Between 1945 and 1989, despite the Communist state’s hostility towards religion, over 3,000 churches were built in Poland: the Architecture of the VII Day. Built by their parishioners, these churches represent a truly communal architecture, one which rejected the rigid modernism of the centralized state. Part history, part analysis, and part reportage, the project examines the way in which architects worked with parish communities to build spaces of worship. In assembling this history, the authors deconstruct and analyse different strategies and modes of community-led building.
Post-war Poland was a battle-ground of fiercely competing ideologies. Following the devastation of World War Two, a paradoxical rebuilding of society took place, in which Poland’s tradition-bound Catholicism met the fervent technocracy of Soviet Communism. Millions of conservative, religious people from small towns and villages became first-generation proletarians as they moved to industrial cities, newly-built according to the functionalist Soviet template. Missing from the template was the parish church—the shared building which had anchored these newly industrialized communities.
designs were ruptures in the rigid urbanism of the centralized state, a testament to the creative will of the people that built them.
Architecture of the VII Day discovers the history of these churches through photography, maps, archival research, and interviews of the builders, the people who came together to construct communal meaning. The immediate objective of this project is to make this remarkable history known, and especially to record the voices of those who participated in the construction of these churches. More broadly, it documents strategies for grassroots, oppositional construction, and the ways in which communities can build a shared architecture against challenging circumstances.
Parish communities in Poland began to fill the spiritual void in the Communist plan. Neither legal nor prohibited, building churches engaged the most talented architects and craftsmen, who in turn enabled parish communities to build their own spaces of worship. The role of the architect changed: from a modernist technocrat serving the state, he became the manager of scarce resources and individual talents, working alongside his parishioner clientele. The construction process also changed. Instead of a prefabricated building churned out of a factory, each church was slowly built as parishioners donated their labor on Saturdays and small sums of money on Sundays. As it was built, each church became imbued with its own community history, its own local myth.
Following the election of John Paul II—a Pole—to the papacy in 1978, and the rise of the Solidarity movement in 1980, building churches became as much an expression of faith as it was a form of protest against the Communists. In particular, Solidarity triggered a wave of church-building; hoping to maintain their hold on power, the government ignored the hundreds of new construction projects. The fantastic church
Title: Architektura VII dnia
Authors: Izabela Cichońska, Karolina Popera, Kuba Snopek
Photos: Igor Snopek, Maciej Lulko,
Anna B. Gregorczyk, Max Avdeev
Publisher: Fundacja Bęc Zmiana, European
Capital of Culture Wrocław 2016
ISBN: 978-83-62418-68-8 / 978-83-945660-8-1
Soft cover, 424 pages
Source: press release