An art historian, exhibition curator. Together with Jola Gola, she has recently opened the “Ineffable Space” exhibition at Zachęta. The exhibition marks the 40th anniversary of the Faculty of Design at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw and shows the time before the formation of the faculty when its concept was evolving. We have here works of the three prominent personalities: Jerzy Sołtan, Lech Tomaszewski, and Andrzej Jan Wróblewski.
“Ineffable space” is a term coined by Le Corbusier that says architecture is not only about raising buildings. It is more about designing space for people, space which treats people subjectively. Sołtan joined the office of the architect Le Corbusier in the 40s when this concept was just developing.
Let’s talk about Warsaw projects at the exhibition. Warszawianka (sports complex) is an excellent example of this “ineffable space”.
– It was an innovative project and importantly, realized. Nowadays we cannot fully appreciate it because it is degraded. Unfortunately, in the 90s an aquapark was erected which totally ruined the initial concept. It was a complex which opened itself to Skarpa and the river, and on the other side to the city, Puławska Street. Swimming pool, pitches, athletic stadium all of these objects were designed taking into consideration topography and greenery which had been there before. In large part, it is an earth and texture architecture: wooden benches, concrete, and stone. Among the artists who worked on this project was Wojciech Fangor.
There has recently been a project of revitalization of Warszawianka. It would be excellent if its beauty was restored.
Tell me how come this fusion of art, design, architecture was possible that time and why today we can only experience such projects on rare occasions?
– Maybe because all the major commissions were under a control of a state and of course the notion of property and economy in the socialistic country was different. Architects had also completely different approach. Most of the projects showcased at the exhibition were created in the Artistic and Research Unit of the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw. It was founded in the 50s on the initiative of Sołtan. They were supposed to be an intermediary between the state patronage and artists and competitive architects from the University of Technology. Thus when such projects as the 10th-Anniversary Stadium, Warszawa Śródmieście railway station, Polish pavilion at Expo 58 in Brussels, Warszawianka and smaller products, for example, an Osa scooter appeared, an interdisciplinary team was summoned and worked on the project.
Narrow specialization was condemned by Sołtan. He believed in the need of an open discussion on science and art and expression of diverse opinions. He was an advocate of a concept of integration.
Being an architect and didn’t want to establish the Design but Architecture Faculty at the art school to get these disciplines closer together.
At the exhibition, we can see a documentary movie on Sołtan. He is devasted when he sees a condition of the Warszawa Śródmieście railway station in the 90s. I was laughing that he seems to be like us today, we cannot get over the fact what has happened to the best post-war architecture. Have you had an opportunity to meet him?
– Unfortunately, I haven’t. However, Jola knew him. I deeply regret as he was an exceptional personality. He had broad horizons, courage and an inborn curiosity of the other person.
Do you have in Warsaw your favourite space which is designed in the same spirit as Warszawianka?
– I was brought up in Podkowa Leśna. I am drawn to such places where there is space, greenery, and silence. These are real luxuries for me.
Silence seems to be the most difficult.
– Old Mokotów, where I live, is relatively silent. In Warsaw, I feel comfortable in places which one cannot say they were designed. For example cemeteries. I love wandering in the Powązki, Evangelical and Jewish Cemetery. Maybe it will sound inappropriate however, I treat them as parks. I have recently visited the Jewish Cemetery in early spring on a sunny day. Today it looks very natural. In every aspect, it is an exceptional place.
In big cities like Warsaw, there is a lot of design, especially poor design. There is too much of a design which does not relate to the surrounding. Big cities generally make you feel tired thus I have a feeling that there is nothing better than what was designed by nature.
Photo: Filip Marek Klimaszewski