The Palace of Culture and Science (Polish: Pałac Kultury i Nauki, also abbreviated PKiN) in Warsaw is the tallest building in Poland, the eighth tallest building in the European Union. From 1955 to 1957 it was the tallest building in Europe. The building was originally known as the Joseph Stalin Palace of Culture and Science (Pałac Kultury i Nauki imienia Józefa Stalina), but in the wake of destalinization the dedication to Stalin was revoked; Stalin's name was removed from the interior lobby and one of the building's sculptures. It is now the 187th tallest building in the world.
Construction started in 1952 and lasted until 1955. A gift from the Soviet Union to the people of Poland, the tower was constructed, using Soviet plans, almost entirely by 3500 workers from the Soviet Union, of whom 16 died in accidents during the construction. The Soviets were housed at a new suburban complex at Poland's expense, complete with its own cinema, food court, community centre and the swimming pool. The architecture of the building is closely related to several similar skyscrapers built in the Soviet Union of the same era, most notably the Moscow State University. However, the main architect Lev Rudnev incorporated some Polish architectural details into the project by traveling around Poland and seeing the architecture. The monumental walls are headed with pieces of masonry copied from renaissance houses and palaces of Kraków and Zamość.
Shortly after opening, the building hosted the 5th World Festival of Youth and Students. Many visiting dignitaries toured the Palace, and it also hosted performances by notable international artists, such as a 1967 concert by the Rolling Stones, the first by a major western rock group behind the Iron Curtain. In 1985, it hosted the historical Leonard Cohen concert, surrounded by many political expectations, which were avoided by Cohen in his prolonged introductions during the three-hour show.
The Palace today
As the city's most visible landmark, the building was controversial from its inception. Many Poles initially hated the building because they considered it to be a symbol of Soviet domination, and at least some of that negative feeling persists until today. Some have also argued that, regardless of its political connotations, the building destroyed the aesthetic balance of the old city and imposed dissonance with other buildings.
However, over time, and especially in recent years, Warsaw has acquired a number of other skyscrapers of comparable height, so that the Palace now fits somewhat more harmoniously into the city skyline. Furthermore, since Soviet domination over Poland ended in 1989, the negative symbolism of the building has much diminished. Four 6.3-metre clock faces were added to the top of the building in 2000, making it briefly the tallest, and now the world's second-tallest, clock tower (after the NTT DoCoMo Yoyogi Building, to which a clock was added in 2002).
The inhabitants of Warsaw still commonly use nicknames to refer to the palace, notably Pekin (Beijing in Polish, because of its abbreviated name PKiN (Pałac Kultury i Nauki), Pajac ("clown", a word that sounds close to Pałac), Stalin's syringe or even the Russian Wedding Cake. The terrace on the 30th floor, at 114 metres, is a well-known tourist attraction with a panoramic view of the city. An old joke held that the best views of Warsaw were available from the building: it was the only place in the city from where it could not be seen (a claim originally made by the French writer Guy de Maupassant about the Eiffel Tower).
The building currently serves as an exhibition centre and office complex. It is 231 metres (757 ft) tall which includes the height of the spire of 43 metres. There are 3288 rooms on 42 floors, with an overall area of 123,000 m², containing cinemas, theatres, museums, offices, bookshops, a large conference hall for 3000 people, and an accredited university, Collegium Civitas on the 11th and 12th floors of the building.