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Polish Architecture

The subject of architecture and urban planning in Poland is a living element of contemporary public debate. Due to the constantly high housing needs, the development of cities and the implemented revitalization processes, there is still a great demand for the services of the industries representatives. The growing interest in the subject and market demand means that Polish institutes of higher Education, in addition to their current subjects, offer ever newer related ones.

As part of the new educational ideas being offered, are specializations related to, among other things, spatial management, landscape architecture and pro-ecological construction. At the same time, what is becoming more and more visible among practitioners,  is a division related to the specifics of their work. Despite this, a significant amount still connects the worlds of architecture, landscape architecture and industrial design. So where to go to find representatives of this industry?

Where is the Polish capital of architects?

Many cities in Poland have strong urban and architectural traditions and enjoy a reputation among both architects and lovers of architecture. Krakow, for example, is famous for its monuments of medieval architecture, Warsaw for post-war and modern architecture, Gdańsk for its Renaissance, Hanseatic buildings, Gdynia for its interwar route of modernism, and Łódź and Katowice for post-industrial complexes. In larger cities, there are  well-known and reputable architectural firms,  as well as  industry organizations. The Industry also has many specialist magazines,

Smaller centres, such as the  Renaissance city of Zamość, or famous for its nineteenth-century spa architecture Lądek Zdrój, or the post-industrial garden city of Żyrardów, whose architectural traditions make them  recognisable.

What are the most important industry events held?

Events for architects take place mainly in larger urban centres. Usually in cities with extensive logistics infrastructure, where facilities such as exhibition centres, universities, etc. operate. The most important events include, among others:

  • The International Construction and Architecture Fair BUDMA – one of the most important meeting places in Europe for manufacturers and distributors of modern technologies and building materials with trade representatives, architects, contractors and investors. During the fair, almost a thousand companies from Poland and abroad present their range of products, technologies and services.  The event also abounds in market premieres and substantive events addressing the most current issues of the construction industry, as well as presentations, competitions and the presentation of awards. For more information, please visit: BUDMA website
  • The International Trade Fair of Architecture and Interiors Arena Design – an international event for interior designers and architects, representatives of the creative industry, design lovers and universities with an artistic and technical profile. For years, Arena Design has been combining business presentations with substantive analysis of the industry and the environment, promoting Polish original design, connecting and networking designers with producers and setting trends. For more information, please visit: Arena Design website
  • The Łódź Design Festival – a forum for the exchange of experiences for designers and companies, which has as its aim – to discover and promote young talents and to present the directions of design development to a wide audience. Organized since 2007 by the Łódź Art Centre Foundation, the event supports the development of the Polish design sector, bringing together both industry leaders (designers, producers or distributors) and recipients not professionally related to the subject, but who love good design. The LDF program is an annual review of trends in global design, presentation of concepts and future visions. For more information, please visit: LDF website
  • The International Architecture Biennale – a cyclical event held continuously since 1985. Each subsequent edition is a unique forum for the exchange of ideas and experiences for architects from around the world. The competitions, exhibitions, presentations and lectures accompanying the event are a unique attraction in this part of Europe for everyone working in the field of, or interested in to architecture.
  • The Warsaw Home & Contract Fair – an annual trade fair event devoted to design, interiors and space arrangement. The Warsaw Home & Contract fair focuses on presenting new trends in interior design and furnishing, as well as on promoting Polish manufacturers of furniture and decorative articles. During the event there is a wide selection of furniture, lighting, textiles, ceramics and other decorative items exhibited. There are on display, both products of well-known brands and designers, while young designers also have the chance to present their projects to a wider audience. The Warsaw Home & Contract Fair is also a platform for exhibitors and guests who want to establish business contacts, exchange experiences and gain new inspiration. It is one of the most important industry events in Poland, focusing on interior and industrial design.
  • The Expo Pavilion Competition – a Government initiative addressed to architects and designers who want to design a temporary exhibition pavilion for the World Expo. The competition is organized by the Ministry of Development and the Polish Investment and Trade Agency. Its aim is to select the best project that will represent Poland on the international arena. The pavilion should be modern, innovative and attract the attention of visitors. The competition announcement is published on the website of the Association of Polish Architects. The project has its own website: Expo.gov.pl.
  • The Facade of the Year competition is an annual competition organized by Baumit. The aim of the project is to reward construction projects whose facades were finished using the company’s complete technology. The competition promotes not only the company’s products, but also innovative, effective solutions improving the aesthetics of building facades. Both new building projects and renovated facilities take part in it. The winning projects are selected by a jury consisting of renowned architects and experts in the field of architecture and construction. The Facade of the Year competition is one of the most important architectural industry’s events in Poland, and its winners are positive examples for façade designers and contractors.
  • The International Futuwawa competition – an event organized since 2012 by the Puszka Foundation. The project involves architects, landscape architects and graduates of such faculties as spatial management. The event is a platform for the exchange of almost futuristic architectural and landscape concepts. In each edition, the database is supplemented with further innovative visions of buildings and public spaces that could be found in Warsaw. Their aim is to present not only the abilities of young architects, but also their creative approach to various difficult issues related to the creation of the urban projects. At the same time, the website is a kind of portfolio and a platform for collecting data about Polish and foreign designers. The portal is available at: Futuwawa.pl

