Michał Łuczak’s book examines the final moments of Katowice’s unique railway station building, telling the story of its disappearance through people that he met there.
When it was constructed in 1972, the brutalist Katowice railway station was a cutting-edge building. Its colossal form symbolised the prosperity of Poland under Communism. After several years of neglect, it started to fall into disrepair and its fate did not improve after the regime change. In early 2011, the last of its characteristic, reinforced-concrete 'chalices' was demolished – officially due to progressive corrosion of its metal skeleton.
This dilapidated building in the centre of Poland’s largest mining region served not only as a transport hub – it was also a stopover for 'passengers' who had no tickets. They created a parallel world for themselves there, on the fringes of normal life. The book tells us nothing about them; we can merely observe them – lost, random, lonely perhaps; the homeless, the vendors and other locals. Łuczak treats his views of bleak spaces and grim portraits equally. As we can see, the demise of this exceptional place also closed a chapter in the history of those the book portrays.
By photographing disappearing places and people, Łuczak exposes the changes occurring in the landscape of new Poland. He saw the demolition of Katowice’s 'Brutal' as a symbol of new priorities for public space. In keeping with capitalist logic, this attractive city-centre location has been transformed into a shopping mall. As a result of gentrification, the ticketless passengers he portrayed have been replaced by new subjects – customers at the mall.
Originally written in Polish, translated by MB, Nov 2018
This text is part of the project Metaphors of Independence: Poland In 100 Photos.
To coincide with the centenary of Poland regaining its independence, we have created a selection of photographs that allow us to understand both yesterday and today. A hundred photographs but so much more. Find out more.