Check out the A&B portal!

Self-governance and self-governance...

28 of July '23

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

Everything is striving for balance. Hardly has the National Institute of Architecture and Urbanism started a new campaign, the Chamber of Architects has complemented it with its program. The Institute is promoting archiculture, while the professional body is promoting archichamism. Chamber members should be happy that their dues are not in vain. There is yin, and there is yang. Harmony, unity and creative sparkle will prevail.

No, that summer and vacation: we open notebooks and write down a new word - archiculture. It has recently been promoted by the NIAiU, explaining that it refers to the culture of shaping space, which "includes any human activity that changes space and seeks to improve its quality - through a high standard of design combined with a holistic approach typical of sustainable design." The Polish term is an interpretation of the German term Baukultur. The book series "Notes of Archikultur," edited by Katarzyna Domagalska, also begins with a showcase of German best practices and inspiration. Examples worthy, sensibly described, nothing but to read on the beach, test on sandcastles, and then creatively use.

Seemingly sounds good, but will it catch on? Culture does not have the power of seduction in our country. Not what brute force, domination and rhyme. Hence, I see greater success for the Chamber of Architects, which - without announcing it - has launched a program that can be laboriously called Archichamism, or, as the term "rudeness" has recently returned to its original meaning, Archiprimitivism. No more complaining that the Chamber offers little to its members, does not fight for their status, is without vision and ideas.

How do we know that the program has taken off? Here, on its Facebook fanpage, the Chamber of Architects of the Republic of Poland fired off coarse excursions at architect Barbara Ziemba. An anonymous administrator wrote: "I had a dream that KRIA passed a resolution that I should marry you, because these posts of yours some ridiculous [...]. According to the rules, I had to publish the resolution in the BIP-e, and of course the Lady came forward to carry it out [...]. I woke up covered in sweat... And I'm glad it was just a dream" (original spelling). This outburst is not alone. As memory suggests, and as long-time Chamber watcher Piotr Zbierajewski notes, there were many more such posts on the IARP profile.

These exploits, however, have now come to prominence. The editor-in-chief of our magazine responded immediately with an appeal to culture online and in the professional community. "Shouldn't the appropriate standards of communication that we use for official letters also apply in the social media space?" - asks Margaret on the A&B portal. But are we sure this is the way to go? Again, it will be bland, the dog with a limp leg will not be interested in architects and their work. How about reversing the appeal? Maybe it would be better to promote the standards now promoted by the Chamber and apply them on other levels as well? For example, in the verdicts of competitions. "The jury dreamed that it had to live in the shack you designed. Didn't you think about sweeping the streets?". The officials will write back: "The application for zoning makes us assume that you have fallen on your head."

We'll also finally start writing juicy reviews in A&B. "The apartment building designed by the god-forsaken studio X must be experienced on an empty stomach. Otherwise - vomiting, heartburn, diarrhea"; "What a wonderful shit excreted by studio Y!". The public will wail with satisfaction, architecture will enter the mainstream. Designs will be chosen not in competitions, but in MMA fights - for first blood, ear licking, or whatever determines the winner in these circuses. I can already see the news stories: "The new philharmonic will be designed by Robert "Promes" Konieczny. He won by choking Przem "Medusa" Lukasik in the second round."

This approach, by the way, will coincide with the violence inflicted on their space and landscape by Poles (including planners and architects), as I was reminded recently while taking numerous trains across Poland. The views from the windows provide an emotional rollercoaster. It may not be scary, but it's so inconsistent that tranquility is out of the question. Once it's beautiful, once it's ugly, then it even gets away, then it's bad again, and then maybe it's nice, but you can't see because there are noise barriers stretching for miles. We pass train stations: one from under the needle, another in ruins, a third works, but unwashed since the war. Pieces of cohesive cities, and then the bigos of the periphery. This has as much to do with the arch-culture promoted by NIAiU, especially in German cohesive, as I have with big money. I saw in the picture, and that's it.

So the Polish space does to us what a toxic family member does to us. It strokes us, praises us, only to tear at us in a few minutes for the unpicked crumbs from the countertop, while forcing us to love unconditionally. According to a principle inscribed on one of Poznań's churches: "We love our homeland not because it is great, but because it is ours," where instead of "great" we can substitute "beautiful," "logical," "just," and so on. Violence begets violence: first we violate the space, then it violates us. It comes out that we do ourselves wrong. The term "self-rape" finally makes sense.

The sweetener of my railroad observations, however, was the fact that no train was actually late. In Polish realities, this is so unremarkable as to be downright suspicious. It's possible that when I once cut myself on a train, the blood soaked into the ticket and so I signed a cyrograph with the PKP Forces company. Henceforth, while others curse at delays and breakdowns, I ride the czar's buses and make it everywhere. Boruta opens the semaphores with his tail, in Wars the eggs fry on the hellfire. But a pact is a pact, and I'm afraid the retribution will soon catch up with me: an infinite number of minutes of delay that can't be changed, for which the PKP company apologizes with heartfelt apologies. No Vars, no water and no air conditioning. In an honest to goodness field overlooking a wall of acoustic screens. In a compartment full of Chamber of Architects activists.

Jakub Głaz

The vote has already been cast