Montesquieu says that our houses are similar to our characters; moreover, in Latin, the terms habitatio (habitation) and habitus (habit or character) have the common root. It is therefore quite obvious that the crisis of a house does not stem from an inability of its builders. According to Heidegger, our ability to construct depends on that whether we are able to inhabit, and thinking is necessary to understand the art of inhabiting. In order to be able to inhabit and to build, in the first place one has to learn to think. [1]

Speaking of a contemporary Polish house, or rather showing its catastrophe, it is worthy to recall the words of one of the best Polish architectural offices, KWK Promes Architekci, who are renowned for designs of avant-garde, innovative single family houses:

“We realised that the landscape, the architectural scenery of every country, is determined precisely by such small residential buildings, small single-family houses. And, consequently, whether we like it or not, these Polish cubes determine the architectural landscape of Poland. Many believe that they're often imperfect, hopelessly designed and built, that they disfigure the landscape. But we believe it's possible to change that. What's more, we say that, if they'd been designed better, built better, they would have become rational, very inexpensive, affordable homes. This is why we decided to treat the Polish cube as a sort of phase that we found already there. We concluded that it could form a basis for further exploration and, through its transformation, new solutions could be looked for, not so much formal as primarily spatial and functional, at the same time blending into the existing landscape.” [2]

he above diagnose is absolutely right. The problem, however, remains the same: the overwhelming majority of houses hadn't been designed better and built better, even thought - by law - there always had to be professional designs and likewise supervision. Polish houses are vastly underconstructed indeed…unfinished or - what is even worse - badly conceived. Shall our convulsive systemic and political transformation be reflected in a transformation of a grey cube and in transformation of thought and character, as the above text by Bohdan Paczowski seems to propose? And what if the KWK architects are also right in saying that these houses are the most perfect demonstration of “rites of our culture”? Is this who we are? is obviously still under construction, like many a project in the state of Poland. It is (perhaps) to be continued…


[1] Bohdan Paczowski, Zobaczyć, Słowo/Obraz/Terytoria, Gdańsk 2005

[2] Marlena Wolnik-Konieczny, Robert Konieczny, “Transformation of a Polish Cube”, w: Kierunki/Directions. New Architecture in Japan and Poland. Magdalena Poprawska & Marta A. Urbańska (ed.)., transl. by Jerzy Juru¶. Centre for Japanese Art & Technology Manggha, Kraków 2005, pp. 172-174.

Text by: Marta A. Urbańska