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The Eastern Wall and its contexts

07 of October '20

There is probably no other urban premise in Poland that has become so loaded with meanings and new contexts. At the time it was created, the Eastern Wall was a luxury on par with other world cities: Stockholm, Rotterdam or Paris. Immortalized in many images of communist pop culture, it is still strongly present in the consciousness of Varsovians today. The exhibition at Warsaw's Zodiac, curated by Kacper Kepinski, illuminates various aspects of the Eastern Wall: from architectural and urban planning to social and cultural. The opening will take place on October 24.

The Eastern Wall is an architectural and urban complex built in Warsaw in the 1960s. Its main architect was Zbigniew Karpinski. In the quarter between the streets between Swietokrzyska, Jasna, Marszalkowska and Jerozolimskie Avenues he placed buildings of varying heights and functions. Today researchers agree that this is one of the best examples of complex development in the spirit of modernism. However, this does not mean legal protection for the complex. Although the East Wall was listed as a modern cultural asset in 2003, it is still not protected by historic preservation law. The history and present day of the complex are the subject of an exhibition entitled. "The Eastern Wall. The Architecture of Zbigniew Karpinski" prepared by the National Institute of Architecture and Urbanism. The exhibition is curated by Kacper Kepinski together with academic curator Prof. Boleslaw Stelmach. Dominika Dragan-Alcantara is responsible for the production of the exhibition and designers from Miastopracownia - Barbara Nawrocka, Dominika Wilczynska - are responsible for the architecture of the exhibition.

gentle modernism

The Eastern Wall has recently become notorious precisely because of the interference with its structure. Demolitions or insulations of individual buildings have caused its original overall character to begin to blur. In the case of postwar modernism, details such as the aluminum profiles used in the facades the rhythm of the windows or the proportions of the masses determine the aesthetic expression of the whole. Therefore, even small changes and modernizations often nullify the entire visual effect of the establishment.

mężczyźni oglądający Rotundę PKO. Widoczne rusztowania we wnętrzu budynku. W tle biurowiec „Universal

Men viewing the PKO Rotunda. Visible scaffolding inside the building. In the background, the "Universal" office building

From the collection of the National Digital Archive

restoring memory

All the more reason to take a look at what the Eastern Wall looked like at the beginning of its existence. The exhibition we will see in the Zodiac strips it of all meanings and accrued contexts and shows the architecture of the Eastern Wall in its full glory. The architectural and urban quality of the project will be highlighted, and visitors will be able to trace its transformation from the competition to its realization. The second, undisputed hero of the exhibition will be the author of the Eastern Wall, namely Zbigniew Karpinski. The effort to restore postwar architects to the collective memory deserves special praise. Thanks to this, the landscape of postwar Polish architecture becomes a complete picture, which consists of a multitude of artistic attitudes.

not only architecture

However, whoever thinks that the exhibition will be a dry, presentation for specialists is mistaken. If the creators take off all the layers of meaning that have accrued around the object, it is only to take them in and have a good look at them. The exhibition presents the life that filled the Eastern Wall - its everyday life, the meanings attributed to it and its special position as an iconic place of entertainment, commerce, meetings, bars and stores, a backdrop for major propaganda events. The Center Department Stores, Zodiac or Relask Cinema, are buildings that have permanently entered the popular canon of urban culture. It is impossible to omit the Eastern Wall from thinking and talking about Warsaw's identity.

Dzieci bawiące się przy fontannie w Pasażu Śródmiejskim

Children playing by the fountain in the Downtown Passage

From the collection of the National Digital Archive

accompanying program

The social and cultural aspect of the Eastern Wall and its current functioning will be highlighted by a rich accompanying program. It will include curatorial tours of the exhibition, architectural walks and workshops for adults, and families with children. Noteworthy is the planned debate under the title "Postwar Modernism. Prospects for Rehabilitation - New Challenges," which will be attended by Dr. Waldemar Baraniewski (prof. of the Academy of Fine Arts), Dr. Eng. arch. Bolesław Stelmach (Director of NIAiU, Prof. of the PŁ) and Katarzyna Zalasińska, Ph.D. (Director of the Department of Historic Preservation of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage). In the workshop section, on the other hand, an interesting proposal is the workshop conducted by the Centrala Design Group. Their participants will create collages based on cut-out fragments from archival photographs of Zbigniew Karpinski's realizations.

Helena Postawka-Lech

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