Contemporary Polish design and socialist realist architecture in Poland

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Lectures about contemporary Polish design and socialist realist architecture in Poland.

Tuesday 20 March 2012, 5:30 pm

Ponton Gallery

Budapest, I. Batthyány u. 65.

Further dates and location >>

Lectures by Aleksandra Sumorok, art historian, Assistant Professor, Academy of Fine Arts, Łódź

19 March (MOnday) 2012, 4 p. m. | Ponton Gallery | "The Dream of Becoming Modern: Polish Design since the 1960s"

20 March (tuesday) 2012, 5.30 p. m. | Platán Gallery | "Between Modern and National Form: Socialist Realist Architecture in Poland"

Language: English 

Socialist realist architecture. Between modern and national forms.

The stalinist architectural doctrine was imposed in almost all the socialist countries in the beginning of the 50s, also in Poland and Hungary. 

It must be stressed that architecture used to have a very prominent position, both in socialist theory and practice. Literally, as well as metaphorically, it was the greatest ‘transmitter’ of persuasive socialist realist ideology, thus following the convention of ‘speaking architecture’ (architecture parlante). It was burdened with the responsibility for creating a standardized urban organism devoid of contrasts, filled with monumental buildings created on the basis of imposed topـdown directives. The shortest definition of socialist realism is: art socialist in its contents and national in its form. Although the architecture of socialist realism constitutes, both formally and temporally, a distinct episode in the history of modern Polish architecture, in reality it substantially differs from its doctrinal model. There were not many exemplary buildings constructed fully in accordance with the demands of socialist realism. Several nonـartistic factors led to a drastic divergence between the ideal of socialist realism and its actual form.

I would like to present both: the well recognised, representative realisations: new monumntal buildings in the capital city, the official residential district MDM, and the contruction of the ideal city of Nowa Huta and Nowe Tychy, as well as, less known, far from the guidelines of the doctrine.

Are they similar to hungarian realisations? The subordination to the ‘one and only reightful’ soviet doctrine caused the architectural analogies in the built landcape, especially this representative, of the Eastern Bloc countries, like Poland and Hungary. It is worth looking for the similarities in compostion, forms, style and decoration, as well as, indicate the discrepancies.

Łódź- the revitalisation of the industrial city.

The revitalisation, adapting of old factory compexes (despite all of the problems, mistakes) became a constant tendency. It gives a new value into the city space, keeping its industrial traditions. Introducing the new, socially useful functions into the post-industrial areas, returns those territories back for the society. Łódź is a good example of the post-industrial city which faces the challenge of adopting to new realities. The transformation process created the islands of the ruined, post-industrial structures in the city centre. Abandoned factories, as many others in the contemporary world (Manchester, Glasgow, Detroit...), became the subject of numerous discussions, urban planes or revitalisation projects.

The 1990s brought the rehabilitation of the 19th century heritage in Łódź. The restoration of the pre-war industrial architecture (in the communist era neglected) as well as the multicultural memory was commenced. However, the long-lasting, comprehensive revitalisation programme, one of the largest of this kind in Poland, was introduced by the municipal authorities in 2004. In recent years Łódź has been a leader in making use of historic post-industrial structures. Except showing those already existing (especially Księży Młyn District, Manufaktura), I would like to reveal the biggest project of constructing the New Centre of Łódź (EC1).

Aleksandra Sumorok PhD, art historian, lecturer at the Academy of Fine Arts in Łódź. Her research focuses on the 20th century history of Polish architecture and interior design. Author of many articles and the book: Architektura i urbanistyka Łodzi okresu realizmu socjalistycznego [Architecture and urban plannig in Lodz of the socialist realist period].

Dates and locations

  • 20 March 2012, 5:30 pm - Platan Gallery - Budapest, VI. Andrássy út 32.
  • 19 March 2012, 4:00 pm - Ponton Gallery - Budapest, I. Batthyány u. 65.