Tenements of Krakow: Retoryka St.

Retoryka St is a unique spot in Krakow. Its name has its origin in “rhetoric”, the art of discourse. The now beautiful tree alley used to be the bed of Rudawa River, buried at the beginning of the 20th century. The charm of Retoryka St, however, is mainly the result of a complex of tenements designed by architect Teodor Talowski, dubbed “the Polish Gaudi”, and not without reason.

The apartment house at no. 1 is called “Under the Singing Frog”. It’s made of light stone combined with brick. As a brick manufacturer-cum-artist, Talowski loved to play with textures and colours. The brick was Talowski’s favourite and primarily used building material, the technological process of which he took with him to the grave. The material looks like the demolition brick, lumpy and a bit darker than the regular kind. House Under the Singing Frog is an apt example of combining smooth, curved lines with the raw brick as well as contrasting  red brick and light stone. The building is decorated with a sculpture of a frog musician.

The symmetrical brick house at Retoryka St 3 is the most classic one in the complex, with a decorative attic and curved stone ornaments that make the structure more subtle. On the other hand, the tenement at Retoryka St 7 named  “Festina lente” is famous for its characteristic asymmetric facade – again, brick and stone. The building’s motto ‘Festina lente’ translates as ‘make haste slowly’ or ‘more haste, less speed’. The phrase sculpted on the left side of the facade, over the front door is a message from Talowski to the citizens of Krakow, and the tenement’s main decoration.

The apartment house on Retoryka St 9 is called Under the Donkey. It’s decorated with a sculpture of a head of a donkey and Latin motto “Faber est suae quisque fortunae”, which means “Every man is the artisan of his own fortune”. The building is asymmetrical and has an impressive arcade balcony. “Think long, act fast” is the last apartment house of the complex. The building at Retoryka St 15 is the lowest and the least decorative one, with only three floors. The first floor is as if separated from the second and third one. Its facade is white and decorated with cross-shaped bricks.

Talowski was famous for combining various artistic influences in his projects: Art Nouveau, Gothic, Renaissance and mannerism. Always focusing on details, the artist had each end every ornament carved in stone, and not moulded. He was a true visionary, who drew inspiration from the magic of the past. If interested in more building designed by Talowski, check Lubicz Street Viaduct, Talowski's own house ‘Under the Spider’ (Pod Pająkiem) in ul. Karmelicka and Under the Dragon (Pod Smokiem) tenement at Smoleńsk Street 18.

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