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Anus of our time

25 of November '22

The column is from the 09/22 issue of A&B.

Wroclaw's Solpol went under the pickaxe in the summer, and - in principle - a social committee for the reconstruction of this icon of Polish postmodernism, a period supposedly slammed shut. But, even if the reconstruction doesn't happen, there will be no shortage of testimonials to the 1990s: violets, celadon, arches, turrets and all the rest of the gallantry. Buildings from the last decade of the past century can be pointed out almost without a miss.

And what about today's manufacturing? With so-called neo-modernism? What, at first glance, will one day call out from roofs and facades: hey!, we're from the 1910s and 1920s? Here are the candidates for the podium. Third place: modern art in the form of clever compositions of pipes and installations on roofs, sometimes only hidden behind a screen of bent-pulled mesh. Second place: imitations of wood imprinted in plaster. It's been a long time since there was such a fascinating erzac. The gold medal? Here, without competition, is the miraculous proliferation of portafeneters. Office, home, apartment - it doesn't matter: in the past decade, windows have stood oak everywhere and pretend to be doors, although only a small percentage of them lead to a balcony or loggia.

Ordinary windows, on the other hand, are becoming a dying species. Now windows-doors with a railing rule, not infrequently in a narrow single form, which in communist construction folk called a puke. Sometimes a softer version with a fixed lower part and no railing is revealed. From the floor almost to the ceiling: in living rooms, bedrooms, kitchen corners called annexes, and in a few kitchens. Luxury and splendor - as in the townhouses of Hausmann's Paris, the Perret blocks of Le Havre or every sizable villa. Behind such a portfenet, so our intuition and experience tell us, certainly stretches at least a thirty-foot room, no less than three-twenty.

Thus, in life we would not suspect that an architect with a degree installed a door instead of a wide window in bedrooms of eight meters and tunnel proportions, thus creating residential roundhouses, where the inner door serves as a mouth opening and the narrow single portfenetrope plays the role of anus. Recklessness? On the contrary: concern for the occupants. In interiors of this shape it is difficult to insert anything, so furniture is spared. Underexposed corners help to overlook this emptiness, while a narrow sheaf of light in the gap of a window anus encourages one to look outside and, from a distance of 12 meters, console oneself that the neighbors have the same. Likewise in kitchens and "annexes." Cabinets will not be put under the porte-cochere. Chic and another saving.

That's how I rationalize it, but it could be quite different. So every once in a while I randomly question architects and expect them to nail me down with a different, convincing explanation right off the bat. They designed it, then they know what they're doing, I think, and then I watch the agony of hastily tinkering with justifications. "It's, well, more interesting this way," "you can see more," "the room seems bigger," "everyone designs this way," "yyyy, eee, eeelevation does it good." And indeed, they scatter these door slots across the facades in irregular arrangements to somehow enliven the masses of dense blocks.

Such is the depth of the designers' thinking, though there are raisins here, too. "Portfenetr? Perfect. Small children can look out the window," - explained to me quite seriously one of the distinguished designers. What about function and positioning. Happiness of the baby - the most important thing. But adults will also get something out of it: after all, thanks to portfenets you can look at the world, standing on your hands or head. Isn't this what we've been waiting for?

Thunderbolts will immediately fly at me that in the Netherlands, Denmark or Finland portfeneters have also been plentiful lately. That in cloudy countries it makes sense, you know: light, space and those things. Agreed, yes, we are copying from the better ones, but, first, they too may have messed up, and second, traditionally, we ape the top. Because there, the portfenetr usually supports much larger, set meters and usually gives a view of the open space of some bay, former harbor or park. And not on the neighbor's TV.

Admittedly, there are exceptions in Poland, but still without imitation. Such Szymon Januszewski of the Insomia studio in Poznań, which does probably the best housing in the country, more than a decade ago considered the shabbiness of portfères to be non-functional nonsense. And he apologized for Corbusier's ribbons of windows, which even in a small space provide even lighting, positioning, more privacy and the best views.

Most, however, still enter into a polemic with Corbusier and turn the window ribbons ninety degrees. A procedure in the spirit of postmodernism, and this only confirms the conclusion of my conversation with Gregory Friday last year: postmodernism is alive and well. Neomodernism is just another costume for it, under which one can search in vain for the social and functionalist foundations of the modern trend of a century ago. Just densely erected boxes with simple facades - no play of solids in green. The spirit of Solpol breathes where it wills: portfenetr with the celadon and purple of our time. So after the revolutions of the window ribbons, it's time to play with another of Le Corbusier's five principles.

The climate is changing, the sun is nagging. So let's move the roof terraces to the basement.

Jakub Głaz

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