[(…) we must ask: if the state of the structure of the polis/city mirrors the body, what takes on the metaphoric function of the genitals in the body-politics? What kind of genitals are they? In other words, does the body-politics have a sex?

E. Grosz, “Bodies-Cities”, in B. Colomina (ed.), Sexuality and Space, New York, Princeton, 1992, p. 246]


In the beginning of Nowa Huta the ground is levelled – old traces are materially removed and a symbolic gesture towards equality and homogeneity is made. “No more grazing somebody else’s cows!” (M. Brandys, Początek opowieści, Warszawa, PIW, 1952, p. 60). In the spring of 1949 there are less than one hundred people on the construction site, only this many believe the idea behind it. Their hands touch what is still open wounds – digging for water mains to be installed in the soil that acts as the concealment of bodies buried not that long ago. The memory of firing squads materialising in discovered churches merely intensifies the desire to open the space and create a homogeneous terrain, without collapsing cottages or symptoms of suffering. A place without a painful past, and without obstacles. A city, a myth located beyond history.


[The old walls next to the construction site of the Combine constituted remains of the same fortifications that the fort by the Kraków-bound road, blasted several months ago, was part of. During the occupation, the fort had been a station of Polish martyrdom. Gestapo firing squads had executed hostages brought from Kraków against its walls. (…) No trace was left of the spilt blood and tears – M. Brandys, Początek opowieści, p. 70]


[Until 1950 my situation was utterly miserable. My life was nothing but a nightmare, I had no home, and my family lived in abject poverty. I had to work as a cowherd and groom for prosperous peasants for third-rate food and clothes, I was beaten and manhandled – J. Mikułowski Pomorski, Kraków w naszej pamięci, Kraków, Secesja, 1991, p. 282]


[Metaphors of life triumphing over darkness, life being reborn out of death, and the world being brought back to its beginning were to be found everywhere in the period leading up to 1789 – J. Starobinski, 1789: The Emblems of Reason, Charlottesville, University Press of Virginia, 1982, p. 43]


The first plans, the initial guidelines for the new city are handed to the builders in June. “Plans. There’re plans! At last!” (M. Brandys, Początek opowieści, p. 83). A ruler and a compass bring the order of geometry – the emblem of reason supposed to put an end to the feudal difference. The plan is to guarantee homogeneity and announce the overcoming of barriers, prohibitions, and divisions.


[The plan is at its basis. Without plan there can be neither grandeur of aim and expression, nor rhythm, nor mass, no coherence. Without plan we have the sensation, so insupportable to man, of shapelessness, of poverty, of disorder, of wilfulness – Le Corbusier, Towards a New Architecture, trans. F. Etchells, New York, Dover Publications, 1986, p. 48]


[Its regular quadrangular or circular form made it divisible into either strictly equal juxtaposed parts or similarly symmetrical rings arranged round an omnipotent centre: Equality in independence alternated with equality in dependence. It was as if the great ideas of equality by nature and equality before the law could be given immediate spatial expression by means of rule and compass. In a universe of signs, geometry was the language of reason. It made use of forms of every kind in their beginning, their principle, and applied them in a system of points, lines, and constant proportions. Any excess or irregularity appeared as an intrusion of evil – J. Starobinski, 1789: The Emblems of Reason, p. 69]


Geometrisation is a modern-day fetish, reflected in military formations and dance steps, urban objects and architectural details. The arithmetic of perfectly ordered columns, the symmetry of design and elevation ensue from the blind faith in a world made according to harmonious measures.


[The bird’s eye view of the city reveals an incomplete circle, the centre of which is determined by Central Square – T. Czubała, Nowa Huta. Przewodnik informator, Kraków, Wydawnictwo Artystyczno-Graficzne, 1959, p. 52]


The sphere is a mathematical, abstract symbol of perfection and cosmic order governed by the rules of reason.


