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Defending modernist architecture in Poland (Karol Kurnicki)

Architecture, Democracy and Emotions cover

WIRL-COFUND Fellow Karol Kurnicki has authored a chapter titled 'Defeninding modernist architecture in Poland' in Architecture, Democracy and Emotions: The Politics of Feeling since 1945.

This article focuses on the defence of socialist modernist architecture in Poland and explores its entanglement with today’s urban condition. It sees the defence in the context of post-socialist urban transformation, characterized by the rapid privatization of real estate and infrastructure, the influx of foreign investment and a significant reconstruction of the material fabric of cities. Defending architectural socialist modernism poses questions about modernist democratic ideas and ideals in general. The article explores why only selected buildings are deemed worthy of attention and saving, who selects them, and what consequences this has for urban transformation in general.

The emotional element of architecture as realized in practices and actions, in which the buildings partake, is explored in the context of vanishing materiality of socialist welfare state. Currently, democratic activities are mobilized in architecture in the moment when it stops functioning as a backdrop for everyday routines and starts requiring action from people. The social and political value of architecture is strengthened when it becomes engaging, positional, and processual. This makes emotions an essentially political matter, bound closely to power. Instances of protest prove to be occasions for the re-enactment of democratic values and architecture provides an important platform for this to happen.