The architecture in Sopot is particularly special and contrasts with the Gothic-Baroque style found in Gdańsk and the modernist architecture of Gdynia. The period of development and expansion of the village of Sopot into a city and resort coincided with a period when extremely sophisticated and complicated forms of eclecticism were fashionable in architecture.
The oldest buildings in Sopot, including buildings which could be classified as ‘summer houses’ such as the two-hundred-year-old Dworek Sierakowski, represent classical forms. The houses of Sopot residents two hundred years ago were typically small, wooden and brick structures with simple designs. This is what Sopot would have looked like at the time Dr. Haffner began developing the first resort. During the second half of the nineteenth century, a period when the spa was increasingly establishing its importance in Sopot, significant changes began to be seen in its architecture. During the nineteenth century, the term spa would have most commonly have been associated with Switzerland. While Sopot’s reputation as a spa was growing, it was still not particularly well-known, so it’s probably of little surprise that to increase its standing, elements characteristic of the Alpine regions began to appear in its nineteenth-century architecture.
The real period of growth for Sopot’s eclecticism, however, took place in the period from the end of the 19th century to the first decades of the 20th century. The then hugely fashionable ‘romantic historicism’ style, a style which borrowed heavily from all previous architectural epochs, had all the basics for a thriving development in Sopot. Not only was care taken to ensure the beauty and detail of residential homes and guest houses being erected at the time, but rich decoration and sophisticated forms of buildings were actively encouraged. The method used was simple and was achieved by lowering property taxes for homeowners who decorated their facades and gave them a varied form. In this way, new buildings featured all kinds of bay windows, balconies, turrets, galleries, balustrades, cornices and anything else that could be fit onto the facades. Even the Secession style, with its wavy lines, found its place in this development not so much in architecture itself as in the decoration of Sopot houses. The architectural mix created a ‘Sopot’ style and gave the city, which was awarded civic rights in 1901, a particular and special atmosphere, which can still be felt today.
Fortunately, the city avoided major damage during World War II, and today contemporary Sopot not only cares about the architectural heritage of the past, but also ensures that the modernity of new buildings does not stand out. These days, Sopot is a place where new developments are attractive, although of course there are those who criticise particular projects. The combination of the large town-feel of the main streets with the cosy architecture found in the nooks and crannies in backstreets and the grand resort buildings which connect the city to its past – these are the features of the Sopot spa style.