[At first glance, the sphere is a body in a purely stereometric sense. It appears, in its formal abstraction, to transcend its (grammatically) female gender and to reach a stage of meaning far  beyond anything so particular as sex, which is what made it appear so appropriate a metaphor for the all-encompassing and the indivisible – S. von Falkenhausen, “The Sphere: Reading a gender metaphor in the architecture of modern cults of identity”, Art History, vol. 20, no. 2, 1997, pp. 242-243]


[…there is no division into a quarter for the rich or a quarter for the poor workers. All people live in comfortable flats and have access to social facilities, they enjoy the sun and nature – J. Anioła, Huta im. Lenina, Warszawa, Wiedza Powszechna, 1954, p. 37]


The Nowa Huta geometry brings forth the first city in Poland with no narrow lanes, no dark annexes or courtyards, a city with plentiful space between blocs of flats, with an abundance of light and air. The design renounces built-up areas, deprivation, and “provides necessary facilities but leaves no space for subjects of undefined economic or social character” (J. J. Szczepański, “Robotnicze miasto”, Tygodnik Powszechny, no. 1-2, 1952, p. 3). Designed architecture is a means of subjectivisation.


[Now days are teeming with the life of engines running at full speed, and have the colour of navy blue overalls, stretching like a youthful wave far over the fields on both sides of the road. Grey and pink walls grow high to build an industrial centre for many thousands right where the interwar years set the boundary between Poland A and Poland B – A. Albrecht and K. Strzelecki (eds.), Kilofem, piórem i sercem. Nowa Huta we wspomnieniach, kronice i reportażu, Warszawa, Iskry, 1959, p. 10]


The Nowa Huta geometry seizes space and constitutes the skeleton of a city, a monumental shell promoting a social structure. Seizing space is the first stage of cleansing it of old residues, of chaos and differentiation; it is an initiation sign for ordering. Order means keeping the forces of chaos at bay, it means protection against ambivalence and risky variegation.


[A city with an etymology that links it to a ‘place’, an area that is delineated, outlined, and enclosed (for instance, by a city wall or a chain of suburbs), and in consequence separated from other places, is a spot around which space crystallises – T. Sławek, “Akro/nekro/polis: wyobrażenia miejskiej przestrzeni”, in: A. Zeidler-Janiszewska (ed.), Pisanie miasta, czytanie miasta, Poznań, Fundacja Humaniora, 1997, p. 13]


[There is a good principle which created order, light and man and a bad principle which created chaos, darkness and woman – Pythagoras, quoted in de Beauvoir, The Second Sex, trans. by C. Borde and S. Malovany-Chevallier, New York, Vintage Books, 2011, p. 4]


Nowa Huta’s monumental shell is to accentuate the symbolism of new life – the heart of the Combine: a hall with giant blast furnaces.


[In keeping with the design, the (administrative) Centre is made up of two blocs symmetrical with the trunk route connecting the Combine with the city. (…) There is nothing between them but small constructions on the side, controlling the flow of pedestrians. As a result, an unimpeded, far-reaching view of the halls and chimneys of the steelworks was obtained – T. Gołaszewski, Kronika Nowej Huty, Kraków, Wydawnictwo Literackie, 1955, pp. 72-73, 74]


Seizing space is thus performed in the spirit of fantasy about a perfect architectural and social body, a perfect machine for the pumping of life. William Harvey’s discoveries in the Age of Enlightenment transformed the expectations and plans related to urban matters. A city open to unrestricted breathing and unconstrained motion is a city made up of veins and arteries with humans flowing through them like healthy blood cells. “The medical revolution seemed to have substituted health for morality as a standard of human happiness among these social engineers.” (R. Sennet, Flesh and Stone: The Body and the City in Western Civilization, New York, Norton, 1996, p. 226). The heart of the city of Nowa Huta is not the Administrative Centre, the ornamental “Doge’s Palace,” but that which is between the decorated buildings – an unobstructed view of the terrain revealing the Steelworks’ halls and chimneys. The empty spaces of villages near Kraków, bearing traces of the past, differences, and divisions, are converting to an ideal that overpowers alienation – a coexistence of people and tools, an urban heart of the Steelworks.


[And this new type of worker must feel a fundamental hatred toward all things unorganized, inert, chaotic, sedentary, and provincially backward. He finds it difficult to love nature the way the landscape painter, the tourist, or the pantheist once did. He is repelled by thick pine forests, untilled steppes, unutilized waterfalls which tumble not according to our order, rain and snow, caves, and mountains. He finds beauty in those things upon which one can see the mark of the organizing human hand; he finds greatness in every object of human production designed to overcome, subject, and master the elements and inert matter – S. Tretiakow, “From Where to Where? (Futurism’s Perspectives)”, in A. Lawton and H. Eagle (eds.), Words in Revolution: Russian Futurist Manifestoes 1912-1928, trans. by A. Lawton and H. Eagle, Washington, New Academia Publishing, 2005, p. 214]


The city takes up space, embodies it, and by means of an organised body-concept colonises everything that may expose its construction to danger. The urban body must thus by degrees repudiate its corporality and materiality just like a revolutionary, empty space repudiates its democratic nature as it turns into an instrument of control and forced purification.


