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Hits and kits, or a summary of the year 2021 in architecture (part X)

17 of January '22

The end of December - because that's when we finished preparing the January issue - is the best time for all kinds of summaries. And like every year, we ask practitioners and architecture critics to write what they consider a success and what they consider a failure in a given year. We do this in the convention of Kits and Hits. We give our Authors and Authors total freedom of expression and exceptionally we do not moderate this discussion. We are just very curious about it.

Agata Twardoch on hits and putts in 2021
FromA&B issue 01|2022

architects and housing

My hits and hits this year revolve around topics that have been turning me on personally for a long time.


April 11, 2021 with a post on Instagram ("A ball is a space and situation in which tuffs and shills come together to celebrate each other's presence and debate key issues. We are taking over the 'architect's ball' against patriarchy in the profession and planning") debuted the "Architects' Ball" - a social media project by architects Barbara Nawrocki, Dominika Wilczynska and Dominika Janicka. The girls initiated a conversation about active female architects, feminist architectural initiatives and gender injustices in our profession. Thus, they also launched a campaign against sexism at Polish universities, which has already resulted in a couple of people filing sexual harassment notices. Within a few months, almost a thousand people joined the Facebook group, and the profile on Instagram was liked by more than 3,500. The initiative was described by "Forbes Women" and noted in several national campaigns and rankings - including winning the Change 2021 poll of the Noizz portal in the Design category. The community, which is what the initiators cared about from the beginning, is lively and engaged, members - because the group does not include only girls - send bios of female architects, report problems and ask for advice. A change in the right direction!

In June 2021, a Polish translation of Kate Raworth's book "Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist" was published by Krytyka Polityczna Publishing House . Long story short Ratworth encourages that the paradigm of unlimited economic growth prevailing in neoliberalism should be replaced by a paradigm of limited development understood much more broadly than through quantitative growth. The limits of development should be environmental resilience, on the one hand, and responsibility for the economically weakest segments of society, on the other. These two boundaries are, respectively, the outer and inner edges of the title donut with a hole replaced in the Polish translation by a bagel. The thesis here is actually nothing new. We could find criticism of quantitative growth as a basis for development earlier in such positions as Thaler's "Incorrect Behavior," "Debt. The First Five Thousand Years" by Graeber or "Capitalism. A Brief History of Duration" by Poblocki. "The economics of the bagel," however, has the potential to reach an even wider audience. The reason for this is, firstly, the simple language and clear narrative, secondly, the clear proposals for alternatives, and thirdly, the supplementing of social arguments, which have so far been the main axis of criticism of capitalism, with environmental arguments. Women are changing the world!

In December 2021, the name of the curator, or rather the curator of the next Venice Architecture Biennale, was announced. Lesley Lokko - a Scottish-Ghanaian academic lecturer, educator and author of best-selling novels - was asked to take on the role. Lokko is the founder and director of the African Futures Institute in Accra, Ghana, a postgraduate school of architecture and public events platform, and the Graduate School of Architecture at the University of Johannesburg. For more than thirty years, her work, both architectural and literary, has addressed the relationship between race, culture and space. The 2023 Venice Architecture Biennale will be held for the eighteenth time. To date, the position of curator has been held by women only twice: in 2010 by Kazuyo Sejima and in 2018 by Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara. Hopefully, we can take last year's election as a harbinger of a permanent reversal of the trend. The selection of a representative from the global South is also a harbinger of change - curators and curators have already been Europeans (mostly), Americans (from both North and South America) and Asians. Lokko will be the first person from Africa to be entrusted with the position so far.


Third place in my list of kits of 2021 goes to Otwock Mayor Jaroslaw Margielski for his decision to erect ten social containers and locate them away from other buildings (that is, also away from infrastructure), so that their tenants would not be a "nuisance to others." The absurd idea, which can be criticized from all sides (urban, ecological, social, humanitarian), is flavored by timing - the president announced his decision exactly a year ago - just before Christmas.

Second place, for continuing to solve the housing problem only through a quantitative prism in the housing-related elements of the New Deal, goes to our government. Successive teams have stubbornly maniacally set their sights on building new housing in a country where there are already more housing units than households, an exponential decline in population, and for the second year in a row more than 200,000 housing units are being put into service annually (a really big deal), and where, by the way, housing prices are rising well above the already high inflation rate. The decision is worrying, especially since it seemed that previous solutions by the same government (for example, under the Housing Plus program) nevertheless supported the much-needed rental housing sector. This time we have another version of loan subsidies (the fact that repayable, that is, less unfair than those of the Mieszkanie dla Młodych and Rodzina na Swoim programs, for which the previous ruling team was responsible) and facilitations for the construction of small single-family houses. Supporting credit in our situation is nothing more than adding fuel to the fire and will undoubtedly contribute to further increases in housing prices. The latter idea seems bad to me primarily due to the indolence of urban planning, which has absolutely no effective tools to ensure that these small houses without permits do not exacerbate the already enormous spatial chaos and all its disastrous (social, spatial and environmental) consequences. Additional credit is due for organizing a competition for the typical design of this small house, with not only no sociologist, psychologist, visual artist or urban planner on the jury, but also no architect.

However, the laurel of first place for architectural kits AD 2021 goes to the community of Polish architects and female architects in general from me for the two waves of holy indignation that flooded the media and social media this year. The first wave concerned the idea of a small house that Kowalski will be able to build without a permitand according to a free design received from the state. The idea, of course, is not a good one (as mentioned above), but let's not kid ourselves, it won't do much harm to Polish spatial order, as it won't do much to that for the moment. The Chamber of Architects of the Republic of Poland (and many people privately), however, instead of bending to this great problem, decided to officially criticize the idea through the prism of its architectural JA. Let me quote here two excerpts from the "Warning of the National Council of the Chamber of Architects of the Republic of Poland on the two-stage implementation competition for the conceptual design of a single-family house with a construction area of up to 70 m²," which was published on September 13:

The Chamber opposes the idea of typification in the design of buildings, taking the position that it does not meet the real expectations and needs of citizens or the purpose of architects as representatives of the public trust profession; and: In addition, the distribution by the state of free building designs for single-family houses with a building area of up to 70 m² will deepen the crisis in the design market, leading to the marginalization of the architectural profession as a partner of the investor in the investment process, and consequently to the degradation of spatial order.

In view of the phenomena we are facing in the housing market, such as widespread pat-development and two-and-a-half-meter studios (for example, in Koszalin), which are designed by architects after all, the argument about the harmfulness of typification does not seem to me to be accurate. I understand that architects and architects dream of the creator's house project on a pristine mountainside (a project from which most of us started our architectural education), but nevertheless the reality is somewhat different. It would be worthwhile to look at it sometimes.

The second wave of outrage - so that I can close the text with a compositional buckle - concerned the demand of the girls from the Architects' Ball that SARP be renamed SAARP Association of Polish Architects and Women Architects. According to Hubert Trammer's calculations, virtually half of the active members of the architectural profession affiliated with the IA are women. Perhaps it would be worthwhile, then, to recognize their right to the name? I don't want to cite all the absurd arguments that have been made in response to this idea, I will only refer to a few: that the functioning abbreviation can't be changed, that the masculine plural applies to both types and that the repetition in the name sounds bad. I have a suggestion for that! Since since 1934 this supposedly inclusive plural we is "architects," maybe for the next eighty-seven years let's replace it with the word "female architects" and recognize that now he is inclusive and includes representatives and representatives of both sexes. Association of Women Architects of Poland - SARP, the acronym will remain the same. What do you gentlemen think about it?


The vote has already been cast

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