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Sink or soar, a summary of the year 2022 in architecture (part XVII)

Paweł Mrozek
25 of January '23

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 it in the convention of Sink or Soar. We give our Authors total freedom of expression and do not moderate this discussion. Rather, we are very curious about it.

Previous episodes of the series featured:

Paweł Mrozek in Sink or Soar 2022 of A&B 01|2023 issue

The year 2022 was the third consecutive year of disfavor sent to our country and passed us in the shadow of war, but this does not mean that Poles were idle during this time. On the contrary, there was sometimes more going on than we would have liked.

For me, the absolute negative hit in the category of intrusive tacky gadgetry in public spaces became patriotic flag benches, which, like mushrooms after rain, began to appear in unexpected places throughout the country, sowing terror and optical discomfort. A perfect allegory of our country: a hole in the shape of the borders of the Polish state fenced off with a chain. Fortunately, it was made of eco-friendly biowaste, so it began its march toward biodegradation just as quickly as it appeared. To its credit, however, the standard-setting regulations for its use, with more paragraphs than the U.S. Constitution and more prohibitions than the information on the gate to Area 51, are worthy of recognition in this context. I'm sure, however, that most of the things this bench forbade its users didn't even manage to do on it before its own self-destruction.

In the category of new public spaces, the biggest infamy in my eyes was the concrete square in front of the Hilton Hotel in Lodz, at the corner of Piotrkowska and Mickiewicza streets. The authors of this square should be congratulated for their efforts to combat global cooling. It's really a great feat to pave such a significant area of space and not even be tempted to include a single tree or even a patch of lawn. The feat is all the more notable because, while it is true that the square blends in perfectly with all the ocean of concrete and asphalt around it, a unique opportunity to create any shade and a place where passersby at this busy intersection could find a bit of respite on hot days was thus squandered.

The last negative hit I would like to mention is the Five Corners Square in Warsaw, or rather, not the square itself, but the hysterical reaction of residents to the fact that trees were planted there without making lawns. Admittedly, such a form of landscaping in such a busy and crowded place would not be unusual somewhere in Western Europe, but for a Pole it turned out to be a cognitive dissonance beyond his strength and patience, so we could admire an unusual festival of wailing performed by anperformed by an exotic alliance of city activists who hoped that the city would make the square a strict nature preserve, in partnership with the classic car imba, who were taken away, after all, the constitutionally guaranteed right to park wherever they pleased.

Of other things: our time was made more pleasant by calendar pages marked by successive fountains smashed by cars in paved squares, but all in all, this has been as common in this country for a century as screens on the beach, and in no way accounted for the uniqueness of 2022 against historical data. If one wanted to list all the exceptional things that happened in the architecture and urban planning of this country in the past year alone, we would have to read the list for the next hour like a deed for a micro-apartment with a garage and a share in the common area, because the peculiarity of this cabinet of curiosities called our country is that, like water, we lack not the extraordinary things, but precisely the ordinary ones.

Pawel Mrozek

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