[So empty space is, unsurprisingly, a radically ambiguous and polyvalent form of what Henri Lefebvre called the production of social space – W.J.T. Mitchell, “Image, Space, Revolution: The Arts of Occupation”, Critical Inquiry, vol. 39, no. 1 (Autumn 2012), p. 20]


[Empty space could thus be a sign of defeat, of a revolution suppressed, defeated, or betrayed, a revolution that left nothing behind, that changed nothing, that has come to nothing. Or one that is taken over  by a monument to a living sovereign and a totalitarian regime, the nearest thing we have to an idol in contemporary culture – W.J.T. Mitchell, “Image, Space, Revolution”, p. 21]


The beginnings of construction works are defined by the dialectic of inert mud and the progressing will to keep things pure. The sticky, slimy matter displays resistance to the human body, and drags it back into the order of nature. It stops and immobilises.


[The pouring rain murmured and pattered against the roofs of new buildings for hours, gradually metamorphosing the resilient loess grounds in the vicinity of Kraków into a vast squelching bog. The next day, those working on the right side of the road kept miring in soft, yellowish mud. Waterproof boots handed out to them in the morning protected their feet from getting wet, but they could not stop them from slipping in the dangerously clayish slime. More often than not people would fall – M. Brandys, Piotr i Maria, Warszawa, Czytelnik, 1951, p. 6]


[In general – hordes of boys and mud, mud, bulldozers, trucks, mud, mostly mud in which we got stuck, always dirty, heavy-footed, yellowish brown, utterly wearied by mud, slimy, gluey, stubbornly and recklessly spiteful like an element or an enemy – A. Tarska, “Laurka dla pokolenia”, in A. Pawłowska and J. Feliksiak (eds.), Młodzi stąd. Reportaże 1959-1965, Warszawa, 1966, p. 73.]


Mired in mud, the body fails to pump the urban blood effectively, it becomes a hindrance to the implementation of architectural design. The builders who lose out to mud form tangible gaps in the design, they are interlopers in an ideal vision that is yet to come. The geometric layout of the city, its disciplining and ordering aspect are still merely drawn symbols, paper-borne utopias of an urban organisation. The limit of utopia is the fragile human body whose individual materiality opposes the universal character of planned transformation.


Mud interrupts action, sucking into chaotic matter, revealing the frailty of the human body. It needs to be countered with a proclamation of purity and sterility in the space designed for a new life.


[Women of Nowa Huta! Remember that a clean apartment testifies to the worker’s civility. A bright and clean apartment makes for a wonderful rest after work. Our home in Nowa Huta must be light, spotless, and decent – T. Gołaszewski, Kronika Nowej Huty, Kraków, Wydawnictwo Literackie, 1955, p. 183]


Cleanliness and order are antinomies of muddy matter. The contest for the cleanest flat is for the women of Nowa Huta, in charge of the home space. Here the competitiveness is shifted from workplace to home in a race for pristinity of space as well as life.


Proclaimed by the Women’s League, the competition also demonstrates that the private sphere is political and, as a result, it cannot be excluded from community life, it cannot be a space of hidden secrets. The domestic role performed by women is a public role, perceived and commented on.


The purity of space and letting fresh air in are motivated by an outright modern desire – the bourgeois wish to eliminate the unpleasant smell of the working class because “making the proletariat odorless would promote discipline and work among them” (A. Corbin, The Foul and the Fragrant: Odor and the French Social Imagination, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 1986, p. 143).


[The Ministry of Health has issued guidelines for nurseries, and they are pretty strict: one building is to accommodate three divisions – one for 12 children older than one year, one for 20 children younger than two, and one for 20 children younger than three. Each division ought to be completely isolated from the others. The Ministry’s rationale behind this is to prevent droplet infections which can spread through a keyhole or the likes of it. Each division is to have a separate entrance from outside, and an isolation room with an independent exit for sick children, and even a “potty room” – T. Gołaszewski, Kronika Nowej Huty, p. 91].


