Peculiar German Construction

Upper Silesia Tower

Upper Silesia Tower

The history of the Upper Silesia Tower involved propaganda specialists who had an African village built in the heart of Europe; a brilliant science fiction film, and the legendary rock band Queen. It was one of the most unusual buildings of pre-war Poznań and its remnants can still be seen on the premises of the present-day Poznań International Fair.The Germans wanted to show off their powerful economy, broad horizons and thriving culture. They wanted to dazzle Europe, while sending a clear message to the Polish people: “This land is and will remain ours forever. Admire how much we have achieved here, come to terms with it and keep quiet.” It was emperor Wilhelm II himself who came up with the idea of organising an East German Exhibition of Industry, Craft and Agriculture in Poznań. Before long, work began in the area roughly corresponding to today’s Poznań International Fair, and a futurist construction started to rise over the rooftops of the neighbouring tenements. The 52-metre Upper Silesia Tower, named after the region from which funds for its construction had come, resembled a giant rubber stamp. It was designed by Hans Poelzig, one of the most outstanding architects of his time. On 15 May 1911 the tower was adorned with colourful illuminations, marking the opening of the East German Exhibition. The event, where almost one thousand exhibitors showed off their achievements, lasted five months and attracted huge crowds. The organisers built a model of the Old Town; an imitation of a forest complete with a hunting range and, something unthinkable nowadays, even a village inhabited for a few months by 60 people from Africa to display the colonial power of the empire. And all that near a huge construction which to this day gives rise to controversy. Whether it was liked or not, the structure could hardly leave anyone indifferent and its fame quickly spread across Europe. The building delighted Fritz Lang, the famed German filmmaker, who in the 1920 directed the ground-breaking, expressionist, science fiction production “Metropolis”. The film set designer did not know the cityscape of Manhattan so the Upper Silesia Tower was his inspiration in modelling sky-scrapers for the film set. Scenes from this first German superproduction were later used by Queen in their video for “Radio Ga Ga”. When Poznań returned to Poland, the tower supplyied the nearby districts with water and then serving as an exhibition area for the nascent Poznań fair. Bombarded during the Second World War, the building turned into a disintegrating shell. Then it was partially demolished and rebuilt with an added openwork spire, which over time came to be associated with the fair as its best recognised element and symbol.

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