Conference: Postmodern Architecture and Political Change – Poland and Beyond. Warsaw, 12-14 September 2019

How is postmodern architecture related to political and economic transformation? In Poland and other Central and Eastern European countries postmodernism developed during the last decades of state socialism and remained influential after the end of the socialist regimes in 1989. It emerged along with the disintegration of authoritarian rule and the gradual introduction of market capitalism.

In Poland and its neighbour countries the period of 1970s and 1980s was not only characterised by economic shortages and anti-communist protest. It was also at time of great architectural innovation and systemic changes related to the gradual introduction of private practices and, by Eastern bloc standards, of comparatively intense international exchange.

At the time 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.

Recent scholarship has increasingly moved away from interpreting postmodern architecture as an exclusively Western European and North American phenomenon. Postmodernism is no longer first and foremost linked to capitalist exuberance and images of villas and office buildings with opulent façades and playful, often ironic neo-classical references.

This conference seeks to shed light on the significance of postmodern architecture in the context of political and economic transformation in Eastern and Central Europe since 1980. It will put 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.

Was postmodernism an agent of transformation? An architecture of resistance? A signifier of market capitalism? A national style? Or an expression of unpolitical nostalgia and aestheticism? And how is the Polish experience related to the architectural innovations in other Central and Eastern European countries? We will discuss these and other questions related to the related to the architecture of the late socialist and early post-socialist era in Poland and beyond.

Venue: German Historical Institute Warsaw –12/13/14 September 2019

Organised by: Dr hab. Błażej Brzostek, Dr Annika Wienert, Prof. dr hab Florian Urban

More information about the conference can be found here.

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