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Kuba Głaz
28 of October '22

The column is from the 6/7th issue of A&B

A Pole abroad is sometimes like a guy in front of an open refrigerator. He looks and doesn't see. Or he sees everything, just not what he's supposed to see. "Paris? Too dirty," "Copenhagen? Too clean," "London? The subway so cramped I was walking in a crouch." Good examples? About the quieter ones. It's all about sacrifice. We sacrifice ourselves on the altar of science.

When traveling, Poles are said to be resourceful. They will scrounge, bend, swipe, sometimes eat the Swedish table together with their feet - in retaliation to the Swedes for the Deluge. The resourceful individuals, like Jaroslaw Kuźniar once did, advise what and how: "To Canada and the U.S. we didn't take any gadgets. We went to Walmart, bought everything we needed, and at the end of the trip gave it back, saying it didn't fit us." This was the recipe for nibbling at the imperialists that this well-known journalist once gave to his compatriots. The Internet remembers.

But when it is possible to take in full legalese without question, use and creatively recycle, then sand in the cogs - somehow we do not go. Practical sense disappears when we look at good spatial and architectural solutions for free, which are worth noting, thinking about and - after creative adaptation - applying on native soil. It's enough to take a look, take pictures, check details, make inquiries. But somehow we don't. "O. I didn't know this one. And this. And this is interesting!" - ranted a decision-maker once, when - socially - in one of the advisory bodies for an important urban space, I showed the assembled people a series of photos of cobblestones, floors, stones and whatnot, which I had snapped while driving abroad.

As far as I know, and I know for sure, a suitably endowed decision-maker would be much farther away than in Mielno, looking at something, walking on something, or even stumbling over something - that's how uncongenial and unsightly it was. She looked and - she did not see. Even if the unseen was within her sphere of competence and - there is such a faint possibility - also of interest. She was not the only one. "Fabulous in this Denmark" - spluttered my great-aunt-to-be, which at the same time did not prevent her from repainting her house in gauzy colors and putting up a fussy fence. And yet she ate hygge with backhoe spoons in the Danes.

Others have the same. Those who multiply more billboards after visiting countries where - not like here - exquisite advertising does not replace the banality of landscapes. And those who make bicycle roads so that the cyclist - unlike in a dull paved country - has intermittent intercourse with these roads cut to pieces. And those who have another "Concrete Gardens" development on their hands have probably flown more than once to relax in some green cities. In general, there is a whole army of people who claim that in our country it's impossible - after traveling to places where it somehow gives. A bit like - with apologies - Putin's subjects, what in Europe to sit and like, but at home they do not do it. Wot, eto and our spiecifika.

Where does this come from? An undiscovered kind of blindness? A firewall on the eye-brain route? It's all insinuation. Pole sees very well, but doesn't take shortcuts. Inspired by something successful? Banal and easy. The challenge is to see if a harmful solution is definitely a mistake. But maybe not? Maybe it will work this time? Scientific thrill. Because that's what real science is all about: each successive experiment confirms (or not) an earlier observation. We test the tested. We test the proven.

Hence, we are not inspired by the shape of the Baltic resorts in Germany, but instead put up seaside cloches similar to those on the Côte d'Azur. An experiment under the slogan "we confirm that it doesn't make sense" is just starting in Pobierowo. Or we're testing whether, as in Spain, building huge public cubicles with EU money is bound to end in trouble for maintaining the colossi in times of economic downturn. Maybe, just maybe, those Spaniards are horrible savages, and a Pole can do it? It's strange that we don't yet have a "Little Tester" toy that prepares for such an attitude. In it one could repeat spectacular scientific failures, the coolest laboratory explosions or what funnier prototype disasters.

All right, now you're going to pin me down: you've grumbled, and Konieczny said in the just-published "Archip Guide to Poland" that "in our country, foreign solutions are mainly followed." He said so, commenting on the interchange center in Wroclaw, which is, no matter how you look at it, an object that is valued and in some respects successful. And what? Checkmate, Boulder, shove your theories somewhere.

None of this, because I'm whining here not about copying expressive forms, but about appreciating the manifestations of systemic solutions. That which is not conspicuous, but, on the contrary, that which soothes these eyes and allows for a more comfortable and peaceful life: the effects of sensible urban planning, regulation, high culture of space and nature management, aptly chosen details, colors and so on. Because in copying the "wow" effect and in the past we were not bad. There were always some racy palaces and churches with Italian or French pedigree, only that they were in the mud, surrounded by mongrelized cottages and cut off from the world in the thaw season, when the roads made for linear swamps.

Systemic affairs, however, are a pile of work, and fame is less and delayed. Hence, after returning from neighborhoods worth following, one hears mostly complaints about the bitter raisins plucked from the sensible whole: dirt, breakdowns, cramped conditions, prices. "It's not light at their place either, oh, it's not light," one hears in storytelling full of Shadenfreude to show that we are not the only ones who are not doing well. And - that, of course, nothing is worth changing. And good examples? What good examples?

So it's time to modify Kuźniar's Law. On vacation, let's use what's cool, but at the end of the trip - let's not give anything away for anything! Especially since good solutions can be acquired for free and without punitive consequences. And upon return - put into practice.

Well, unless the summer is beautiful again this year. Then they will conscript us.

Into the armed ranks.

Jakub Głaz

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