The websites of these events offer complete information about programs, dates and exhibitors, as well as allow you to register and purchase tickets online. Some of these events are also available in the “Events” tab. In addition to the above-mentioned there are also competitions organized in selected cities and provinces. In the case of historic architecture, an important role is played by the nationwide plebiscite ” A Well-maintained Monument”, held under the patronage of the Minister of Culture and National Heritage. In addition to the above, there are a number of other industry meetings. These include:

  • The Gardenia Fair – an annual  event, which takes place in Poznań and is devoted to gardening, landscape architecture and development of green areas. At the Gardenia fair, modern solutions in the design of gardens and green areas are presented, as well as various species of plants and flowers. During the fair, you can see, among other things, garden designs, irrigation systems, garden furniture, decorative stones, outdoor lighting, various forms of pavement or decorative articles and garden accessories. Gardenia is also a platform for companies and specialists involved in garden design and landscape architecture who want to establish business contacts and present their projects to a wider audience. The Gardenia website  contains full information about the event and also allows you to buy tickets online.
  • The Greenery is Life Fair – an annual fair event that takes place in Warsaw and is devoted to gardening, landscape architecture and development of green areas. The Greenery is Life Fair is the largest event of this type in Poland, which attracts specialists from the horticultural industry, landscape architecture and lovers of greenery. During the fair you can find, among other things, modern solutions in the design of gardens, parks, playgrounds and other green areas. The fair focuses on promoting ecological solutions in gardening and landscaping. During the event you can see a variety of plant and flower species, irrigation systems, garden furniture, outdoor lighting, decorative items and garden accessories. Greenery is life is also a platform for companies and specialists in the horticultural and landscape architecture industry who want to establish business contacts and exchange experiences. Under the link you can find full information about the program and exhibitors of the fair and buy a ticket online.

It is also worth paying attention to awards and smaller events organized by, among others, industry magazines. It is also worth mentioning that there are also anti-architectural awards in Poland.

Anti-Architectural Awards is an initiative that aims to select and show the worst architectural, urban and landscape projects. It is a kind of counterbalance to the awards granted for the best projects, it aims to make the public aware of the importance of the  correct approach to the design of public space. Anti-architectural awards are presented by various organizations and social groups that want to draw attention to the problems related to the quality of architectural and urban designs. They are awarded for projects that are unsightly or impractical, non-ecological or even dangerous for users. Anti-architectural awards are an important social voice and can have a positive impact on the quality of public space design, encouraging architects and designers of buildings and spatial areas to approach their work more responsibly. In the years 2007-2017, for example, the” Makabryła roku”(a macabre example) award was granted by the “Bryła” magazine. Another example of this type of action was created a few years ago in Silesia. A series of articles in social media entitled “Metamorphoses of horror” was aimed at showing the unfavourable changes taking place in the architecture of cities and villages in the region.

Warsaw University of Technology, source: fotopolska.travel.pl

Which Universities and Institutes of Higher Education offer courses in the field of architecture?

