Standardization and innovation in military housing, leisure homes and public buildings in the interwar period Poland.
Authors: Marta Rudnicka-Bogusz
Abstract: When after WWI Poland regained its independence, in the need to repair war damage the young state saw an opportunity to modernize and visually unify the country after a century of tripartite partitions. The difficult housing conditions severely affected the officers and non-commissioned officers (NCO’s), as the garrisons were established anew and the personnel did not have lodgings from the pre-war times and did not have the funds to purchase them. In 1925, an act was passed establishing the Military Housing Fund with a budget of 140 million polish zotych. In the years 1927-1934, the Fund built 542 houses. One of the mottos of the organization was: to provide sunlight, water supply, sewage systems and bathrooms in all apartments. This guiding principle about hygienic living and the strict economic requirements naturally put military construction on the path of modernism. Modernism was also deprived of any historic connotations and internationally popular, making it the ultimate tool of Europeanization - reducing the difference between Poland and Western Europe.Due to the rank of the institution and the propagandist significance of its investments, the Ministry of Military Affairs often had prestigious locations at its disposal. Many of the designs for these plots were selected through open competitions, leading to the selection of top-class solutions, thanks to the participation of the most important polish modernist architects of the interwar period: R. Gutt, J. Szanajca and B. Lachert. The campaign of housing construction was concentrated mainly in Warsaw, where the percentage of officers and NCO’s in the garrison was high - due to the tasks performed in the Ministry. Guided by the principle of economics of house construction and space ergonomics in the arrangement of apartments, in Warsaw the Fund built mainly multi-family buildings bearing fruit in the form of solutions that have ever since been cited as the canon of Polish modernism. Adhering to these standards typical layouts were worked out for swift and healthy construction and repeated throughout the country. This way, the best cosmopolitan patterns in the second half of the 1930s, when the construction was booming, were also transferred to smaller garrisons, contributing to the modernization of the deep provinces.Apart from the lack of housing, the military and their families suffered from pulmonary diseases and rickets resulting from poor living conditions. In order to remedy these problems, the Fund also dealt with the construction of sanatoriums, hospitals, physical education centers, as well as holiday homes for military personnel.The emerging democratic structures of the reviving state also wanted to be perceived as forward thinking, ordering designs from the Fund. Modernism was well suited for the design of the remaining garrison and state buildings, as they also needed to be functional, affordable to build, easy in maintenance and ergonomic. The influential period journal “Architecture and Construction” mentions such investments as airports, ministry offices, barracks, commanders' villas, etc. all adding up to an image of army as a forward thinking engine of progress.
Keywords: model housing, modernist architecture, interwar architecture, military housing, leisure complexes
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