The private house, continually constructed by all of its users, is a living embodiment of the concept of the Open Form – an idea that permeated Oskar Hansen’s output.
The wooden, single-storey hut, located in Szumin in the Mazovia region (central Poland), has been in the process of construction since 1968. Initially, it functioned as a summer retreat spot, however was later adjusted for use throughout the entire year.
When Oskar and Zofia Hansen bought the plot of land, they first built a wall on it. This was their first intervention into the space. Later on, they built a house over the wall, resting it on three rows of wooden poles in such a way that it did not touch the already existing wall. – Aleksandra Kędziorek from the Museum of Modern Art (the patron-institution of the house) explains.
The architectural design of the Hansens’ house in Szumin smoothly combines interior with the exterior. “The way in which it has been designed makes us feel as though it doesn’t have any walls.” – Kędziorek adds. Its characteristic atmosphere is a result of activities and passions manifested by its inhabitants. On its grounds, one will find didactic tools which art students could use during composition classes, or a steel structure exhibited at the 1977 Venice Biennale of Architecture, turned into a base of a wooden dovecote.
The artists behind the house are Zofia and Oskar Hansen, who, at the point of conceiving it, already had the experience of designing several exhibition pavilions and two housing estates: in Warsaw’s district of Rakowiec and the Słowacki estate in Lublin. At the time of founding Szumin, they were in the process of realization of their most controversial work – Przyczółek Grochowski (‘the Grochów Bridgehead’) housing estate in Warsaw. Each of these projects was realized in the spirit of the Open Form. However, it was the house in Szumin that manifested its assumptions completely – it was one of the few projects on which the Hansens could work from the beginning to the end, independently of any constraints imposed by the communist housing industry.
The fundamental idea behind the Open Form is the transformability of architecture, and possibility to adjust it to the users’ individual needs. (…) In a perfect world, the Open Form would allow people to decide not only about the organization of the apartments, but also about the height of the ceiling, the functional arrangement, or the location and size of windows. All of this would serve creating custom-made homes for everyone. The aesthetic aspect was equally important for the Hansens– they thought of architecture as the background for everyday life, which can ennoble even the dullest activities and inspire admiration for the mutual input of the architect and the residents – Filip Springer wrote in Gazeta Wyborcza.
The concept of Open Form was the leitmotif of Oskar Hansen’s creative activity. He presented the theory behind it at the 1959 CIAM Congress in Otterlo. It was extremely well received by the young architects, who, inspired by Hansen’s proposition, set up the Team 10 and Groupe d'Etude d'Architecture Mobile. In 1960s, Hansen conceived the theory of Linear Continuous System (LCS) – a conversion of the Open Form into urban scale.
Hansen called Open Form a philosophy, a position that defined one's attitude toward reality. The concept, which referred to the theory of sculpture and architecture put forward by Katarzyna Kobro and Władysław Strzemiński, could be construed sociologically as a structure of space shaped by various types of human activities. Hansen always stressed the humanistic element in architecture, never the technological angle. – Ewa Gorządek writes.
Hansens’ house in Szumin is the only Polish edifice on the Iconic Houses Network’s list, gathering over 100 houses worldwide, designed by such figures as Antoni Gaudí, Frank Lloyd Wright, Adolf Loos, and Mies van der Rohe.
Sources: culture.pl, artmuseum.pl, ed. Agnieszka Sural, 12.08.2014, transl. Ania Micińska 26.08.2014