[Gypsies in Nowa Huta received assiduous attention from health officials because I could still recollect the harsh conditions in which they had lived in the region of Podhale (…) in the interwar period and because in the epidemiology of typhus fever dirt and head lice infestation play a decisive role in spreading this very serious disease. If we suspected someone of being infected with typhus fever, we would instantly inspect the Gypsy barracks. Lice, or so-called “vagabond’s disease” (morbus vagabundorum), are the main carriers of typhus, and it is common knowledge that Gypsies of the interwar period (and in many cases nowadays) had been none too clean – Z. Olszewski, Dziennik lekarza, w S. Kozicki and Z. Stolarek (eds.), Krajobraz ogni. Antologia reportaży o Nowej Hucie, Warszawa, Iskry, 1971, pp. 148-149]


Cleanliness and dirt, health and disease successfully split the urban space into pieces. They are fragmenting factors and the basic tools of differentiating society. Ambivalent bodies get stabilised following hierarchic opposition. Dividing and differentiating are ultimately to maintain cohesion, to guarantee safety by distributing people in urban space.


[Socialist environment greatly affects even the most resistant individuals and groups. Inhabitants of Nowa Huta are becoming a close-knit, homogeneous community – T. Gołaszewski, Kronika Nowej Huty, p. 151]


[In 1515 the Venetians started to explore the possibility of using the Ghetto Nuovo as a site for segregating Jews. Ghetto originally meant “foundry” in Italian (from gettare, “to pour”). The Ghetto Vecchio and Ghetto Nuovo served as the old foundry district of Venice, far from the ceremonial center of the city; their manufacturing functions had shifted by 1500 to the Arsenal – R. Sennet, Flesh and Stone, p. 201]


The early years of the construction of Nowa Huta are characterised by the will to conquer the space, to create a faultlessly functioning body, restraining bodily disorders and curbing desires. Proper segregation of bodies in space warranted such curtailment. At the foundations of a transparent city, a city deprived of nooks and dark histories there is a yearning for homogeneity, but it can only be achieved by suitable management of difference. Segregation, as unavoidable as it is salutary.


[The triumph of order over disorder, purity over impurity, is in fact a triumph of the urban ratio over the municipal body – a triumph of somatophobia. The simplest manifestation of the ratio was separation: determining the spatial distance between the sick and the healthy, the young and the elderly, the living and the dead, women and men, townspeople and immigrants – E. Rewers, “Segregacja obcych ciał: porządek i wykluczenie”, Studia Regionalne i Lokalne, no. 2, 2008, p. 11]


The early architecture of Nowa Huta, a city emerging from scratch, consists in maintaining spatial distance for the sake of health and order. The fantasy of a compact, uniform community relies on requisite enclosure, boundaries, and sculpting space to steer urban traffic – architecture organises space, shaping and forming by encompassing or leaving out.


[There were separate hotels for women and for men. In early 1952, there were six female hotels. Care was taken to ensure they were all in the centre of Nowa Huta, not far from hotel management and militia stations. But even so, occasional incidents occurred and “assaults” were made on female hotels. A report by the Women’s Section of the Central Committee of the Polish United Workers’ Party, dated October 1951, relates that a group of men were banging on the door of a women’s building, and the girls poured water on them in an attempt to scare them off. The attackers responded by hurling terrible insults and issuing threats (smashing windows, taking out window frames, kicking and battering the girls). (…) The row took place right outside the housekeeper’s windows, but he did not react fearing for his own safety, and he did not call militia, either, because he had no telephone.


A relentless observance of the sex segregation rule meant that married couples were also affected. For years, husbands and wives had no choice but to live in separate hotel rooms, frequently in distant buildings. Defying the ban led to – according to members of another governmental party committee enquiring into the situation in Nowa Huta in October 1955 – “flagrant violation of the rules of morality. Husbands often call on their wives in hotel rooms where they engage in the most intimate intercourses before the children and flatmate’s eyes” – D. Jarosz, “Główne problemy społeczne Nowej Hucie w I połowie lat pięćdziesiątych”, in Dziedzictwo kulturowe NH w rozwoju obszaru strategicznego Kraków-Wschód. Materiały konferencyjne, Kraków, Krakowskie Forum Rozwoju, 1997, p. 55]


The wall is the anatomical foundation and the precondition of spatial sensitivity. The wall is a sexless fantasy about pure geometry which becomes the material medium of difference, capable of transforming another body into a foreign body, broken and amorphous. The fact that this body is biological poses a threat that needs to be thwarted.


