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The meteorite has landed!

19 of September '23

The column is from A&B issue 7-8|23

"I have to admit that I'm a bit disappointed," concluded a journalist recording a podcast for a certain Polish design festival. We were talking about the fifteen-minute city and were supposed to spend more time on the topic of... time in architecture, but the conversation turned to planning the future in Poland. Its picture, as I expressed in the interview, paints itself under the influence of data analysis and demographic forecasts rather uninteresting. "I was hoping for a more optimistic, perhaps utopian vision. For such a view beyond reality," the journalist added. I realized that in his eyes I was someone who could detach himself from, by implication, the depressing reality - both current and future - and fractiously divulge about a better future.

The journalist was legitimate in this expectation, because he was familiar with my art projects, especially Jacob's Ladder, the theme of which was to provide residents of Wroclaw's communes with the opportunity to look down on their own lives. And in addition, what the journalist didn't know, in a few months my book will come out, which is a collection of more than a dozen "utopian", albeit realized and mostly long-lasting community projects that created different, sometimes opposing, visions of "better futures". From the Counter-Reformation era to the present. Meanwhile, instead of soaring between the cumulus among the blue skies, I topped future listeners with images of our homeland emerging from demographers' surveys. After the fact, I thought I understood, nay, identified with the need expressed by the journalist, who, not coincidentally, chose me, hoping that I would bring optimism to the conversation about the future. I myself would like to finally hear from someone I can trust at least a little, that things will NOT be bad! I'm a terrible party pooper, as the Americans say.

Therefore, to correct my mistake (perhaps taking place under the influence of jumping atmospheric pressure?), I will paint a positive vision. And I'll even take as a starting point data that I'll "twist in the right direction," to quote a lobbyist friend. So I'll start very realistically. So it goes like this: Somewhere in the forest near Bydgoszcz a meteorite falls. The military, police or mushroom pickers by some miracle do not find it, so the meteorite, which has arrived from no one knows where, emanates a mysterious and powerful energy to itself, lying somewhere among the ferns. June 23 comes, and with it Midsummer Night. Moonlight falls on the ferns, but especially on "our" meteorite. Under the influence of the elements contained in it, Fern Blossoms appear en masse in forests all over the country, and many unexpected transformations take place, including systemic ones. First of all, our fellow Poles are changing, but not into zombies, oh no, this is not a Hollywood fairy tale.

Because Poles suddenly start being nice to each other. Friendly. Smiling at each other and supporting their neighbors, even those unknown and not sharing their beliefs or political views. The emanation of the meteorite arouses an unspeakable warmth in their hitherto plum-dry hearts, which they bestow on the world. The hecklers stop tapping their keyboards, writing "You traitor, Jew-communist, faggot, you!". Divided into the first and second sorts of Poles, family members fall into each other's arms. Politicians of the ruling camp become so cordial and open-minded that they begin, like little Benjamin Button from Francis Scott Fitzgerald's short story, to grow younger in their eyes, until one day they are spotted by journalists from a truly public television station playing marbles somewhere in a backyard in Warsaw's Żoliborz district. In contrast, opposition politicians stop thinking well of only themselves and their own friends, treating the needs and fears of residents of even the smallest hamlets with tenderness and reverence.

When the elections come, those who, in their own words, "changed the prevailing regime after 1989," calmly hand over power, with no slights or tattling, because they are busy helping old ladies and giving back to their compatriots the money that, by some miracle, found its way into their and their wives' accounts. This is no different from a certain religious organization, which decides to donate all the money it has received from politicians to a special fund to increase the salaries of doctors and teachers and save Polish obstetrics and child psychiatry. The once hateful, fundamentalist activist suddenly calls on Polish women from the parliamentary rostrum to want a choice and removes religious symbols from the walls of public institutions. A former musician who became the laughing stock of the masses as a xenophobic parliamentarian is eager to right his wrongs by taking part in a parliamentary committee writing the foundations of a rational and inclusive immigration program that will not be undermined for decades to come. He is photographed by the press as he visits a family from Afghanistan and breastfeeds their youngest child, a blush of bliss spreading across his face.

