Some 93 per cent of Poland is countryside, and 40 per cent of the population live in villages. Despite these figures, rural areas receive little attention from architects (as well as politicians). The Polish pavilion at this year’s edition of the Venice Biennale of Architecture hopes to change that trend: asking what planners and architects can do to solve the problems of space and infrastructure in settlements that are often ignored.
For many in Poland and elsewhere, country living has become more desirable during the pandemic, as urbanites rush to escape the city. But the change in demand also sheds a light on many of the other issues facing Polish society, from environmental challenges to housing crises.
The biennale exhibition, Trouble in Paradise, includes a 70-metre photorealistic panorama that tracks key developments in country life over the past 100 years: from multipurpose community centres to industrial farms and greenhouses.
“The countryside is less and less often a promise of autonomy and escape from the city, and more and more often a storage space: a place for ring roads, production halls, farms, all the infrastructure without which life in large agglomerations would be impossible,” says Robert Witczak of the curatorial team, PROLOG +1. “This is primarily due to the conviction that the countryside is there to serve, to provide support facilities for the cities. We want to reverse this perspective, to stop thinking of the countryside from a “city dweller” point of view. It’s important to us to show the countryside not as a closed, divided and privatised space, but as a space of ideas.”
In this quest for new ways of thinking about rural living, the curators asked six architectural teams from across Europe to come up with sustainable solutions to the systemic problems villages have to cope with, such as the privatisation of seeds, or poor public transport links. The visions they propose range from the use of vertical space, to big, European Union-wide ecological programmes.