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As a recipient of a Stewardson Keefe LeBrun grant from the American Institute of Architects New York Chapter, Scott Demel traveled extensively throughout Poland in October 1999 to view recent preservation and architectural projects. The foundations for the journey were established in December 1997 during a seven day journey with an APTI delegation attending a restoration trade show in Szczecin and touring sites in Kraków and Warsaw. Members of the 1997 delegation included Kent Diebolt (Vertical Access), Ken Follett (Apple Restoration and Waterproofing), Witold Karwowski (Arteco Construction), James Van Westering (Van Westering Associates) and Mr. Demel. The 1999 travel grant provided Mr. Demel the opportunity to revisit several on-going projects, tour additional sites and interview practitioners.
Mr. Demel's journey began in Warsaw with a warm greeting from Marek Baranski, director of the restoration office PKZ Zamek and a member of APTI and ICOMOS. He provided a reacquaintance with the city and assisted with professional contacts and information for the weeks to follow. Additional recommendations by Tomasz Wolender in Szczecin and Witold Karwowski established itineraries for two sequential travel loops. The northern loop departed Warsaw for Poznan, followed by Szczecin, Kostrzyn, Chojna, Gdansk, Elblag, Malbork and Torun. Mr. Demel returned to Warsaw and then began the southern loop, continuing to Kazimierz Dolny, followed by Lublin, Zamosc, Kraków and Wroclaw. The final day of the grant was spent at the Conservation Institute in Warsaw with a presentation by Mr. Demel on American architecture and preservation practices, supplemented with a sampling of slides on several US projects.
One aspect of the travel grant focused on ongoing rebuilding and reconstruction projects at city centers and large sites left unoccupied since their destruction during World War II. In Szczecin, for example, the foundations of the medieval houses on the slopes beneath the castle are excavated and built upon again. At an island in the Odra river, the present-day border between Poland and Germany, the town of Kostrzyn will rebuild its historic center. Less than five years ago, the remains of the houses and buildings on the island were virtually forgotten and inaccessible due to dense vegetation. However, historic roadways have been cleared to reveal stone streets, sidewalks and the footprints of many brick masonry buildings. Other rebuilding and reconstruction projects in Gdansk and Elblag are also nearing completion.
Mr. Demel also observed projects that engaged individual building reconstruction and reuse issues. In Chojna, the remaining cathedral shell and vaults are undergoing reconstruction with funding from a foundation of joint Polish and German interests. Father Antoni Chodakowski provided a walk-through of the ongoing project. Destroyed during World War II, soaring interior columns and gothic arches are being rebuilt with reinforced concrete and brick masonry cladding. This structure supports a new steel framed, pitched tile roof in the form of the original building. On a smaller scale, architect Piotr Koziej carefully inserts new interiors into the fabric of Torun's historic buildings, establishing office, retail or banking spaces. Mr. Koziej, his wife and Professor Bozena Zimnowoda-Krajewska provided a full day's tour of recent projects and the architecture of Torun.
Five of Poland's eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites were visited by Mr. Demel: Kraków, Warsaw, Torun, Malbork and Zamosc. Kraków and Warsaw were nominated to the list in 1978 and 1980, Torun's historic center was nominated in 1997. Malbork, the defensive complex on the banks of the Nogat River which served as the central stronghold of the Order of Teutonic Knights, was added to the list in 1997. This medieval castle is largest in Europe and underwent a meticulous reconstruction effort beginning after the war and extended into the 1980s. In Zamosc, Jan Szyzmanik, his daughter Marta, and Maria Krzyzanowska, co-author of the 1992 nomination, provided an extensive two day tour of the city. The author documenting the history of Zamosc Cathedral, Father Marek Dobosz, gave a complete presentation of the building and grounds. His walking tour extended from the crypt to the uppermost portions of the belfry and included some of the most sacred artworks, garments and artifacts held by the cathedral.
The travel grant also allowed Mr. Demel opportunities to view many contemporary buildings completed in the past decade along with several early modern buildings of the 20th Century. In Kraków, architect Romuald Loegler and his project architect, Józef Kincer, provided a personal introduction and tour of several recently completed buildings. Mr. Loegler's office has designed numerous prominent buildings in Krakow, including the Kraków-Batowice cemetery chapel and the School of Economics. Begun in 1987, Mr. Loegler's practice was the first private architectural office working in Poland under the communist governmental structure. In 1992, Mr. Loegler began publication of the architectural journal Arkitektura & Biznes. Traveling to Wroclaw, architect Roman Rutkowski gave an overview and tour of the city's architecture, concentrating on the city's early modern structures. The city was known as Breslau before World War II, a thriving center of German business and commerce. The Centenary Hall designed by Max Berg and Hans Poelzig in 1913, housing prototypes of the 1929 Wroclaw ‘Wohnung and Werkraum' (Home and Workplace) Exhibition and Erich Mendelsohn's Petersdorff Department Store are just a few of the buildings within the city.
The weeks spent touring the country were incredibly successful for Mr. Demel. The quantity and quality of the projects accessed owes a great deal of gratitude to the many practitioners, hosts and new friends who helped along the journey's length, including the months before and after the actual travel period. Additional written observations, photographs and interactive panoramic images are available online at http://www.demel.net. Mr. Demel will also make a presentation at the AIA New York chapter later this year.
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