Pawel Althamer

Artforum International, November 2007 | Go to article overview

Pawel Althamer


This past year Pawel Althamer had solo exhibitions at Fondazione Nicola Trussardi in Milan and Galerie Neugerriemschneider in Berlin, and he participated in Skulptur Projekte Munster. He lives and works in Warsaw.

1 THE TENTH ANNIVERSARY STADIUM IN WARSAW Built in 1955 as a sports facility, this structure first served as the primary venue for Communist festivities and exemplifies the outstanding architecture executed to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the Polish People's Republic, when the city hosted the Fifth World Festival of Youth and Students. During the emerging capitalist economy at the century's end, however, the stadium, by then dilapidated, was converted into a bazaar and soon became one of the largest in the world. Teeming with life, it now features an exceptional mix of black-market and pirated goods and sellers ranging from illegal immigrants to small-business tycoons from post-Soviet countries, Vietnam, and Africa. But soon, the government's "revitalization" efforts will return the stadium to its original athletic function--so that it may hold the upcoming football championship, Euro 2012--thus bringing an end to this vibrant microcosm of Central European life after the cold war.

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2 FAMILY ALLOTMENTS These small gardens, which originated during the Communist era, can be found in every Polish city: plots of land created to provide safe havens for the country's workers, giving them the opportunity to farm in their downtime and to participate in a miniature community and neighborhood model. Now, showing a marked shift from state to private ownership, the parcels are freely traded; in fact, I recently bought one myself for when my family and I wish to escape the city.

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3 OSKAR HANSEN (1922-2005) The recent death of Oskar Hansen--student of architect and furniture designer Pierre Jeanneret, member of Team 10 (an architecture collective formed in the 1950s that focuses on questions of modernization and consumer society), and long-term lecturer at the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts--marked the end of an era. His utopian projects were based on his "open form" concept, which advocated architecture as an open-ended process. Though most of his works remain unrealized, ideas such as his comprehensive solution to overpopulation (to him the most pressing of the "great number" problems, or those inherent to modernism), which called for the construction of linear cities with alternating "servicing" and "serviced" zones, have been recently reassessed in academic journals. I had the opportunity to work with him on his last exhibition, "Warsaw Dream," and to visit the incredible house he designed and built for himself and his wife, Zofia (in Szumin, near Warsaw)--one of the handful of projects that was actually completed. I think of him often.

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4 WARSAW MUSEUM OF MODERN ART I was on the jury to choose the architect of this new museum, and I'm happy to say that the project I voted for, by Christian Kerez, not only won but also sparked a debate on the very role and character of cultural institutions in Poland. …

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