Jadwiga Grabowska-Hawrylak was an icon of post–World War II architecture and one of the most important Polish architects of her era.
Jadwiga Grabowska-Hawrylak was born on 29th October 1920 in Tarnowice, near Przemyśl, where she spent her childhood. Both of her parents were teachers. In 1939, the future architect graduated from high school, and after the war – like many people of her generation – she settled in the so-called ‘Recovered Territories’, in her case in Wrocław. In 1950, she graduated from the Faculty of Architecture at the Wrocław University of Science and Technology. Her thesis was on the interior design of the art-nouveau Barasch Brothers' Department Store (today the Feniks Department Store), built in 1904. When she worked for Miastoprojekt Wrocław (the state-owned architectural office) she worked on the renovation of old buildings, especially the reconstruction of historical monuments destroyed during the war. Later on, she was engaged in much more contemporary projects.
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One of her first projects unrelated to the reconstruction of monuments was a primary school on Podwale Street built between 1955 and 1960. Even though it was the time of the socialist-realist aesthetic, the building itself was modernist, with a geometric shape. Its façade was made of contrasting white plaster sheets, black marblit (opaque stained glass) and dark terrazzo. Unfortunately, today the building is wrapped in blue Styrofoam – Grabowska-Hawrylak’s design has been destroyed.
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In 1957, Grabowska Hawrylak worked with the group Miastoprojekt to design Dom Naukowca (Scientist House) – a 10-storey residential building for academics of Wrocław’s universities. It was supported on a reinforced concrete steel frame construction, and it was the first modernist building in the capital of Lower Silesia. Dom Naukowca has been also destroyed by the renovation – the subtle composition of horizontal panels of wavy fibre cement, vertical line of staircase windows and chequerboard of balconies have completely disappeared.
Built between 1958 and 1960, Galeriowiec (Galleried Housing) on Kołłątaj Street was even more modernist. The building is set on a platform above street level. On the ground floor were shops and service points, the other eight floors were intended for duplex apartments, which were almost unknown in Poland at the time. Galerowiec, also called mezonetowiec (derived from maisonette type of building) had a dynamic chiaroscuro façade thanks to deep loggias. In 2017, the building was registered as a protected historic monument, thus, its unique form will be preserved.
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While working for Miastoprojekt, Jadwiga Grabowska-Hawrylak designed not only individual buildings but also residential complexes. At the beginning of the 1960s, she worked on a new project – the Gajowice residential complex. In this area the architect designed a commercial pavilion and a school on Grochowska Street (which has since been completely rebuilt). Nevertheless, Grabowska-Hawrylak’s most well-known project is certainly the residential complex on Plac Grunwaldzki, popularly called ‘Manhattan’ or ‘Sedesowce’ (‘Toilet Seat Buildings’). The project had been accepted in 1967, the construction started 3 years after and the first residents moved in in 1972. The group of six 16-storey residential buildings was constructed on an empty site in the centre of Wrocław, with a view of Ostrów Tumski (Cathedral Island), close to the Odra River and Grunwaldzki Bridge. The buildings are linked with one, two and three-storey commercial pavilions. The whole complex is located on a platform which covers garages and parking lots. This division was introduced to functionally and optically separate the urban and residential areas. The most iconic elements of the complex are the building’s façades, which are based upon prefabricated H-shaped grids. The balconies and windows are covered with rounded prefabricated concrete which are shifted in relation to each other and constitute an acoustic barrier against the noise from the bustling street, giving the buildings their own original character. ‘Manhattan’ stands out in terms of its form and execution. It was appreciated by architects and widely discussed and commented on, especially because of Grabowska-Hawrylak‘s use of reinforced concrete, which was unusual in terms of Polish practice.
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Like numerous other architects of the time, Grabowska-Hawrylak submitted many unrealised projects to competitions. Analysing them reveals that even though she’d started in the restoration of buildings, she was much more at home with the modernist aesthetic or even the futuristic one, as shown in her projects from the 1970s, like the utopian concept of a building complex called ‘Eco System’ designed for Stefan Müller’s exhibition Terra-1 in 1975, or the design for a commercial pavilion intended to be built near Dominikański Square (today: Dzierżyńskiego Street). Her own house, on Kochanowski Street in Wrocław, has a completely different nature. She worked on the design between 1978 and 1984, and it is composed of two semi-detached segments which accommodate four apartments. Built from brick and covered with a sloping roof with wooden details, its solid form seems compact but it has many enriching elements, such as bay windows, canopies, low walls, and built-in flower beds.
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At the end of 1970s and in the following decades, when the economic crisis stopped the state from making major investments and when postmodernism started to rule in architecture, many designers, including Grabowska-Hawrylak, started to design small residential complexes based on frontage urban blocks. Even though the architect had been retired since 1981, she still worked on many projects. One of them was a design of a large urban complex in Oleśnica. Although these projects were never executed, the last one – a church – was built. Kościół Chrystusa Odkupiciela Świata (Church of Christ the Redeemer of the World) was erected in 1990 on Bałtycka Street, and it constitutes a memorial to the Millennium of the Diocese of Wrocław. This powerful edifice draws attention thanks to the towers made of reinforced concrete flanking the façade.
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Jadwiga Grabowska-Hawrylak was the first female architecture graduate in Wrocław after World War II. In 1974, she was the first woman to receive Honorary Award of Association of Polish Architects – the most prestigious architectural award bestowed in Poland. Two out of three of Grabowska-Hawrylak’s children followed in her footsteps to become architects, as well as four of her grandchildren. This, it could be said that her contribution to Polish architecture is much greater than just the unique buildings she herself designed. She passed away on 4th June 2018.
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