[Exhibition] “Architecture of the VII Day” Poland of the 1980s as a Laboratory for Community Architecture

March 17, 2017

Architecture of the VII Day at the DOX Centre for Contemporary Art reveals the history of churches built in Poland between the years 1945 and 1989 even despite the Communist state’s antipathy to religion. Using waste and illegally obtained materials, parishioners built over 3700 churches that became not only a manifestation of faith, but also a protest against the government.

 

Church of Our Lady of Queen of Peace, Wroclaw © Igor Snopek

Church of Our Lady of Queen of Peace, Wroclaw © Igor Snopek

 

The exhibition features photographs, diagrams, maps, and short narratives directly from church construction sites. Since the end of World War II, 3,780 churches were built in Poland, more than in any other European country. Most of them were built during the 1980s, a time when church construction was neither permitted nor prohibited, and thus played a significant role in the politics of the Cold War.


 

Practical information

“Architecture of the VII Day”
March 17 – May 22, 2017
DOX Centre for Contemporary Art
Poupetova 793/1, Prague 7
Czech Republic

 


In post-war Poland, millions of conservative, devout people from small towns moved to industrial cities newly built according to the Soviet functionalist template. But this template had no room for a parish church – a building where these newly industrialized communities could meet and consolidate themselves. Parish communities in Poland thus began to fill the spiritual emptiness of Communist ideology by building their own places of worship.

 

Church of St. Adalbert, Bishop and Martyr, Częstochowa © Igor Snopek

Church of St. Adalbert, Bishop and Martyr, Częstochowa © Igor Snopek

Church of St. Maximilian Kolbe, Kolnica © Igor Snopek

Church of St. Maximilian Kolbe, Kolnica © Igor Snopek

 

The authors of the Architecture of the VII Day project – Iza Cichońska, Karolina Popera a Kuba Snopek – are attempting to document these Polish churches and the circumstances in which they were built in a coherent manner. Not only do these structures defy the prefabrication and regularity characteristic of Eastern Bloc architecture of that time, but they are also the result of community efforts based on local financing investment long before these approaches became trends in twenty-first century architecture.

 

Church of St. Maximilian Kolbe, Kolnica © Igor Snopek

Church of St. Maximilian Kolbe, Kolnica © Igor Snopek

Church of St. Raphael Kalinowsky, Wilkasy © Igor Snopek

Church of St. Raphael Kalinowsky, Wilkasy © Igor Snopek

 

During the 1980s Poland thus involuntarily became the largest laboratory in the world of “bottom-up architecture”. The role of architects was transformed – modernistic technocrats serving the government became construction managers with limited resources and individual talent. The most talented architects and tradesmen participated in church construction, working side by side with their clients from the parish.

 

Church of St. Brother Albert Chmielowski, Częstochowa © Igor Snopek

Church of St. Brother Albert Chmielowski, Częstochowa © Igor Snopek

Church of the Holy Cross and Our Lady Healer of the Sick, Katowice © Igor Snopek

Church of the Holy Cross and Our Lady Healer of the Sick, Katowice © Igor Snopek

 

“Instead of using factory-made prefab sections, churches were built slowly; parishioners met on Saturdays, devoted their free time to the project, and made small donations. During its construction, such a church grew commingled with the history of the local community and became a local legend,” explains Kuba Snopek.

 

Church of Our Lady Revealing the Miraculous Medal, Zakopane © Igor Snopek

Church of Our Lady Revealing the Miraculous Medal, Zakopane © Igor Snopek

 Church of Our Lady Queen of Poland, Świdnica © Igor Snopek

Church of Our Lady Queen of Poland, Świdnica © Igor Snopek

 

“Churches were often built only with shovels, pails, and small mixers, because large machinery belonged to the state, and weren’t loaned out for their construction,” adds Iza Cichońska. The construction of larger structures therefore required ideas and the cooperation of sometimes even hundreds of people, whose work was often coordinated by people from mountain areas.

 

Church of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Poznań © Igor Snopek

Church of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Poznań © Igor Snopek

Church of Our Lady of Lichen, Licheń Stary© Igor Snopek

Church of Our Lady of Lichen, Licheń Stary© Igor Snopek

 

After John Paul II, a Pole, was elected Pope in 1978 and after the creation of the Solidarity movement in 1980, church construction became not only an expression of religious faith, but also an expression of resistance to the Communist regime. Especially the Solidarity movement elicited a wave of new church construction. The regime ignored these new construction projects in the hope that this would help it stay in power. The fantastic architectural designs of churches stood in sharp contrast to the centralized state’s rigid urbanism, and are a testament to the creative force of those who built them.

 

Church of Our Lady Queen of the World, Radom © Igor Snopek

Church of Our Lady Queen of the World, Radom © Igor Snopek

Church of Our Lady Queen of Poland, Cracow © Igor Snopek

Church of Our Lady Queen of Poland, Cracow © Igor Snopek

Church of the Holy Spirit, Wroclaw © Igor Snopek

Church of the Holy Spirit, Wroclaw © Igor Snopek

Church of Divine Mercy, Kalisz © Igor Snopek

Church of Divine Mercy, Kalisz © Igor Snopek

Temple of Divine Providence, Warsaw © Igor Snopek

Temple of Divine Providence, Warsaw © Igor Snopek

 

Curators: Iza Cichońska, Karolina Popera and Kuba Snopek. The exhibition has been organized with the cooperation of the Polish Institute in Prague.


 

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