The architectural heritage of socialist realism shown on the example of two great projects: Marszałkowska Residential District (MDM) in Warsaw and Karl-Marx-Allee (KMA) in Berlin...
MDM in Warsaw, the view on plac Konstytucji from the side of plac Zbawiciela, photo courtesy of the History Meeting House/www.dsh.waw.pl
The exhibition presents the architectural heritage of socialist realism shown on the example of two great projects: Marszałkowska Residential District (MDM) in Warsaw and Karl-Marx-Allee (KMA) in Berlin. Several dozens of photographs, archival and contemporary, show the key constructions, architectural details, sculptures, small scale architecture and town planning
Texts that accompany the photos describe the historical political and social context of the creation and functioning of the two districts.
The author of the exhibition's script is architect Maria Wojtysiak, and Łukasz Kamieniak created the graphic design.
Socialist realism which was the mandatory architectual style in almost all socialist run states between the period 1948-1955, defined strict principles governing both spatial planning and architecture. In each of these areas, and through the medium of simple and understandable signs, art was meant to influence the collective consciousness of the people, and was to be the carrier of ideology. The dominant motto was: "national in form and socialist in expression".
Socialist realism greatly influenced the landscape of the former Eastern block, and its architectural legacy still excites great emotions. Marszałkowska Residential District and Karl-Marx-Allee are architectural developments that became the flagship projects of the reconstruction of Warsaw and East Berlin after World War II and the leading examples of social realism in this part of Europe. Both the construction of MDM in Warsaw and KMA in Berlin had one goal - to show how powerful the system is.
The main feature of the social realism buildings was an exaggerated scale. The overwhelming size of the edifice was to inspire the feeling of respect towards the authorities. The impressive spaces constituted an excellent background for state ceremonies. The urban systems' main principle was alignment and symmetry.
In terms of urban planning, both projects underwent an overall comprehensive planning process. First, the entire project was designed, and then its individual components. This method continued even after the changeover from the doctrine of socialist realism to the era of prefabricated buildings - the subsequent phase of socialist urban planning - and applied both to Warsaw and to Berlin. The architecture of the KMA and the MDM, created during the period 1951-54, has all the characteristic elements of the style known as Socialist Realism. In Germany it was referred to as a 'wedding cake style', in view of the richness of decoration, reminiscent of historical models yet treated freely with regard to proportion and scale of grandeur, as well as combination of styles. Buildings were constructed in brick, with vertical windows and large areas of façades begging decoration. Most of the buildings along Karl Marx Allee were given elevations of terracotta, with application of stonework detailing. Embellishment of the buildings took many forms: statues crowning attics, richly profiled cornices, bay windows, porticoes, colonnades, mosaic work and ceramic reliefs depicting scenes from everyday life and bearing ideological messages. Details are characterised by exaggerated proportions and scaling. Derived from past styles, forms were put together with decorations, whose heroes were the workers, miners, peasants. These motifs were often hilarious in their literalness.
A significant part of the social realist urban complexes has an undoubted urban and architectural appeal such as proportions of a historical buildings, human scale of the housing chambers, the correct ratio of height to width of the buildings. Great squares, wide avenues, green areas feel spacious, and axial composition facilitate getting around them.
The year of 1989 brought change and the protective umbrella of authority has been lifted off from places such as MDM and KMA. A discussion on the architectural heritage of the bygone era has begun.
The exhibition comes as the next stage of the project "The identity of a city. Modernism and Anti-modernism in the post-war cultural heritage" initiated by the Office of the Metropolitan Conservator and Conservation Office of the Town of Berlin, joined by a number of Polish and German institutions. The project includes research on the architectural heritage of socialist realism and the development of guidelines for its protection.
