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The struggle of the non-Soviet self for space in the architecture of Nowa Huta; an analysis of Heterotopian conditions in the Polish-Communist context

Drozynski, Karol 2017. The struggle of the non-Soviet self for space in the architecture of Nowa Huta; an analysis of Heterotopian conditions in the Polish-Communist context. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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This thesis investigates the formation and development of heterotopias in Communism, in the spatial context of the city of Nowa Huta which was initially inspired by Soviet architectural strategies and designed in 1949 to accommodate a steelworks factory next to Krakow, Poland. Heterotopias were first defined by Michel Foucault in 1966 in The Order of things and in this context can be argued to have served as spaces for a re-evaluation of the engagement with the power structures at hand. The research presented in this document explains the role of heterotopias in informing the development of architectural design and that of the self in the civic spaces of Nowa Huta. To reach the aim of this thesis the research explored the situation in 20th century Poland, where a singular idea was to overwhelm all areas of life including architecture. The work presents the Sovietisation of Eastern Europe and the attempts to change the cultural habits of Poland by introducing a stronger paradigm of considering architectural design. Those attempts were based on the Soviet agenda to develop a robust public ethos guided by enhancing the work ethos. Nowa Huta stands as an example of Soviet-inspired architectural and urban planning. This thesis looks into the architectural representation of the subversive tendencies of Polish people who subverted this paradigm. The work interrogates the spatial qualities of the city and reaches beyond a detailed analysis of its initial masterplan. The thesis discusses the civic life of the place and consequent architectural changes to the urban fabric. The inhabitants of Nowa Huta in the 20th Century were caught in a power struggle between the Communist government and the opposition (that was linked with the Catholic Church). As a result the inhabitants sought spaces in which they could avoid the normalising gaze of Communist agents. They were creating heterotopias, initially in informal spaces, out of desire to remain latent from what Foucault would call ‘dispositif’ (or apparatus that the government used to regulate public conduct). The centrepiece of the argument is a narrative of the growth of concealed forms of operation (of Communist and Non-Communist agents) within the city and their entanglement with the official or civic practices. In doing so the research concentrates on spaces that were on the margin of political engagement and aims to present how such spaces ultimately redefined civic engagement in Nowa Huta. Those spaces came to foster heterotopias which came to materialise in underground bunkers and corridors, peripheries of the city, abandoned cinemas and finally churches (the design of which was inspired by the former). It was the explicit subversive quality of church designs that allowed the subverts to conduct non-Soviet life in their depths. By doing so the Church aligned itself with the heterotopian energy of the dissidents.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Architecture
Uncontrolled Keywords: non-Soviet self space architecture Nowa Huta Heterotopian conditions Polish Communist Poland
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 15 February 2018
Last Modified: 10 Nov 2021 17:04

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