In Poland, there are many Universities and Institutes of Higher Education that offer the opportunity to obtain architectural and construction licenses. It is worth remembering that in scientific terms, the industry is divided into sectors: construction, architecture, interior design, spatial management and landscape architecture. Each of these fields of study provides graduates with different rights. The most popular Universities related to the industry include:

It is also worth mentioning such Universities as:

  • Warsaw University of Life Sciences – Department of Landscape Architecture
  • University of Warsaw – Faculty of Geography and Regional Studies
  • Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń – Department of Conservation

Fields of study:

  • Architecture – Warsaw University of Technology, Wrocław University of Technology, Silesian University of Technology, Cracow University of Technology, Gdańsk University of Technology, Lodz University of Technology
  • Spatial Management – University of Warsaw, Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Gdańsk University of Technology
  • Urban Studies – inter-faculty course at the University of Warsaw
  • Landscape architecture – Cracow University of Technology, Warsaw University of Life Sciences, Wrocław University of Environmental and Life Sciences, University of Warmia and Mazury in Olsztyn, University of Agriculture in Krakow
  • Interior design – Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, University of Arts in Poznań, University of Zielona Góra
  • Conservation of monuments – Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń, Wrocław University of Technology

It is worth remembering that the offer of fields of study may change depending on the university and the academic year.

What professional bodies are there?

  • Association of Polish Architects (Stowarzyszenie Architektów Polskich, SARP) – the largest and oldest organization of architects in Poland. It currently  has 25 local branches.
  • The Society of Polish Town Planners (Towarzystwo Urbanistów Polskich, TUP) – an organization gathering urban planners, planners and designers of urban space. It has 17 branches and a special section for smaller urban centers, the so-called Small Towns Section.
  • Association of Landscape Architects (Stowarzyszenie Architektów Polskich, SAK) – an organization gathering specialists in the design of landscaped green areas. In addition to industry activities, the institution also promotes good practices and scientific issues.
  • Polish Green Building Association (Polskie Stowarzyszenie Budownictwa Ekologicznego, PLGBC) – an organization gathering specialists related to ecological and energy-efficient construction. The aim of PSBE is to promote knowledge about ecological construction and popularize best practices in this field. As part of its activities, the institution issues “Green House” certificates.
  • Polish Passive House Institute (Polski Instytut Budownictwa Pasywnego, PIBP)– an independent, non-profit organization promoting passive, zero-energy and plus-energy construction in Poland. PIBP also disseminates knowledge about the use of renewable energy sources. The organization also maintains a list of Passive House Ambassadors.

Which public institutions deal with Polish architecture?

  • The Ministry of Culture and National Heritage (MKiDN) – a Government ministry responsible for , among other things, the policy of monument protection, architecture and urban planning. MKDN is also the supervisor of the National Institute of Architecture and Urban Planning.
  • The National Institute of Architecture and Urban Planning (NIAiU) – a research and scientific institution dealing with Polish architecture and urban planning, as well as cultural heritage in these fields. NIAiU also conducts publishing and educational activities.
  • The National Heritage Institute (NID) – an institution dealing with the protection of monuments and buildings of architectural value , urban planning and cultural landscape in Poland. NID also conducts research and educational activities in the field of cultural heritage. Since 2019, the Centre of Wooden Architecture has been operating at the institution, whose activities focus on the subject of wooden construction.
  • Museum of Architecture – a cultural institution based in Wrocław. The museum deals with the popularization of knowledge about Polish architecture and the organization of exhibitions and educational events.
  • Museum of Modern Art (MSN) – an institution in Warsaw, that from the very beginning accustomed the audience to unobvious choices – exhibitions about rave culture, kinetic art of Eastern Europe, Chinese avant-garde, anti-fascist artists, emancipatory education, but also to monographic exhibitions devoted to the work of great Artists: Alina Szapocznikow, Andrzej Wróblewski, Zofia Rydet, Edi Hila and Maria Bartuszova. The “Warsaw Under Construction” festival, organized continuously since 2009, has also become a brand operating under the MSN brand. The locality, the city, its history, possible scenarios for the future and its communities are also the topics of the Museum of Modern Art’s activities. It is worth noting that the headquarters of this institution is currently being built in the very center of Warsaw.
  • ZODIAK Warsaw Pavilion of Architecture – a local government institution operating since 2018, popularizing knowledge about Warsaw’s architecture and urban space. The events organized in the pavilion are devoted to both the history of architecture and the projects of the future. The institution organizes exhibitions, lectures, discussions, architectural workshops, as well as film screenings and concerts.
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