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Michal Kolodziej - "Revitalization of the former Jewish quarter in Przedborz".

06 of September '21
Technical data
Type: master's thesis
Year of defense: 2020
Author: Michal Kolodziej
Wydział Architektury Politechniki Krakowskiej

Prof. Dr. Ewa Węcławowicz-Gyurkovich

Work submitted for the competition
"Best Diploma Architecture".

Architecture as a sensitive narrator

A building, like great literature, poetry or music, can tell more than one story. It can show the world from a completely different perspective; awaken desires, blaze new trails.

Daniel Libeskind

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physical model

© Michal Kolodziej

The graduation project is a journey to a world that ceased to exist with the end of World War II. The time of war and occupation was a turning point in the history of Poland in many respects. From a state of many nations, Poland became a mono-ethnic and mono-religious country. With the fall of communism came the subject of restoring the memory of the multicultural past. For most of our history, various influences, languages, cultures intermingled on the territory of the Republic, and numerous traditions were nurtured. Today, however, the traces of this colorful past are disappearing, and so is the memory. The diploma project is an attempt to capture the image of the absence of the heritage of the Jewish people in the consciousness of Poles. With the Holocaust, the material and spiritual culture of Polish Jews, created over centuries, was almost completely destroyed. The symbols we lost were the wooden synagogues scattered in towns throughout the Republic.

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schemes of project formation

© Michal Kolodziej

The thesis is located on the site of a defunct wooden synagogue in Przedborz. The project involves the restoration of the sacred space and the addition of new functions of a public utility nature, intended to bring closer the forgotten Jewish history, culture and tradition. Even before World War II, the development area was filled with dense residential and business buildings, but today it is a vacant area with no traces of the past. Trees and shrubs have grown on the rubble and ruins of the former Jewish quarter. This is a telling sign of the absence of the Jewish community in the city. The Jewish community in Przedborz was one of the wealthiest and largest in the area. This was materially reflected in the form of an architecturally valuable wooden synagogue with rich furnishings. Most of the monuments confirming the town's Jewish past were completely destroyed. The most valuable of these, the synagogue, was burned down in 1939 by German soldiers.



© Michal Kolodziej

The river, which divides the development area into two parts, plays an important role in the project. On the western side there is a kirkut (Jewish cemetery), symbolizing the past and the tragic fate of the Jewish people. A place for contemplation and prayer is located there. On the eastern side, a complex of seven buildings was designed as a metaphor for the present and future. Their number is not accidental and has a special meaning in the Bible and in Judaism. The functions of the buildings relate to the now defunct Jewish buildings of Przedborz and include a mikveh, a museum, a tourist information center, a synagogue, a science and research center, a kosher restaurant, and a bookstore with a reading room.

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first floor plan

© Michal Kolodziej

The two parts of the project are connected by a bridge. The wooden crossing is a symbol of the road. "Without the past there is no future," so one part of the project seems to make no sense without the other. The architecture used is meant to be a mere afterimage of the former Prebork Jewish quarter, which has not been rebuilt to this day. The architectural form was inspired by Prebork houses seen in old photographs and engravings depicting the city skyline. The designed buildings seen from different distances and places change their appearance. Architecture seen from Krakowska Street is mainly roofs, with their form resembling tents (the first Jewish temple was a tent form). On the other hand, looking from the side of the Jewish cemetery, we will see the shapes of houses so typical of the city's silhouette. The architecture, contemporary in expression, is meant to work on emotions, to resemble images of a multicultural town. In turn, the layout of the buildings is to bring to mind the narrow streets and squares of old Przedborz.


cross sections

© Michal Kolodziej

In terms of scale, the proposed development refers to the architecture of pre-war towns, where single-story residential buildings with urban accents in the form of a church, town hall or synagogue predominated. To avoid caricaturing historic architecture, details were kept to a minimum. Objects finished with burnt boards on the outside are a reference to the past - memory, pain, suffering. The contrast is the interiors conceived as bright, finished in wood, associated with hope, a heart that throbs with life.

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interior views

© Michal Kolodziej

The gardens between the buildings are important elements of the designed space, and the choice of plant species is based on the local flora. Herbs and plants have always helped man to heal wounds, in the project they play only a symbolic role. Between the synagogue and the restaurant, a special place was provided for planting a tree. This is a reference to the Tree of Life (Hebrew: Ec ha-Khaim), or the tree of paradise. According to tradition, it was supposed to grow in the middle of the Garden of Eden, its fruit ensuring immortality. Architecture, rich in symbols, becomes an affectionate narrator, taking an active part in the process of spinning a tale and bringing back to the city space the memory of the Jewish past.

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spaces between buildings, left view of synagogue entrance, inside Tree of Life}

© Michal Kolodziej

The role of the architect and architecture in acting for the cultural and historical awareness of the next generations is very important. It is important to create places and spaces for intercultural dialogue, places for the preservation of heritage and memory. Efforts should be made to save and maintain in the landscape of Poland the declining, absolutely unique heritage of the multicultural past.


Illustrations © Author

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