Oskar Hansen was probably one of the last architects of the century comitted to the belief that it was the utmost task of architecture to change society and reform manhood.
Oskar Nikolai Hansen, photo: Erazm Ciołek / Fotonova/ East News
Oskar Hansen was probably one of the last architects of the century comitted to the belief that it was the utmost task of architecture to change society and reform manhood. This said, it is little wonder that not many of his projects came to fruition, while those that did developed often inspired controversy.
Few of Hansen's ambitious projects were ever realised. This was due to various circumstances, mainly the issue that Hansen attempted to make uncompromising modernist architecture in a communist country and within a soc-realist frame which didn't allow for much freedom. On the other hand, some of his projects weren't even meant to be realised - this was the case with the design for the museum building in Skopje, Macedonia - a structure with no walls and a folded roof reminiscent of an umbrella.
His design of the monument (1957) for the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum was effectively a denial of the whole traditional notion of monument and commemorative sculpture. In Hansen's project the whole area of the camp would become a monument itself subjected only to the laws of entropy.
In the case of other projects like his Linear Continuous System (LCS), intended to divide the entire country into several strips depending on its function, one can hardly speak of possible implementation. It was more of a social hypothesis - implementing it would have probably turned out disastrous. LCS is probably the most perfect example of Hansen's notion of Open Form.
Read more about Oskar Hansen's notion of Open Form in the bio...
The few projects which saw the realisation like Juliusz Słowacki Housing Estate in Lublin (1961) and Przyczółek Grochowski Estate in Warsaw (1963) remain controversial. For some they are the ultimate proof of the failure of the Modernist utopia, while others value their scope and overall approach to designing a space to live in.
Still Hansen remains strangely influential, especially on the field of visual arts. A list of his pupils include some of the most noteworthy contemporary Polish artists, like Zofia Kulik, Grzegorz Kowalski and Przemysław Kwiek. The nature of this influence and Hansen's role as a forerunner of Polish art of the '90s has been illustrated by critic Joanna Mytkowska, who states that Hansen
realised that painting or sculpture had no social impact, that their impact was limited. The Open Form theory was developed as al alternative to that. This is an important statement because it is identical to the experience of contemporary artist of the mid-90's. Many of them abandoned the making of objects as ineffective and got involved instead in all kinds of actions.
Oskar Hansen passed away on the 11th of May 2005 in Warsaw. His last artistic project Sen Warszawy / Dream of Warsaw was documented by artist Artur Żmijewski. The video can be seen on the Filmoteka site of Warsaw's Museum of Modern Art.
Source: Oskar Hansen "Towards Open Form", Culture.pl