Don't let this book deceive you: although it seems to be a monograph of the famous architect from Wrocław, it is also a vivid story about the 20th-century history of the city with a complicated history and an ambiguous identity. The author skilfully describes the works of Jadwiga Grabowska-Hawrylak along with the context of the post-war reality.
In 1945 Jadwiga Grabowska-Hawrylak stated studying architecture in Wrocław; she stayed in the city and spend her life there. Her works are therefore closely linked with the history of the city and its political, social and economic situation. Michał Duda understood this specific relation perfectly, because discussing the architect’s achievements he did not merely list and describe particular projects. He presented the professional work of Grabowska-Hawrylak as an element of the development of the city: from the times when it was rebuilt after the war, through the social realism, 'renaissance' of modernism during the Khrushchev's Thaw, the hard times of the industrialisation of the construction industry in the 70s, to the remarkable 80s and 90s, when in the light of the political transformation both the architectural style and the investors changed.
The architect started her career with rebuilding: she designed tenement houses which were ruined after the war and had to be restored to its historical form. In many cities constructions were rebuilt out of the ruins or were built from scratch. They were supposed to form the architectural heritage of the nation. The tenement houses Rynek – Ratusz 7 and 8, designed by Grabowska-Hawrylak when she was young, along with many other buildings in the Old Town, were placed in the Monument Register only thirteen years after its construction! Michał Duda writes: 'Justification for the decision stated that the buildings designed by Jadwiga Grabowska-Hawrylak are an example of Baroque burgher houses from the turn of the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries (sic!)'.
Jadwiga Grabowska-Hawrylak is best known as the designer of the housing estate at Grunwaldzki Square, which, because of the height of the buildings, is called ‘Manhattan’. The apartment complex, built at the turn of the 60s and the 70s, is connected with commercial buildings and although it was created in the times of industrialisation and prefabrication, it was a fully original vision and even today is distinctive in comparison with other apartment buildings. Michał Duda says: '… almost immediately they became one of the architectural icons of the city. Their photos appeared in albums, postcards and posters, and the Grunwaldzki Square complex grew more and more deeply into the mental map of Wrocław'. The author of the book describes in detail how the idea of the apartment blocks nicknamed 'sedesowce' ('toilet houses') arose, how the concept of the complex was formed and why it is so extraordinary (a prefabricated unit which the architect used to create original elevations, a characteristic façade; the balcony balustrade was even patented!). 'Manhattan' is not the only imaginative estate that the team of Grabowska-Hawrylak created. Most of those ideas, however, remained on paper, especially the ones designed in the 70s, when the bold conceptions of shiny skyscrapers and modern hotels, estates, office buildings were well received by the authorities, but too costly to be carried out.
This does not alter the fact that most of the works by Grabowska-Hawrylak, even today, are remarkable in comparison with the average architectural production of her times. Unfortunately, it is only in the book that we can admire the supermodern and highly friendly school buildings for children or the building called 'Dom Naukowca' ('The Researcher's House') with its moderate form, perfectly balanced proportions and a range of textures and colours on the façade. The 'renovations' and thermomodernisations destroyed the tasteful details and the harmonious layout of the facing that determined the edifices' value.
In the 60s, Grabowska-Hawrylak composed original, unusual figures in modernist stylistics and in the 80s historical details appeared in her designs. However, the architect interpreted them in her own way. What proves this is her own house, a travesty of the elements archetypical for the design of 'a house as a shelter'. Another proof is the church on Macedońska street. In its modern form the gothic details were harmonized with 20th-century elements, concrete gratings forming towers and the composition of densely placed small windows that create a characteristic mosaic on the brick elevations. The temple was built as a Millenium Monument of the Wrocław Diocese and was supposed to refer to the seat of the archbishopric: the Ostrów Tumski Cathedral. 'Although the spatial disposition of the cathedral was recreated almost to the letter, none of the architectural elements were copied directly, but filtered through the experience and sense of aesthetics of the contemporary architect'.
The monograph of Jadwiga Grabowska-Hawrylak written by Michał Duda is a fast-flowing story about the architect's activity in an epoch that seemingly did not favour individual creativity and about the way the designs that are crucial to the city were created. The vivid text is not the only value of the book. The combination of an interesting narration with a carefully prepared graphic form gained Patchwork was recognition both at home and abroad.
DAM Architecural Book Award is a prize for the best books on architecture. It was established in 2009 by the German Architecture Museum – Deutsches Architekturmuseum (DAM) in Frankfurt. The winners are announced during the annual Frankfurt Book Fair. In 2010 the prize in the children's book category was awarded to Aleksandra Machowiak and Daniel Mizieliński for the book Treppe Fenster Klo. Die ungewöhnlichsten Häuser der Welt, a translation of a well-known Polish book titled: D.O.M.E.K. (English title: H.O.U.S.E.). In 2017 the book Patchwork. The Architecture of Jadwiga Grabowska-Hawrylak, published by the Museum of Architecture in Wrocław, was recognized as one of the ten best books on architecture in the world. The prize was awarded for the unusual presentation of the varied works of Grabowska-Hawrylak, accessible form and neat graphic design of the richly illustrated story about one of the most interesting architects in the second half of the 20th century. Deutsches Architekturmuseum appreciated not only the text by Michał Duda but also the graphic design by Kama Sokolnicka and the photographs by Chris Niedenthal and Jakub Certowicz. The book was translated into English by Grzegorz Piątkowski and Joe Biggerstaff. Małgorzata Devosges-Cuber was the editor.
This undeniable success raises a question – why are Polish books so rarely translated into foreign languages? Neither the editing nor the substantive value is poorer than in the case of foreign books. They tackle on topics which can be very interesting for foreigners, but they are published in Polish and thus remain inaccessible for people speaking other languages. Maybe the prize for Patchwork should give Polish publishers food for thought?
Originally written by Anna Cymer, January 2018. Translated by Matylda Weiss. All the quotes come from Patchwork. The architecture of Jadwiga Grabowska-Hawrylak translated into English by Grzegorz Piątkowski and Joe Biggerstaff.