformation. As the founders of this venue say - „Warsaw is probably the only capitol city in Europe that doesn’t have clearly defined district or part, that would be dedicated directly to artistic activity.” Soho was born as an attempt to change it. The industrial complex occupies over 8 ha of post-industrial buildings located only 4 kilometers from the center of Warsaw – the Palace of Culture and Science. This creates a perfect environment for office locations among creative branches. The list of all neighbors is long and includes creative agencies, architects, design studios and restaurants, as well as an art gallery – Leto – and Warsaw Neon Museum.
Another reason to visit Soho Factory is Magazine Prague. This design store was one of the first places in Poland, that offered Polish design to local customers. Formerly located in other industrial complex – old Vodka Factory – the store is currently a natural component of the Soho landscape. You will find here a lot of international brands, like Ittala or Muuto, but don’t miss the iconic design from recognized Polish design studios, like Oskar Zięta, DBWT, Malafor or Tabanda. Soho Factory is also famous for its cyclical design events. The complex provides space for Winter design & recycled products market known as “Przetwory” and also for independent Fashion event – “Mustache”, during which young designers have the opportunity to expose their clothes and sell them in an open showroom.
The left bank of Warsaw: Mokotowska Street
Located in the most popular residential district – this street is a perfect shopping (and entertainment) destination for all who are looking for local specifics of high quality. Historically it was famous for its iconic students club – Hybrydy – the address that for years gathered young artists, writers, filmmakers and musicians.
Currently, there is no better location to find many recognized Polish fashion designers on one spot. Ania Kuczyńska, Maciej Zień, Anna Orska, Paprocki & Brzozowski duo, Bohoboco or Robert Kupisz – their showrooms are all present here. Along with vintage shops and stores with interior accessories, Mokotowska Street is a perfect destination for all who is looking for something different from what can be found in major shopping centers. The street is also offering a lot of really well designed restaurants. Located in old tenement house, “Przegryź” is one of the most interesting interiors on the street. Mainly because of the original, old checked floor and antique mosaic walls – which along with simple furniture and avant-garde lighting creates a very unique look.
Hanging around from the right to the left part of the city you may get a little bit tired, but also amazed how different and varied this city can be. There is a huge gap between the elegant central part and right-bank old Prague, but these are just two different ends of this incredible style, architectural and cultural mosaic, that Warsaw offers.
Photos with courtesy of Soho Factory and Magazine Prague