Warsaw Radio Mast: The tallest man made structure until 2010

Petar Djajkovski
Featured image

The Warsaw Radio Mast was the tallest structure in the world when it was constructed in 1974. And it remained the tallest man-made object in the world as long as it stood strong. Unfortunately, it collapsed on August 8, 1991. It took humanity 19 more years to make a taller structure and surpass the radio tower from Konstantynów, Poland. This happened in 2010 with the completion of the Burj Khalifa skyscraper in Dubai.

The radio mast in Konstantynów, Poland.

The Warsaw Radio Mast was a child of the Polish architect Jan Polak. After the plans and calculations were done, construction was underway from July 1970 until it’s completion on May 18, 1974. The mast was 2,120 feet tall, while it’s total weight was claimed to be 462 tons, but this figure was debated. The antenna transmitter entered into regular service on July 22 the same year. This radio mast was used by Warsaw Radio-Television (Centrum Radiowo-Telewizyjne) for broadcasting long wave radio. The signals it’s two megawatt antenna transmitted could be received all across the globe.

Radio relay tower used for radio relay link to studio in Warsaw/ Author: Majtadek1 – CC BY-SA 3.0

To keep this huge radio mast up and running, a power supply station was built on the site. This small power station was more than capable of supplying the big power needs of the mast, around 6,000 kW. Another six towers were built around the area of the mast and the station grounds. They were equipped with warning lights to make sure airplane pilots knew where not to fly.

Tower used for marking the northern end of span field of the guys/ Author: Zonk43 – CC BY-SA 3.0

Ten years after the mast was constructed, a routine inspection found structural damage caused by wind. Repairing the mast of this damage was difficult stuff. Replacing the mast with stronger, more durable material was even harder, but still considered by the engineers. It soon became clear that there was not enough money for this kind of feat.

The whole financial situation in Poland was very difficult, to say the least, during the 1980s. However they managed to scrape enough money together to repaint the mast, but this was done only to a certain extant, as they run out of paint at one point.

Former helix building/ Author: Zonk43 – CC BY-SA 3.0

A catastrophe occurred on August 8, 1991, at 1600 hours UTC, which caused the mast to collapse. It first bent at approximately halfway up, and then suddenly snapped under it’s own pressure. The buildings around the mast, the helix building and the transmitter building, were spared of any damage. The collapse of the mast was an unfortunate and very inconvenient event for Warsaw Radio-Television. After an investigation, the division chief and the construction coordinator of the company that built and maintained the tower were found liable for the broken mast and the damage done. Each of them was sentenced to two years in prison.

On August 8 1991 at 4pm UTC the mast collapsed.

After the catastrophic collapse of the mast, the Polish radio broadcaster switched to using the old Raszyn transmitter mast that is also in the vicinity of Warsaw. This one is much smaller with it’s 1,099 feet. One year after the fall of the turret, the Polish government started a plan for rebuilding the mast. By September 1995 the funds were gathered and the construction was supposed to start the same year. However, the action was canceled due to protests by locals who claimed that radiation from the transmitters was a dangerous health hazard.

Foundation of former mast/ Author: Zonk43 – CC BY-SA 3.0

The place where the world’s tallest radio mast once stood is now an abandoned space of ruins. The base of the tower is still there–empty and stripped of everything. Konstantynów’s fields are littered with debris and useless concrete blocks stuck in the ground. This is what remains on the place where mankind’s tallest achievement once stood, and disastrously collapsed.