Call for Papers: Polish Postmodernism. Warsaw, 27-28 September 2018

German Historical Institute Warsaw.
Organised by: Dr Annika Wienert, German Historical Institute, Warsaw; Prof. Florian Urban, Glasgow School of Art/ German Historical Institute, Warsaw

Postmodern architecture – the term usually evokes associations with a certain phase of capitalist economy and images of villas and office buildings with exuberant façades and playful, often ironic references to pop-culture and (architectural) history. But postmodern architecture was not limited to the Western, capitalist sphere. In socialist countries, circumstances of designing, planning and building were very different. Here postmodern architects developed their design under conditions of struggle against political and economic constraints.

To explore postmodern architecture under state socialism, this conference focuses on the Polish case. Poland in the 1970s and 1980s was not only characterised by economic shortages and anti-communist rebellion connected with the Workers’ Defence Committee and the Solidarity Trade Union. It was also a time of great architectural innovation, of systemic changes related to the gradual introduction of private practices and, by Eastern bloc standards, of comparatively intense international exchange.

At the time a new generation of architects attempted to overcome the limitations of functionalist modernism and prefabricated design, and developed international postmodernism in a particular local context. Their output ranged from conservation and restoration projects to innovative residential and public buildings to a wave of church architecture that was unprecedented not only in the socialist neighbour countries but also in the West. They also engaged in a discourse on the value of urban architecture, historic precedents, and individual expression that resonated similar debates abroad.

This conference aims at putting Polish postmodern architecture into an international perspective that straddles the Iron Curtain, and at the same time relating it to broader questions of economic and social history. Contributions may address particular architectural projects, discourse and intellectual history, as well as architectural and planning policy against the background of the social and economic structure in the Polish People’s Republic.

What was the significance of postmodern architecture under state socialism in Poland? To which extent was Polish postmodernism an outcome of political and economic upheavals? What was its relation to postmodernism in the West, or other socialist countries, and how can the similarities and differences be explained? What were its precedents and influences? These and other questions will be discussed at the conference. Contributions in the field of art/architectural history as well as general, economic and social history and related disciplines are welcome. Contributions may focus on a time period that might span from the events of 1968/1970 to the post-communist era.

Deadline for proposals: 28 February 2018.

An abstract of 400-600 words plus short biographical information should be e-mailed to wienert@dhi.waw.pl and f.urban@gsa.ac.uk. Contributions should be in English or Polish.
The German Historical Institute will cover the cost for travel and accommodation for invited speakers.

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