Meanwhile, encouraged by sensible social policies and choices, Polish women are deciding to have children and... more children, confessing to reporters: "Gee, in Poland it's really nice to have at least four cute little babies! And on top of that, thanks to the political transformation, I can take care of others, but they can also take care of me!". In contrast, those who choose not to have offspring are taken care of by empathetic partners with the full consent of their own mothers and aunts drinking to their health and winking at family events. This is exactly how loving families of men and women who have decided to have a relationship or even marriage within their own gender behave. Marriage, including that given by women in cassocks, and permanent cohabitation are proving to be frequently chosen options. Finally, the state has changed tax and insurance laws, also allowing same-sex couples to enjoy lower taxes and benefit from pensions from a deceased partner or a dead partner.

There are happy children running around everywhere. Even their spines are straight because they no longer have to carry textbooks to school. The Ministry of Education is making revolutionary changes to the teaching system. Work is done at school and extracurricular activities take place there. Adults don't have to get off work to turn into chauffeurs of the kids and drive their kids to judo and mandolin lessons. Increases in teachers' salaries mean that high-caliber specialists are eager to teach in state schools. The 19th century in education is finally coming to an end, with an unintelligent former education minister and a certain even less intelligent superintendent admitting that they are better off working the responsible part of mopping school floors. Changes in public education cannot be kept up with by private education - new experimental teaching formats are born. It's no different in the medical sector, where modern, state-subsidized technologies in the fight against infertility are booming. So much so that in vitro is turning out to be a method used only by hardened conservatives.

At the same time, Poles are beginning to take great care of their country's environment. Managements of companies that used to poison rivers are now working as stream and bank cleaners together with former members of fascist militias. Also recruited from the latter group are collectors of the garbage once scattered in the forests, although this is a fading profession, as Poles suddenly stop littering, and on top of that understand what "segregation" is all about. At the request of the public, the government is establishing new protected areas and subjecting to natural reclamation hotels and businessmen's castles that were built in reserves under the previous government. Developers and investment funds are reducing activity, creating small-scale, high-quality projects that are truly "green" on top of that. Cities, despite skyrocketing population growth, are no longer spreading far beyond their previous contours. Centers and even suburbs are starting to become denser, with more and more green areas being created. More clean industry is emerging, goods are becoming more durable, and policies to exclude shoddy goods imported from countries ruled by dictators are healing the economy and reducing waste. Our washing machines are more expensive, but they last many times longer than they used to. Suddenly Filip Springer confesses in an interview that he has to start writing about new subjects, because his existing mission has come to an end, both in terms of aesthetics and landscape.

"Well," many a reader will say, "and how does this fairy tale relate to ours, the architects of the future?". I already answer. Well, it's that people will still need us, because we will truly change their (and our!) living environment for the better. Although there will be fewer of us than now, we will be treated with more respect. Why? Because people will see that we are not working for two zlotys thanks to a law regulating our minimum wages and punishing those who engage in dumping practices. This will happen because, like other engineers, we will finally be well represented in the parliament, both by parliamentarians, many of whom will be architects or architects, and by lobbyists working on behalf of the profession. Architects will not have to do fifty projects a year to survive, and the two or three that will be "on their drawing boards" will be able to represent a higher quality, even if they are "only" renovations, because this market will be larger than the market for new buildings. Higher quality will also be represented by architects and female architects, no longer just from recommending or warning against something, but from actually doing it, also because the people working there will be motivated by good salaries, as will designers and even regular apprentices. One day we'll be invited to a restaurant where the once-sucking developer and his lawyer will apologize to us, offer monkfish with truffles and pour veuve clicquot.

And these are no fantasies, I tell you. This is how it will be! Hallelujah!

Jakub Szczęsny

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