Chronicle

New Books in the Library
May 23, 2017

In 1965, in Wroclaw, an unusual new institution was established – a Museum of Architecture and Reconstruction of the City initiated by an urban conservative Olgerd Czerner, an active participant and expert in the post-war rebuilding and reconstruction of Wroclaw. The significance of the institution was exceptional for the city that was not merely destroyed but found itself in a new state. Dealing the city’s German past was often limited to negation and downplaying in a post-war Polish Wroclaw, while the post-war reconstruction was an extremely symbolic and ideological project. The Museum played an important role in this process. Its activities over long period also reflect changing attitudes and policies in approaching complex and contested urban past. First, one of the objectives was to take inventory of the remains of buildings destroyed during and in the aftermath of war. In the 1970s, exhibition activities became a new important function of the Museum, as it received an adjusted building of the Bernardine monastery. Later, it detached from the Wroclaw City Museum and developed into a separate institution such as Museum of Architecture. Gradually, one of its focuses was on contemporary and Modernist architecture. Thus, this Museum was one of the first such establishments in the world and developed into an important center for the research of architecture in Poland and internationally.

This review of new arrivals describes a selection from recently published books by the Museum of Architecture, which were generously presented to the Center’s library as a gift. They are an outstanding example of research of the 20th century architecture in the city that has become a symbol of the divided 20th century. Moreover, they are also a part of opening up, engaging with and reflecting the complexities of urban history and heritage.

The study by Jerzy Ilkosz (director of the Museum of Architecture) on the Centennial Hall "Hala Stulecia i Tereny Wystawowe we Wrocławiu – dzieło Maksa Berga" published in 2005 is the first most comprehensive research of the history of the building of Jahnhunderthalle. A large-scale building, it was a striking example and a place for commemorating history and power of German state in the early 20th century. An exhibition premises, it later hosted the Nazi rallies. After the war, in 1948, as a People’s Hall (Hala Ludowa) it displayed the "Exhibition of Recovered Territories, a huge effort that aimed to include the city into a new political and symbolic context of the communist Poland. Ilkosz points out these different contexts. But his focuses is on the origins and history of the concept and construction of such an innovative and exemplary armored concrete building by an architect Max Berg together with the surrounding exhibition areas designed by an architect Hans Poelzig. The author uses rich source and visual materials. It is important to mention that they come mostly from the Museum holdings as it has received all the materials of the construction archive of the city with the documents since the early 19th century to 1945. This allows for depicting a very detailed history of the building and integrating it into the rich contexts of the place, the city and the general trends of architectural visions and construction technology internationally. Abundant visual materials make the book interesting for researchers and those interested in urban history and architecture.

The same Centennial Hall as a listing on the UNESCO World Heritage List is in the focus of the publication "Centennial Hall in Wrocław. Conservation Management Plan" (2016). A group of authors, including also Jerzy Ilkosz, prepared a detailed work on the conditions and plans for conservation and management of the Hall that combines functions of a cultural, exhibition, conference, educational, and recreation space, and shall preserve and show an exceptional historical value of the building. While the first part of the publication includes a brief overview of the history of the building and its current condition, the supplements make up more than a half of the book and contain technical descriptions and photographic documentations that would be of special interest for experts. Together this volume allows for insight into a work and analysis, attitudes and approaches to preservation, and to modern usage of the UNESCO object. It can thus be an interesting example for researchers and practitioners of heritage in Lviv and Ukraine.

Two next books focus on architects: Heinrich Lauterbach and Ernst May. Yet they offer more than merely a study of their works and life. These are the parts of building awareness about the history of Breslau. This is an acknowledgment of the work and contribution of architects who shaped it as a modern city and influenced the ideas of a modernist city in general. The publication "Heinrich Lauterbach. Architekt wrocławskiego modernizmu" consists of two large parts that could be separate publications. Thus, the first part is a collection of articles about the architect who implemented many Modernist projects in the city and the area of Lower Silesia. He also participated in an experimental exhibition "Wohnung und Werkraum" in 1929. The second part is the exhibition catalogue that reproduces Lauterbach’s works from the archival collections of Wroclaw and Berlin. Here the history of how his collection ended in the archive of the Museum of Architecture in Wroclaw is a bright illustration of the condition, search, evaluation, and promotion of architectural heritage and the prewar history of the city. The collection of Lauterbach’s project designs, drawings, and photographs was acquired by the Museum of Architecture at the antique market in the 1990s. Thus, the postwar history of these documents is little known, as the architect abandoned his house in Lower Silesia and evacuated with the last trip from Gdynia in spring 1945. Understanding of complicated origin and the provenance of the collection adds more perspectives to reading one of the articles in collection that explores how the architect designed houses, including his own. Such publication together with the exhibition and a recent decision to name a street in Wroclaw by Lauterbach, are the elements of drawing public attention to the city’s past and symbolic return of one of former residents who has shaped the city outlook but had never visited the city again after his departure.

The publication "Ernst May. 1886-1970" refers to Wroclaw only partially. However, it is an extremely important work for a broader contextualization for the beginning of modernist architecture and further realizations of modernist projects in the city. Similar to previous books, it also accompanied the exhibition at the Museum of Architecture dedicated to May. The major part consists of Polish translations of articles about different project designs by the architect, such as his vision of the "new future": from the "New Frankfurt" to the projects in the USSR (Magnitogorsk, Nizhniy Novgorod, and Moscow) and the "New Africa." The catalogue introduces May’s early designs and implementations in Silesia just after World War I. This allows for relating these and other examples of modernist heritage in Wroclaw and in Silesia into the context of some largest 20th century discussions on urbanism.

The year 2016 was rich in exhibitions, as Wroclaw had become a European capital of culture. While in the autumn the Museum launched the exhibition on Modernist Architecture in Lviv (the catalogue is available in the Center’s library), the first half of the year had the main display of "A Way to Modernity. The Werkbund Estates 1927-1932." The accompanying publication with the same title was a result of a group work of researchers from different countries. Together they represented cities where the Werkbund districts were implemented: Stutgart, Brno, Wroclaw (Breslau), Vienna, Zurich, and Prague. More than new models of buildings, these were the attempts to imagine and realize ideas for new lifestyles, a new man, and a new society. Such comparative study and juxtaposition help seeing the architectural boundaries and geography of the Modernist 1920s, the interplay of their common features and local contexts.

We invite you to our library to learn more about the new arrivals and to explore the examples of Modernist architecture in Lviv.