[The dominant figure for the body remained that of the house. But with the plague, the very walls of the house are seen as porous. As any kind of opening constituted the possibility of a medical “disorder,” the monitoring of the body’s multiplying openings demands a greater vigilance against infiltration. This necessitates social isolation achieved through the addition of a smooth, supplementary layer of clothing. White linen took over the role of the porous surface it protected. It literally became the body. Its cleanliness stood for the purification of the of the body. (…) The white surface was a critical device with which a detachment from the body, understood as a feminine surface, a discontinuous surface vulnerable to penetration, could be effected. In introducing a distinction between the body and its decoration, it literally produced the distinction between inside and outside as a cultural artifact. (…) the white surface is bound into the concept of the interior – M. Wigley, “Untitled: The Housing of Gender”, B. Colomina, Sexuality and Space, p. 359]


The construction of barriers and limitations is reinforced by symbols of degraded, immoral corporality; their effectiveness increases when the body unsettles the architectural order, and becomes an intruder on the path to rejuvenated future. The body-intruder is an unruly, active body, unyielding to systemic sculpting, but sculpting itself and appropriating space on its own terms.


[Bodies carve all sorts of new and unexpected spaces, through fluid or erratic motions. Architecture, then, is only an organism engaged in constant intercourse with users, whose bodies rush against the carefully established rules of architectural thought. No wonder the human body has always been suspect in architecture: it has always set limits to the most extreme architectural ambitions. The body disturbs the purity of architectural order – B. Tschumi, Architecture and Disjunction, Cambridge, MA, MIT Press, 1996, p. 123]


The tale of the early days of Nowa Huta is a story of never-ending corporal disturbances of the intended shell of the city. It is also an unceasing distraction of the boundary of the body and city materiality; the boundary of visibility and disguise. Made by levelling an uneven ground, the city does not uncover what is hidden, but eliminates the very location of what is hidden, disciplined, feminine interior and the tool that disciplines it – the masculine, organising look.


Carving bodies was executed not only by implementing the idea of a steel human organism subjected to collective discipline, but by achieving individual emancipatory projects and taking over the construction site of the ideal city for one’s own liberating (and adventurous) myths.


[Over fifty years ago gold was discovered in the North of Canada. The region by the River Mackenzie has a reverberating name – Klondike. Klondike is the destination chosen by European seekers of gold and adventure – or so novels have it. People excluded from life by capitalism – that is the reality. But this is an old story. There is no gold left in Klondike. What is left is the daily misery of Canadian farmers. Klondike and the Gold Rush remain in books. Each of them tells about at least one bar where tramps, hunters, and seekers meet to talk about gold…


In the village, by the church, there is a boxy inn. Adventurers sip beer surrounded by smoke. All those who are in search of something on the vast construction site of Nowa Huta. For Nowa Huta is the scene of exhaustive search and great rush – A. Albrecht and K. Strzelecki (eds.), Kilofem, piórem i sercem. Nowa Huta we wspomnieniach, kronice i reportażu, Warszawa, Iskry, 1959, p. 20]


Nowa Huta hijacked the myth of Klondike, the emblematic word standing for individual thirst for profit, and injected the new romanticism of Nowa Huta venturesome young men into it. In the 1950s, in American popular imagination Klondike was the trigger of Scrooge McDuck’s career (it was said that he found a gold nugget the size of a goose’s egg and made excellent investments that earned him his first million). In Nowa Huta, Klondike provides the vocabulary for the young builders of common future. Or actually, it is the Sztandar Młodych daily, publishing “Conversations about Klondike,” that is endeavouring to transform the myth into a language, to develop a non-mythical language, the language of man-maker: “wherever man speaks in order to transform reality and no longer to preserve it as an image, wherever he links his language to the making of things, metalanguage is referred to a language-object, and myth is impossible” (Barthes, Mythologies, trans. Anette Lavers, London, Paladin, 1973, p. 146). The Nowa Huta Klondike in Sztandar Młodych wants to change, and to generate a need of a collective rush for putting up the city. Klondike denotes escapade, but one that generates a new reality, another kind of political community, concealing its political character for the sake of a rhetoric of authenticity and a worldwide conquest, and, in this way, all the more appealing, all the more successful in political terms.


