“Post fata resurgo”
It could easily be the motto of the city of which I will tell you a little bit of things. I can say that I entered a vortex that, for now, I do not intend to abandon. I confess, I have a pseudo-obsession for nations and cities that speak of recent history, in which the walls of each building can tell stories of life just passed and, in which, you can find a testimony of a very painful past still I live in someone’s eyes. That’s why I chose Warsaw.
And I discovered that Warsaw is the city of lights, literally.
That Warsaw is a strong and determined city can already be understood from its coat of arms: a mermaid armed with a sword. But when you discover that for 123 years Poland has virtually disappeared from the maps and then find a “relocation” after the end of the Second World War, then you understand why Warsaw has been able to rise from its ashes more than once.
Yes, because Warsaw is certainly also the city of shadows. The city with a past of which it can not always be proud. The Nazi domination assaulted its inhabitants, especially the Jews (until then very well inserted in the city context) leaving an indelible wound and still painful. But Warsaw gets up. Despite its historical center being almost completely destroyed by the Germans in 1944, the Varsavians reconstruct the old city in the smallest detail and managed to achieve a great goal: to receive in 1982 the recognition as UNESCO World Heritage Site as “unique in history of the restoration applied on an urban scale “.
Lights and shadows alternate rhythmically in Warsaw.
And my story of Warsaw will follow a bright fil rouge: the neon!
The blaze of crimson light from the tube told its own story and was a sight to dwell upon and never forget.
Yes, Warsaw is the city of neon! The city of luminous signs!
1898 marks the beginning of the revolution and corresponds to the year in which Ramsay and Travers make a brilliant discovery: the NEON, whose name already bears the full load of this novelty.
Neon is New.
Neon, an inert gas that offers innumerable potential. George Claude understands them, founds the company that bears his name and exports this great discovery to America where the neon signs rhyme with business.
Meanwhile, in 1926 Risler in Europe strengthens the characteristics of this innovative method to advertise with a further novelty and a patent related to it: the neon signs that use a mixture of argon and mercury emit a good ultraviolet light, but, when this is absorbed by a fluorescent coating inserted into a tube, the coating itself shines with its own light.
“Philips neon” is the first sign in Warsaw in 1926.
And with it, we return to the luminous history of this city that gradually lights up more and more: “Porter” and “Haberbusch and Schiele” some examples. The rooftops and the facades of the buildings come to life thanks to the bright colors of the brand new signs.
But the lights and shadows are constantly chasing each other in Warsaw and the city, in 1944, swoops into darkness, the signs that had illuminated the avenues are turned off to give way to more urgent needs: the survival and rebirth of the city.
Despite everything, the lights never go out totally. Some signs will continue to shine in the darkness of the city: “K.K.O.”, “Femina” and “Atlantic” cinema light up the skies of Warsaw.
But the real revolution takes place in the 50s, especially after the death of Stalin, when there is an explosion of creativity and the number of luminous signs is multiplied with incessant because Warsaw wants to be more and more similar to Paris, London and Hamburg . A new bright era begins.
The “Neonization” process begins. Advertising rhymes with Art.
A strict regulation decided by the Public Advertising Commission applies new rules to the choice of colors, fonts and technical aspects of the signs. Neon is starting to be an art form, not just an element of commercial promotion. And as with all art installations, the neon lights follow urban development in perfect harmony with the city’s architecture. The most important avenues are enriched with decorative elements in the form of neon. Nowy Swiàt, Aleje Jerozolimskie and Marszalkowska are some examples of streets that light up.
A pool of architects and artists deals with “neonising” Warsaw. And there is no lack of studies and research in the psychological field to establish the role of advertising, including that carried out through the neon signs, on the Polish population.
What is invading the urban panorama of Warsaw is a blaze of lights. The signs with the characteristic fonts, established according to the type of activity to be advertised, become real points of reference for citizens. The neon is an integral part of the facades of Warsaw’s palaces.
The rise of neon advertising is unstoppable. The only shadow is the growing bureaucracy applied to the request for new “vertical semaphores”: too many commissions to refer to, and to this is added a poor technical quality of the Polish neon that, soon, need maintenance. Again, between the request and the actual assistance, weeks go by and this is a problem in terms of costs that increase proportionally over time.
The neon, however, constitute a great wealth for Warsaw and they try to remedy these problems, especially because the artists compete literally to grab a place on the palaces from which to make their own work of art.
The ’80s and the deep economic and political crisis in which Poland has sunk forced the authorities to turn off the neon signs, too expensive and symbol of a wealth now no longer present. Again, as happened in the post-war period, the neon lights are directly affected by the crisis and the shining light gives way to a sad darkness: there is no place in socialist Poland for decorative and apparently non-functional elements.
For this reason, much of the Polish “luminous artistic heritage” has risked oblivion, but thanks to the work of David S. Hill and Ilona Karwinska, the signs are back to their original splendor in vintage and, at the same time, innovative ” Neon Muzeum “in Warsaw. Opened in 2005. Unique in its kind in Europe. A museum to see. Not just a static neon display, but a dynamic and alternative “bright historical tale” of the twentieth century in Warsaw.
We, ElegantiMenti, particularly liked this and for this reason we decided to tell this city through this bright street because, essentially, Warsaw and the neon ones have an unbreakable bond.
NEON MUZEUM-Building 55 SOHO FACTORY – WARSAW
To visit it, from the city center you can take the tram in the direction of Prague and you will have the chance to take a step back in time in an old-fashioned Warsaw.
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