Housing culture

Kultura Współczesna. Teoria, Interpretacje, Praktyka
nr 4(92)/2016
Housing culture

Table of contents


Weronika Parfianowicz-Vertun

Housing culture. Introduction

Marcin Gołąb

You go to your room! Child’s space in post-war Poland  as seen from the flat’s perspective

Justyna Jaworska

Behind the bathroom door

Weronika Parfianowicz-Vertun

The disputable decorative value of books. About troubles with home book collections

Małgorzata Roeske

Oneiric home and its hidden spaces. The image of the attic and the basement in childhood memories

Kornelia Sobczak

Non-beds. About furniture and spaces dedicated to sleep



Błażej Filanowski

Sleeping machines. Experience of living in a typical district with blocks of flats

Jarosław Klaś

What is it like to live in Nowa Huta? Living space designed for its inhabitants

Marta Habdas

Live a rendering

Maja Biernacka, Dariusz Matelski

The promised land? About Polish refugees in Mexico

Agnieszka Jeran, Anita Basińska

Living in an orphanage – children, adults and the power of shaping the space

Magdalena Matysek-Imielińska

Let’s live together! Questions regarding responsibility of housing cooperatives or Wrocław



Marianna Michałowska

Flusser – technological humanism

Vilém Flusser

Architecture of the future

Vilém Flusser

Ethics in industrial design?

Vilém Flusser

About the word “design”

Piotr Zawojski

Flusser in Poland

Weronika Bryl-Roman

Design – the veil of Maya



Jadwiga Zimpel

Roof over the head. About the exhibition “Finally in one's own house”. Polish house in transition

Tomasz Majewski, Paweł Mościcki, Daniel Muzyczuk, Łukasz Zaremba

Album of Mnemosyne paintings and “Album of modernity”

Piotr Zawojski

Theory and esthetics of digital photography

Housing culture

In the introductory text to the thematic issue entitled “Housing Culture”, the author recapitulates discussions that have been carried out so far concerning widely understood housing issues in Poland and recalls the most important research dedicated to the space of flats especially in the fields of sociology, anthropology and ethnography. Subsequently, she outlines the methodological proposal developed by the authors of texts published in “Modern Culture” where, among others, the tools of culture history play and important role. She summarizes the concept of research dedicated to housing spaces and their representation as it emerges from the collected articles.

The text presents changes in children’s space in Polish flats since 1945. It analyses mainly hints printed in press and in books, applying to them sociological theories that indicate changes in living styles in defined social groups. Such changes resulted from the modernisation of living spaces and the evolution in thinking about the shape of family, human bonds and the right to intimacy. Starting from the middle-class idea of child’s bedroom, the text describes dissemination of the idea of “children’s corner” and “separate” room for the child as well as modern contexts focused on children’s space in the flat.

The bathroom had long been an embarrassing corner in the Polish flat. Prior to the war people often used to live without one, while in post-war housing it tended to be dark, cramped and poorly furnished. Therefore, it can be hardly seen in the films: it occasionally appears as the background of perplexities in front of the mirror, sometimes as an excuse to showing the body, and usually it serves as a refuge for one person (and is shot from behind the door, when a camera operator does not fit in it). The heroine of post-war drama films retreats to the feminine space where the bathroom appears as the bastion of her intimacy. Bathroom scenes become popular only at the end of the 20th century, initially in the theatre. They remove cultural taboos and indicate a revolution in the representation of the intimate subjects.

The article focuses on the place of books in the interiors of Polish flats from the 1960s till the early 1990s of the 20th century. Based on the research of readership, interior magazines and hand-book literature, as well as visual materials, the author attempts at reconstructing functions of home book collections, meanings ascribed to them, their contents and ways of display in the interiors. The author situates her considerations within a broader context of the book culture and readership practices in the modern Polish culture where mass dissemination of readership was a relatively late phenomenon with long-lasting consequences visible also through the study of content and placement of bookshelves in Polish housing interiors.

The article addresses the issue of uninhabited home spaces, such as attics and basements. Referring to ethnographic research, the author aims at reconstructing the image of those spaces recorded in childhood memories as well as at explaining their symbolic meaning. Simultaneously, the text attempts at answering the question concerning the role that those spaces play in the process of the individual’s development and the place that their images may have in the mythical order.

Starting with the recognition that a traditional bed and bedroom did not use to be anything common in the Polish post-war housing reality, the text focuses on furniture and spaces dedicated to sleep. Limited yardage of flats and scarce number of rooms required negotiations regarding the functions of spaces (often their multi-functionality) and usage of composable, collapsible and portable furniture. The author discusses cultural and social practices that have accumulated in relation to furniture and spaces dedicated to sleep. She examines narratives on the subject as well as changing views about housing, flats’ decoration and usage, while putting a special emphasis on the fact of assigning the status of “normality” to a traditional bed and bedroom and indicating the time when such a narration gains popularity.

How to dwell?