Marszałkowska Residential District (MDM) in Warsaw
According to the vision of the Six Year Plan for the Reconstruction of Warsaw from 1950, written by President Bolesław Bierut, the new Warsaw was to become the city of socialist realism. One of the priority guidelines was the construction of housing estates in the heart of the capital. Therefore, the presupposition of the designed Marszałkowska Residential District is based on the main artery of downtown - Marszałkowska street. The priority was to create a new, monumental, representative urban space. To complete the project, many of the old buildings were demolished.
The planning and design works were entrusted in the "MDM" Workshop under the lead of Józef Sigalin. Together with him, other major designers were: Stanisław Jankowski, John Knothe and Zygmunt Stępinski.
45,000 residents were to populate MDM, and the buildings were supposed to be of a higher standard. This grand scale settlement was characterised by a representative style and urban chic. The monumental development of the MDM also abounds in a whole range of architectural detailing in the social realism style. Modelled on Classical or Renaissance forms, the buildings were decorated with projecting cornices or attics. In line with the prevailing principle of 'synthesis of art forms', the architecture was embellished with monumental statues, reliefs, wrought ironwork, mosaics, and sgrafitto. All this was complemented by elements of street furniture such as street lamps, and by landscaping and greenery which was an essential element of the style in both capital cities.
High ground floors were hidden in the arcades arcade sequences, which formed the extensive terraces. Under the current rules for the synthesis of monumental pieces of architecture, enriched with figural sculptures, carvings, metalwork, mosaics, graffiti, street furniture components, flooring intricately were designed streets and squares and green systems. Created the new face of downtown Warsaw.
Karl-Marx-Allee (KMA) in Berlin
Karl-Marx-Allee (till 1961 Stalinallee - Stalin's Avenue) is located in the districts of Friedrichshain and Mitte. Arterial road at which the urban complex was built, runs along the destroyed during the war Große Frankfurter Straße (Frankfurter Allee) and is part of the east-west axis, intersecting the Alexanderplatz, the Marx-Engels-Forum, all the way to Unter den Linden boulevard.
After the war, the priority was housing, but the KMA would also serve as a representative space for street parades and marches.
A contest to design Stalin's representative avenue was announced in 1951. Hermann Henselmann and the authors of the other winning projects have formed six teams for six planned phases of construction. In December of 1952 first apartments were handed over, in 1953 the western section of the avenue and the Karl Marx Square and Strausberger Square were completed, and a year later the first phase of Karl Marx Avenue's construction was finished.
After Stalin's death in 1953, came changes that affected the urban politics of the GDR. The time of monumental buildings was over, and the future was seen in the widespread industrialisation of building technology. Since the mid-50s architects and builders experimented with prefabricated elements. Therefore the second phase of the construction of Karl-Marx-Allee ran according to the new doctrine and new technology (concrete slab).
Today KMA, as an urban axis, is associated primarily with the "socialist realist classicism". It became not only a symbol of restoration, but also an important communication artery of Berlin, whose fame was ironically brought by protests of construction workers against the decisions to increase the productivity of labor standards in 1953.
Organisers of the exhibition: Metropolitan Conservator Office, Office of the Chief Consevator of the Land and Town of Berlin City, History Meeting House, the German Historical Museum, Winfried Brenne Architekten.
The exhibition is accompanied by an album that includes over 100 archival and contemporary photographs.
Opening: 24 August 2011 at 14.30.
The exhibition runs until the 9th of September 2011.
The exhibition can be viewed from 24 August to 9 September in courtyard of the Museum of History in Berlin, and from 28 September in the DSH open air gallery on Skwer ks. Jana Twardowskiego (at the junction of ul. Karowa and Krakowskie Przedmieście in Warsaw).
The exhibition is part of the Polish Cultural Programme of the European Union Presidency in 2011.
The exhibition is presented as part of a programme marking 20 years of partnership between Warsaw and Berlin, and Poland's Presidency of the Council of the European Union, on the initiative of the Office of the City of Warsaw Historical Monuments Conservation Department and the Berlin City and Land Conservation Office.
Unter den Linden 2
Source: press materials, www.dsh.waw.pl