Open form or vulgar chaos?

Date: 12.10

Time: 5:00pm

Place: New Horizons Cinema

Public space in Poland – in the context of the theory of Zofia and Oskar Hansen

In 1959 Oskar Hansen – a Polish architect - announced on the pages of "Cultural Review" the Open Form concept in art and architecture. The idea was – and still is – based on break with the mentoring tone typical for artists and architects. Hansen proposes to replace it with a sincere dialogue. An open work is one where the author creates only a frame for the recipient to experience something special. What will it be? It depends on the recipient - the art and architecture of the Open Form concept gain their meanings and interpretations only in contact with customers and users. Without recipients they remain empty - devoid of content. Nothing here is set. Open Form dogmas are flexibility, dynamics, ability to transform and freedom of interpretation.

For the Polish art of the 60s in the 20th century it was an influencing concept, followed by artists as Grzegorz Kowalski, Zofia Kulik, Przemysław Kwiek, Zofia and Emil Cieślar. Yet, in the architectural environment it was almost unnoticed. The only realizations based in this theory were projects by Hansens – Słowackiego Housing Estate in Lublin, Przyczółek Grochowski Housing Estate in Warsaw and two blocks in Warsaw’s Rakowiec. In all these projects Zofia and Oskar Hansen tried to implement their theory.

What it looks like in practice can be observed in the mall which Hansens designed for Słowackiego Housing Estate in Lublin. In addition to the pavilions (one containing an outside pool for the living/fresh fish) there were stands for stallholders and storage space. Active for years the complex perfectly served the local village square. Pavilions really give an impression of conscious and consistent architecture dialoguing with the surrounding settlement. Nevertheless, the real life began here after 1989, when people could develop their wings. “The wings”, however, were –and still are- often made of cardboard, plywood, corrugated iron. Lashed with wire or twine, often leaky, defective, temporary – this is what the shopping complex of Hansens has become in recent years.

Not only this one. Przyczółek Grochowski Housing Estate in Warsaw is a similar case. Here it was done with slightly more durable materials - metal bars and concrete walls, which residents used to separate themselves from each other. The communication value of the whole complex (consists of 21 blocks interconnected with galleries) has been lost as residents decided to separate from each other and architecture overgrew with dislike, distrust, and sometimes even hostility – emotions which the Hansens wouldn’t expect. Today, although the metal bars have disappeared and intercoms have been installed the estate community is considering a curious idea of fencing up the complex (the investment will not be cheap as all the blocks have a combined length of nearly 2 km).

What is happening in the Polish public space is exactly what Zofia and Oskar Hansen dreamt for. Architecture grows with life. The type of life which may differ from Hansens’ dream though. But ca we can still say with regards to what is happening in our cities that the public space there is shaped on the basis of dialogue and understanding?

text: Filip Springer