Architecture of the VII Day
Iza Cichońska, Karolina Popera, Kuba Snopek
Bogna Świątkowska, Fundacja Bęc Zmiana
Casa de la Imagen
April 26th – May 8th
April 26th – May 1st
from 12:00 to 14:00 and from 18:00 to 20:30
May 2nd – May 8th
from 18:00 to 20:30
Between 1945 and 1989, despite the Communist state’s hostility towards religion, 3,780 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.
Post-war Poland was a battle-ground of fiercely competing ideologies. Following the devastation of World War II, 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.
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 modernist technocrats serving the state, they became managers of scarce resources and individual talents, working alongside their 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 legend.
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 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 English-language edition of the book accompanying the project will be published this year by DOM publishers.