Polish Architects beyond Poland: Migration and Memory

Workshop and Roundtable discussion: 28th November 2013 Liverpool School of Architecture.

This workshop is concerned with the architecture, design and planning proposals developed by architects/planners from Poland during the mid-late twentieth century. In particular it seeks to address how people and ideas have migrated beyond national borders and with what effect. Without the networks of empire and trade that aided so many British and Western European architects to practice around the world in the twentieth century, how and why did so many Polish architects obtain commissions beyond the immediate reach of Eastern Europe?

One answer to the above question was the placing of a Polish School of architecture within the Liverpool school during World War Two. In 1942 the British Council approached the university with the proposal that was part of a broader plan that saw other academic disciplines placed in other UK universities, such as a veterinary school at Edinburgh.

The Polish School of architecture was inaugurated by the Prime Minister of Poland and Commander-in-Chief, General Wladyslaw Sikorski in November 1942 – although the school had actually been in operation from June 1941. Staff and students worked on theoretical schemes such as for the rebuilding of a specified Polish village, along with designs for hospitals, blocks of flats, factories, town halls and the like. Professor Budden commenting on the Polish School’s tenure in Liverpool noted that although ‘the work…is in the mainstream of contemporary architectural thought and practice, it is yet distinctively expressive and national in character. The forms employed are in the main familiar, but they are given an unmistakably Polish inflection – and the result is the more interesting and vigorous for that…’

What was this inflection that Budden observed and can we begin to discern a specific Polish approach to twentieth century architecture and planning?

The Polish School is but one of the many networks, vectors and agencies that facilitated the export of Polish architecture and architects. What other modes of migration were pursued? What happened after the Polish School and where did its graduates go on to practice?

These are the most basic questions that we hope to discuss and address, but suggestions, other case studies and individual biographies are very welcome.

Papers and work-in-progress are most welcome. 20 minute papers followed by 20 minutes discussion. For further information or to submit abstracts of 200 words please email Iain Jackson ijackson@liv.ac.uk  or Peter Richmond richdrp@hotmail.co.uk.  Deadline for abstracts is 14th October 2013.

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