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The future of Polish architecture I look forward to. The 14th edition of the Szczecin Westival is coming in May!

26 of April '22

May 11 marks the start of the 14th edition of one of the longest-running architectural events in Poland. The Szczecin Westival Art of Architecture, as it is the event in question, will be held this year under the slogan "The future of Polish architecture I look forward to." The event, organized by the Szczecin branch of SARP, is curated by Piotr Śmierzewski.

14th Westival Art of Architecture
The future of Polish architecture I look forward to
Lentz Villa, Wojska Polskiego 84, 70-482 Szczecin

The four festival days will focus on the youngest representatives of the Polish architectural community. As the curator notes, it is the current thirty-year-olds who are one of the main channels connecting contemporary architecture in the country with the world.

Eleven teams have been invited to co-create the "Young Poland" festival exhibition: PROLOG, Miastopracownia, Trzupki, K3xMore, UGO, Rzut, Pracownia Architektury Krajobrazu Marta Tomasiak, P2PA, Aleksander Wadas Studio, JEJU Studio and AA-Collective.

© Westival Sztuka Architektury

Barbara Nawrocka of Miastopracownia talks about how their joint project was created, what unites the invited teams and what divides them, and what the future of Polish architecture might be.

Ola Kloc
: How did you become part of Szczecin's Westival?

Barbara Nawrocka: The organizer of Westival, i.e. the Szczecin SARP, chose Piotr Smierzewski to curate this year's edition. It is on his initiative that the meeting in Szczecin will be primarily devoted to young architects. Piotr appointed a Program Council, which included RZUT and PROLOG, to map young Polish studios together and select from them those who were to jointly develop the Westival exhibition. In this group are myself and Dominika Wilczynska, or Miastopracownia, and ten other offices. Together we are trying to answer the question of what young architecture in Poland is like and what these young architects and architects are like. Did you know that the last such exhibition, or "Avant-garde of Tomorrow," took place 11 years ago?

: A lot has changed in 11 years.

Barbara: I was very surprised that it's been as long as 11 years, I had the impression that "Avant-garde" just took place [laughs]! In Westival, we were tempted by the formula, democratically giving the field to a larger and larger group. In this expanded group we meet regularly online, debate and work. It's also a sign of the times that we already know each other very well, but I'll only see most people for the first time in person in Szczecin. Together we decide what the exhibition should be about and what it should look like. We agreed at the start that we didn't want it to be just a review of our past projects. We wanted to do something new together, especially for the exhibition, to design something together. Are we able to work collectively, is this profession still struggling with the problem of ego, are we able to play a concert for eleven bands? This was something we wanted to test in practice.

: Was it successful?

Barbara: I can't tell you that yet [laughs]!

: The project teams invited to co-create the festival share similar values, according to the organizers. What are they?

Barbara: We are probably united only by the fact that we are of a similar age! Besides, the value in itself is that we are so different. We have different ways of running offices, different approaches to group work, different experiences in online collaboration or thinking about architecture. Marta Tomasiak, the only landscape architect on our team, recently shared with me a reflection that thinking about nature and ecology was very present in our design processes. Is this the element that we share? Or maybe this is the answer to your earlier question about what has changed over the last decade. Nonetheless, it was interesting that some people were open to collaboration, while others went solo. The common denominator may still be that we were torn between working for ideas and mundane matters like the obligation to keep the studio afloat. Not everyone can afford the comfort of working for free.

© Westival Art of Architecture

: The festival's slogan is "The future of Polish architecture I look forward to". - what is it?

Barbara: The title of this edition of Westival was chosen by curator Piotr Smierzewski, and it is probably to him that this question should be directed. I don't have a clue! :)

: How about another way, what would you like the future of Polish architecture to be?

Barbara: I would like architecture to be paid enough for talented people to do things they like and believe in. For the past few months I've had the honor and pleasure of working with super talented people who are doing great things. While working on the exhibition, I also conduct mini-interviews with them. During one, I heard that the only thing blocking us is the market and conservative investors. During the other, that young Polish architecture is mainly people who work in someone else's name in big offices. The most talented ones - in foreign ones.

: This says a lot about the current situation. What can we do to keep these young people in Poland? Is this even a solution? The experience of working abroad incredibly "opens" the head.

Barbara: This aspect of leaving is very interesting. On the one hand, the situation on the Polish labor market is very difficult. We face the lack of permanent employment, lack of insurance, low salaries. It would be great if this were not the main reason for the emigration of the most talented male and female graduates. Piotr Smierzewski mentioned several times that what characterizes our generation is the shared experience of studying and working abroad, in several cases still practiced in parallel with the practice conducted in Poland. These are our "open-mindedness," broad horizons and lack of complexes. I don't know if I would want to keep anyone in Poland by force. It reminds me too much of government programs [laughs].

: You probably don't need to convince anyone that it's worth coming to Westival in Szczecin. But tell us, please, what can the participants of the event expect?

Barbara: This exhibition is a record of the process of our cooperation. What was born from it, the product itself, is the intermediate goal. It will be shown in the exhibition, while the most important thing is the path itself. It is a documentation of a certain experiment in which each and every one of us plays a dual role, so to speak. Together we came up with a process that seemed the most difficult to implement only to face it ourselves. At the same time, from time to time we look at ourselves from the sidelines, checking where we are at, what we are learning about ourselves, how we are coping, what we are facing, what we are failing at. Experiments have this in common that they might as well fail and then we will show you the story of how beautifully we failed.

Ola: Thank you for the interview.

Ola Kloc

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