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Concepts beyond comprehension

21 of August '23

The column is from A&B issue 6|23

They have the momentum of developers: not only do they sell their products for absurd sums, but they also rewrite dictionaries and complain in the media about their lack of respect. That at least some of this nerve would flow down to architects, who are generally silent and unable to impose their narrative!

I felt sorry for the president of the developers' association recently. In a long interview, he told „Wyborcza” how badly he felt about the heckling and the lack of gratitude from Poles for the more than one million apartments sold by him and his fellow developers. Scorned by the ubiquitous phrase „patodeveloper,” he himself knocked on the journalist's door asking for asylum in the form of an interview to save himself and other housing benefactors from the vilification. And I was already looking in my pockets for a couple of small credit cards to support the poor stripped of their honor and profits, when I got to the sentence in which Chairman Plochocki says: „in addition to making money, we carry out a social function.” I took a breath: they don't starve, and they donate surpluses to the mission. It is, it seems, to sell a square meter for more than ten thousand, service cloisters as a place to live, and apartments overlooking the entrails of other apartments. Plochocki, by the way, makes many more brain flicks (he claims, for example, that choosing an apartment is like choosing shoes), but let's limit ourselves to this "social function."

With her help, another construction entrepreneur has stepped into the shoes of dictionary makers, after developers have already changed the meaning of "apartment," "prestige,„ "comfortable,” "set up,„ "well-connected,” "close,„ "green,” "quiet,„ "beneficial,” and many other words that, it turns out, we've been using wrong. It's not just the housing patsies who are good at shifting meanings, after all. On the one hand, it's mostly politicians and marketing workers sweating over it, just as talented as the Pederation or Sanacja propagandists, and on the other—as always—language does what it wants on its own. In principle, nothing new, except that before the days of Internet verbosity, it was not so easy to spread meaningful manipulation and then stumble over it in the available public discussion. Stumble and immediately fall on your face, because today one term often means something different to different groups or bubbles. Basically, everyone has a definition of something in his or her head, which leads to picturesque screw-ups, outrages and intensifications. And to zero conclusions on most issues, which is not surprising when the interlocutors define the disputed topic completely differently. This also applies to architecture and space, and much more than housing. Enough to listen to the comments about the book „Autoholism” by Zhakovskaya, thanks to which we know that some architects still brandish the Corbusier fetish of the car and urbanism based on this retrofuturism.

Architects, moreover, often whine that the public speaks on matters belonging to them, having no idea about anything. These same architects, who have a concept, as it were, automatically, do not
try too hard to explain something to the public, decision-makers and officials, however. In a couple of cases this is even a good thing, because some are affected by the Peter Zyla syndrome. This one—as we know
- jumps beautifully, but speaks rather out of turn. Only that he has a disarming laugh in store, and our local libeskinds, if only the most talented—rather naff faces. This, however, is only part of the case
cases. There are many architects who in private say very sensible things, but in public—remain silent. A mix of fear and calculations calculated for good relations with offices, clients,
colleagues and associations effectively close their mouths. And when they happen to open them, they are gagged by (authentic!) studio associates, fearing imaginary repercussions. In turn, the statements of some designers have to be decrypted, as in the time of censorship. After a cross-sectional interview about the city in which he works, the delicatessen says privately: it's all true, just read in reverse.

Designers are also angry at the signifiers: not only pat-development, but also concretes, pasteloses, advertoses, autoholisms. That too much, that generalization, that they are bottomless bags, that—well—definitions without boundaries. A little and right, but for the time being it is impossible to do otherwise, only such concepts are able to realistically see pathologies and defuse cliches about how space is or should be arranged. Architects have not done with certain phenomena in order, this—in their own way, effectively—is done by publicists, and praise for them. On the other hand, clarifying these fluid definitions and many other issues relevant to Polish architecture is a task for the professional community.

It's probably time for something like a white paper that will diagnose the current state and propose thoughtful and well-consulted changes in the many fields of creating Polish space.
Otherwise, we will never get out of the circle of sterile discussions, differently defined problems and piecemeal interventions. Twenty years from now, the same grievances and remarks will be repeated at conferences and interviews as they are today and as they were twenty years ago. If the concepts, problems and necessary actions are not defined by the environment, the meanings will be pushed and set for them by someone else: developers, politicians, the Internet commentariat.

That it is possible to write such a substantive work in Poland, which will clarify the concepts and show an alternative systemic solution, is proven by the newly released collective publication „Let's make an agreement
for Poland,” full of non-obvious but thoroughly thought-out ideas for state reform. Now it's time for „Let's Agree on Architecture.” Professional self-government probably has enough money,
to fund some ad hoc think tank that—at an equally high level—will commit a work that will be a starting point for discussion and change. In addition to money, it will also need
courage—another concept whose meaning has recently changed sharply. Today, courage (sometimes even unusual) is called among architects a normal presentation of facts accompanied by a 
substantive commentary. For now, however, summer is going. In the land of busy culture, have the courage to rest decently, so that later you can think better, wider and more effectively. I wish you a definite good vacation!

Jakub Głaz

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