We are used to distinguishing between architects who design spectacular edifices and those who create ‘simple’ buildings. The latter form most of our environment. They shape the space around us and influence our lives, so it is important for them to be of high quality – just like the buildings designed by Fryderyk Tadanier.
Kamila Twardowska, the author of Tadanier's monograph, called him 'an ordinary modernist'. The book devoted to the architect from Kraków was published in 2016 by Instytut Architektury. It was a subsequent book in the series consisting of monographs of Adolf Szyszko-Bohusz and Wacław Nowakowski. All these three architects influenced the appearance and development of Kraków during the first half of the 20th century.
Why was Fryderyk Tadanier called 'an ordinary modernist'? He did not make spectacular public investments or go down in the history of Polish architecture as a bold visionary or a charismatic critic. He was a typical representative of his profession. However, the word 'typical' does not mean 'mediocre' in that case, as Kamila Twardowska explains. Tadanier designed public and residential buildings, tenement houses and offices. They were not impressive buildings, but they were an extremely important element of Kraków's architectural landscape. They are products of high quality craft, created with great attention to detail.We could say that this kind of architecture is what we lack the most. Nowadays we admire the impressive, grand and costly edifices that we rarely use and ignore the simple buildings which shape the character of our cities. We do not attach importance to our blocks of flats, post offices, local clinics or schools being properly designed. Fryderyk Tadanier diligently created buildings which would not appear in today's architecture magazines. So maybe it is thanks to his works and the works of similar architects that we are still impressed by Kraków's architecture?
Fryderyk Tadanier was born in 1892 in the town called Kamionka Strumiłowa (today its name is Kamionka Bużańska), located 40 kilometres to the north-east of Lviv. In 1909 he started studying at the Lviv Polytechnic School which, as Kamila Twardowska emphasises, was a very highly esteemed school at that time. Tadanier attended lectures given by Teodor Talowski, Jan Sas-Zubrzycki, Edgar Kováts, and Maksymilian Tullie. He also met younger lecturers, such as Stefan Bryła, Kazimierz Bartel, and Ignacy Drexler. He earned a degree under the supervision of Adolf Szyszko-Bohusz thanks to whom at the beginning of the 20s he became associated with the circles of Kraków's architects.
The studies in architecture and the people associated with field that Tadanier met had the biggest impact on his style. The conditions that he was raised in and the events that he experienced were also important. Tadanier was born in the eastern part of Galicja (translator's note: another name for the territory under the Austro-Hungarian rule after the partitions) in an non-affluent Jewish family. He observed the complicated relations between the numerous national minorities that lived there and saw how different cultures and traditions blended. He witnessed great changes when the empires collapsed after the end of the First World War, new countries were born and the borders in Europe were being marked again. Tadanier experienced the rebirth of the Polish state after 1918 and the great political changes which took place after the end of the Second World War (after 1945 the architect was the chief engineer of the state office named Miastoprojekt).
Tadanier's first projects were determined by the reconstruction: Galicja, Kraków included, suffered damage during the First World War and a lot of effort was put into the reconstruction of both rural buildings and important city edifices. As Kamila Twardowska writes: 'Tadanier opened his own design studio quite late, 13 years after graduating, as an experienced architect'. He had gained all his experience and qualifications by working in Okręgowa Dyrekcja Odbudowy (translator's note: Regional Office for Reconstruction) in Referat ds. Odbudowy Kościołów i Budynków Użyteczności Publicznej (translator's note: Department for Reconstruction of Churches and Public Buildings) and later in Okręgowa Dyrekcja Robót Publicznych (translator's note: Regional Office for Public Works) where he took part in the reconstruction of the villages in the suburbs of Kraków.
The years 1929–1939 were the most prolific period of Tadanier's activity. His professional career was developing in two ways. On the one hand the architect was employed by wealthy bourgeois and local entrepreneurs whom today would be called 'private investors'. He designed tenement houses, villas and rental houses for them. On the other hand Tadanier cooperated with state institutions and created offices and residential houses for employers. He designed and rebuilt the post offices in Kraków, Rabka, Będzin and Krynica for the Ministry of Post and Telegraphs. He also created for Komunalna Kasa Oszczędności Powiatu Krakowskiego (translator's note: Community Service Bank of the Province of Kraków). He designed two social buildings: a cultural centre at the 'Praca' housing estate and a holiday house for underprivileged children in Radziszów, the office of Wydział Powiatowy (translator's note: Regional Department), the tenement house 'Pod Pszczółkami' and the office of the Bank in Krynica. He also rebuilt the office of the institution on Pijarska street and designed a 'Kraków's skyscraper': a seven-storey edifice for Fundusz Emerytalny Komunalnej Kasy Oszczędności (translator's note: Pension Fund of the Community Service Bank) at Plac Szczepański (its construction ended in 1936 and it caused considerable controversy; it was the only building of such height in the area of the Planty Park and it met with strong social resistance).
Tadanier's monographer wrote:
Tadanier's biography shows the historical conditions that shaped the lives of a whole generation of the Polish intelligentsia. Similarly, his works, which were not dominated by the architect's overgrown ego and the burden of his world view, show many different attitudes towards the modernity in its social and political dimension.
The outline of the buildings designed by the architect confirms these words. Tadanier was capable of adjusting forms to clients' expectations, to the context and function. The spectacular skyscraper located at Plac Szczepański has an elegant, restrained form with extensive glazings which were a synonym of modernity at the time. Tadanier understood the rules of modernist geometry, building composition and modest fragmentation of the elevation. He knew how to break the strict divisions with appropriate use of details: the bossage in the plinth area, decorative balcony railings, sculpted portals and upper parts of facades. Apart from designing, Tadanier was also a construction expert, an expert witness and a lecturer. For several years he lectured on descriptive geometry and perspective in painting in the School of Decorative Arts and Artistic Industry. He was also an active member of the Architects' club (which was later integrated into the Association of Polish Architects).
Tadanier was not – according to our modern way of thinking – a star of architecture. Nevertheless, he was a talented and reliable designer who worked with great diligence regardless of the scale or prestige of the project. His designs are an important element of the architectural landscape of Kraków (and some towns in the Małopolska region). We should really appreciate the effort of the monographer who decided to remind us about Fryderyk Tadanier, a figure undeservedly considered a 'lowly' architect.
Source: 'Fryderyk Tadanier' by Kamila Twardowska, published by Instytut Architektury, Kraków 2016
Originally written in Polish by Anna Cymer, January 2018, translated by MW, March 2018.