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Nicolas Grospierre, Kobas Laksa „Rondo 1” (office building, Warsaw. Authors: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, Azo, Epstein) Download

Hotel Polonia. The Afterlife of Buildings

Golden Lion for Best National Participation

The Idea

Rarely do we perceive majestic, contemporarily erected buildings without referring to their function and importance. Yet, it’s only what’s responsive to change that survives in the long run. The Roman Pantheon and Bankside Power Station still exist only owing to becoming a church and the Tate Modern, respectively. Do we, however, view new buildings in the context of flexibility and potential?
The ability to forecast and challenge is acquiring increasing significance. For the world is moving faster every day and the majority of branches of science, art or technology are bound for mobility, flexibility, miniaturisation or even virtualisation, boiling down to dematerialisation. It is only what’s liquid, ambiguous, continuously reborn and redefined that stands a chance of surviving in the ‘liquid reality’. Existence is solely dynamic. For that matter, due to limitations of technology, lenghty procedures, outsized ego of the architects and clients as well as subconscious focus on durability, architecture proves increasingly cumbersome. It deems itself everlasting, neglecting the experience of the past and remaining blind to the prospects of the future. So perverse an attitude in the era when information and cash flows may easily upset the world’s equilibrium. The time has come to conceive the future of architecture beyond building — as the title of the Biennale states.
Architecture may attempt to follow the spirit of the times by blurring its fixed and tangible character. Yet, why not try and imagine another way? Why not accept its archaic nature and admit that a building is just an envelope, which doesn’t necessarily correspond with its content? Like a coffee can used for storing petty objects or a shoes box leading a second, perhaps more interesting, life with photos kept inside. The project is aimed at triggering a debate on the permanence and impermanence of architecture; portraying buildings as a setting for possible social, political and economic scenarios; challenging the claim to durability which architecture desperately continues to make, deflating the ego of edifices that pretend to be everlasting. Architecture beyond building begins on the point of handover. Henceforth, it is also the human impact and the passage of time that constitute architecture The idea shall be presented on the basis of two complementary layers forming a coherent, artistic ensemble: the exhibition and the interference with the pavilion’s space

The Concept

1. Exhibition. The Afterlife of Buildings

We have chosen 6 buildings among those recently raised in Poland — well known, appreciated, prestigious and designed by architects of global or at least national renown. Then, we have posed questions about the future of those icons once they become useless as a result of a dramatic reversal of social and economic relations. The edifices are going to be presented before and after a major transformation. Beforehand, in formal and solemn photographs by Nicolas Grospierre. Afterwards, as imagined in the predicted future by means of collages by Kobas Laksa. We are asking inconvenient questions. What is going to happen with a monumental university library when all the books become digital? What’s the use of a 200m high skyscraper designed by SOM or the Metropolitan office building by Norman Foster once the speculative real-estate market faces collapse or in case of a revolution in the patterns of corporate work? Is an air terminal a must when skyrocketing price of oil makes flying a particularly special treat? Who needs a monumental Marian shrine when even the last Poles have ceased attending masses? Where to bury the dead if there is no space available? We are setting up an antithesis of promotional exhibitions which indiscriminately feature the most significant accomplishments of a given country, city or architect. Perhaps once challenged, the buildings will prove genuinely worthy.

2. The Polonia Pavilion = Hotel Polonia. Interference with the Pavilion’s space

The collage representation of the change is going to be given a boost by an amplified 3D implication. The Polonia Pavilion, a white cube behind a pompous facade in fascist-flavoured art deco style, with a proud POLONIA sign, is going to acquire a new function by becoming a hotel for the Biennale — Hotel Polonia. Thus, it is going to be decontextualised, like the contemporary Polish buildings on display, by suggesting a more sustainable use. Nowadays, alike any other pavilion in the Giardini area, it serves its purpose only during a few months every year. Imagine that in a city which has always dramatically lacked space and suffers from hotel accommodation shortage today. Hence, The Polonia Hotel could truly respond to the needs of visitors desperate for a place to sleep. Such solution would involve impromptu tourists in the project, as long as they agree to leave during the opening hours of the exhibition and excuse any inconvenience caused by insufficient facilities. The hotel extends the exhibition into reality.

  • YEAR2008
  • CATEGORY Biennale Architettura
  • DATES14.09 – 23.11
  • COMMISSIONERAgnieszka Morawińska
  • CURATORGrzegorz Piątek, Jarosław Trybuś

    Nicolas Grospierre, Kobas Laksa

  • TEAM
    organizor: Zachęta – Narodowa Galeria Sztuki
    deputy commissioner : Zofia Machnicka
    all publications designed by: Magda Piwowar

Golden Lion for Best National Participation

The International Jury of the 11th International Architecture Exhibition has decided to confer the official awards for the 11th Architecture Exhibition as follows:

Golden Lion for Best National Participation to Poland (Pavilion Polonia at Giardini) 

In the Polish pavilion, the Jury found a remarkable mix of wit, technology  and intelligent speculation gathered to produce a polemic about the probable life-cycle of buildings in the context of the current problems facing cities, particularly those outside of first world economies. Hovering between art and architectural manifesto, the pavilion stimulated the imagination and interpretation of the jury members in a variety of different directions. Thus it best rose to the difficult challenge of responding to the spirit of the theme of the Biennale while evidencing an intimate loyalty to the nation it represents.



The Authors

The Curators

Jarosław Trybuś (1976), art historian and architecture critic, graduated from Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, expert in unrealised architecture (own series of lectures, television programmes, currently working on a Ph.D. thesis Warsaw Never Built and an exhibition about unbuilt Polish sacral architecture). Collaborates with architecture (Architektura & Biznes) and cultural magazines. Co-author of Przewodnik po warszawskich blokowiskach
[Guide to Warsaw’s housing estates] (2008) and Notes from Warsaw (an alternative guide to Warsaw, 2007)
Grzegorz Piątek (1980), architecture journalist, graduated from the Faculty of Architecture at Warsaw University of Technology, as off 2005 staff editor in Architektura-murator, an architecture monthly, author of more than 100 articles on architecture, design and the urban. Contributor to Wallpaper City Guide. Warsaw (2008), Notes from Warsaw (2007). Coordinator of the architecture related part of the Polish Season in the UK (2009–2010)

The Artists

Nicolas Grospierre (1975), architecture photographer, studied sociology at the London School of Economics and Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris. Has a strong penchant for late modernist and brutalist imagery, which is reflected in his photography cycles Blocks, Colouroblocks, The Hydroclinic, Lithuanian Bus Stops, Artek, Milk Bars, juxtaposing order, modularity and regularity with traces of life and wear. Resident at the Location One gallery in New York for the second half of 2008.
Kobas Laksa (1971), a.k.a. kbx — photographer, graphic and video artist, graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Poznań. In 2003 began composing murky, large-scale collages, the first series of which — Urban Project: Warsaw (2003–2005) — featured a vision of the urban future assembled from distorted elements of existing architecture and cityscape.