Blocks of flats districts arouse emotions and generate extreme opinions. Since the launching of Le Corbusier’s concept heralding such developments, proponents and opponents of that way of space planning have been engaged in a fierce dispute. Radical arguments raised by both sides lead to reflection as to whether, and if so, what kind of relations, are encoded in such districts. What is the influence that such a type of a housing district may have on its inhabitants’ way of experiencing their everyday life? How does life experience in a block of flats differ from one in another type of housing? This issue has been presented within the historical and geographical setting of the postwar Central-Eastern Europe.

The flat is the main space of everyday life. However, each flat is placed within important broader contexts of space and symbolic meaning. The article aims at describing Nowa Huta as an urban space that had been designed with the recognition of the daily needs of inhabitants. The topic was analysed on the basis of literature research as well as observations conducted by the author. The text presents urban and architectural planning of Nowa Huta that successfully draws on the most outstanding executions in the history of the urban space planning and constitutes a fine, although somewhat forgotten example of the kind of planning that takes into consideration daily needs of inhabitants. Nowa Huta planners were inspired by the Renaissance urban layouts, by ideas and plans of ideal towns, baroque and modern rectilinear axes and urban squares, E. Howard’s Garden-City, T. Garnier’s Industrial City, assumptions of the Athens Charter, as well as those of a socialist town which Nowa Huta was intended to become. Among buildings in Nowa Huta there are some reflecting Renaissance and baroque projects, other showing Polish traditions as well as influences of German workers’ colonies from the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. Many of them fed on functionalism and modernism put forward by Bauhaus and stemming from Le Corbusier’s concepts. After sixty years, Nowa Huta remains an attractive place to live and is more and more often consciously chosen by young people who decide to settle there. The urban and architectural planning of Nowa Huta may be a worthy inspiration for modern executions of urban spaces and housing developments.

The article is dedicated to architectural renderings and their connection with modern spaces, including the media ones. Although architectural renderings are often criticized for creating their own idealized and “false” reality, they perfectly reflect characteristic features of modernity where the borderline between the digital and material worlds is vanishing. In order to prove the thesis, architectural renderings are presented within the context of artistic projects of James Bridle and digital architecture of Greg Lynn.

The article falls within the subject area of refugees and refugee camps and places itself at the junction of current political, social and cultural topics that are considered critical. It regards Polish exiles to Mexico, including ethnic Poles transferred there from their exile in Siberia and Kazakhstan as well as Jews fleeing Holocaust in the years 1943–1947. The article is based on current topic literature as well as available post-war materials supported by unpublished materials from the New Acts Archives in Warsaw. The text is dedicated to the activities of Mexico towards the victims, to their consequences and controversial issues between politics and humanitarianism. It tackles the subject of the confrontation of the newcomers with the new reality and the organisation of the Santa Rosa centre in the Guanajuato State prepared by the Mexican government for the Polish refugees. The article undermines the common belief that European origins and white skin guarantee a good social status in the New World. It describes the approach of Polish authorities who insisted that it was necessary for the refugees to protect their national identity rather than be subjected to acculturation processes in the Mexican society.

The article deals with the subject of living in an exceptional home being a public orphanage. It turns out that one of its main features is the total power of adults over the space inhabited by children. Their rule is absolute, they decide about interior decoration and the equipment filling the space – chairs, tables, wall-papers, flowers and curtains. Such an absolute rule of adults is correlated with the way children’s needs are being met. While the basic ones are satisfied (children are fed and clad), the higher ones (regarding aesthetics and self fulfillment) are overlooked and ignored, as they are considered of scarce importance. The dining-room is a space revealing that situation. It has been chosen for analysis, based on the integrating importance of common meals, on the multifunctionality of a dining-room in a “normal” flat and the foreseen changes connected with participatory planning. The difference between children’s and adults’ approach towards that segment of inhabited space corresponds to Maslow’s theory where higher needs (including aesthetic sensitivity and creative activity) are natural in children while they are oblivious (in the best case) when it comes to adults. In this case, the power of adults, whose task – assigned by the government – is to bring up the children to be good and responsible members of the society, leads to creating environments where they educate citizens who are limited in needs, incapable of stepping over the horizon set by the needs of deficit.

The aim of this article is to recall the pre-war Żoliborz as a social housing district, considered to be an educational and civic project.

I recall it because in Wrocław, within the framework of the European Cultural Capital of 2016, a Model Housing District Nowe Żerniki is under construction, and it is promoted as a “new social movement” with neighbours’ cooperatives as experimental forms ownership and usage.

I ask whether the inhabitants of Wrocław cooperatives are aware of both advantages and dangers that may result from such a form of co-living, whether it is a socially responsible project and if they treat the cooperative as a goal or rather an economic tool that helps to build a flat at low cost. I am guided through those questions by Richard Sennett’s findings regarding the rules and principles of cooperation and staying together.

Renewed readings

Reviews and discussions