But there were cases of appropriating the Nowa Huta construction site; stories popping up in a city that was beginning to be, in spaces still undefined, in workers’ hotels evaded supervision. Nowa Huta held allure offering potential action and change, being a city in progress, present in architectural designs, but still in the process of assuming material shape. At least until 1954, Nowa Huta was in fact two separate cities.


[The designers of the city of Nowa Huta keep envisioning two forms of the city: a prospective form as well as the form of a city being built with a rich diversity of existential pressures, “a city which not yet is,” a city that lives and erects itself – T. Ptaszycki, “Fundamenty Nowego Miasta”, Miasto, no. 1, 1952, p. 10]


The form of a city that is coming to be, that awaits content, but its transitory nature and lack of fixed meanings makes it possible to produce new identities, annexing provisional spaces.


[I was standing atop one of these buildings, two storeys high so far, when I heard many people laughing from the direction of the central square. On top of all six buildings in today’s Avenue of Roses bricklayers were busy doing their job. There were countless workers everywhere as the city planners had perfected concentration of works.


The laughter became louder and closer. The crews stopped whatever they were doing and dozens of workers approached the walls by the road to see what was going on. Among crane railway a single young man, a beatnik, was walking. A Mohawk on his head, he was wearing a light broad-shouldered jacket, narrow-leg mid-calf trousers, bright colourful striped socks, and thick-soled shoes. A classic beatnik outfit, straight from the satirical Szpilki magazine or other journals of the time – T. Binek, Śląsk-wojna-Kresy-Wrocław-Nowa Huta. Wspomnienia 1930-1960, Kraków, Cracovia, 1997, pp. 123-124]


If the measure of forming urban space is the march of the first demonstrator, then the striding beatnik seizes the city, alters its signs and distracts the rhythm of construction. His body turns into an anti-monument, a moving sculpture – a mobile issuing a challenge to the world of labour and the rules of efficiency. The body transforms the city into an adventure, a labyrinth uncovering new disorienting fragments. This is a walk – a dérive toying with architecture and converting it into an object of aesthetic fantasy; it offers the opportunity to dive in the still incomplete city spaces.


[In a dérive one or more persons during a certain period drop their relations, their work and leisure activities, and all their other usual motives for movement and action, and let themselves be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the encounters they find there. (…) from a dérive point of view cities have psychogeographical contours (…) – Debord, Theory of the Dérive,, (accessed 16 February 2018)]


In a dérive the body in city space breaks the discipline, it commits the crime of inactivity and is more and more the key enemy of emerging buildings – a loafer who withstands the rigour of work and action. A body taking rest during working hours uses the city not according to its purpose, makes a breach in the order and impairs the harmony of the collective organism.


[The time between dinner and supper was free of any obligatory activities, and the voluntary ones were pretty much avoided by everyone. There was no-one willing to clean, wash the floor and toilets. Quite a few men chose to meet in lavatories. It was warm in there, I would say it was cosy and safe. The leadership never came round here. You could fantasise as much as wanted here. And we listened delighted to anyone who wanted to talk – “Najgorszy był jednak początek”, in S. Kozicki and Z. Stolarek (eds.), Krajobraz ogni, p. 49]


The city being constructed offered a chance for everyone to abandon their lifestyles for more autonomy and new relationships of one’s own choice rather than those resulting from biological ties or conditioned traditionally.


[I began to pay more attention to my appearance. First of all, I got a new haircut and became interested in fashion, I would buy fashion magazines and all weeklies, e.g. Nowa Wisła. I followed the trends. I cut out fashion pages before throwing away the weeklies. It was and still is my favourite pastime. All the fashion-related paper stuff I have weighs 9 kilos. You can take it from me, I have checked. More than ever before, I was taking care of my skin, I bought the right creams and, as a result, though I am 27 my skin is now smooth and firm – J. Chałasiński, Drogi awansu społecznego robotnika: studium oparte na autobiografiach robotników, Warszawa, Ludowa Spółdzielnia Wydawnicza, 1979, p. 111]


Female workers’ hotels helped develop a sense of community among young women who wanted to violate the old rules with their bodies, but also the new systemic expectations, discussed for instance in a rather peculiar book Socjologia kobiety (Sociology of Women) by Stanisław Szanter, published in 1948. Szanter expressed the greatest admiration for the overalls which release the “purest humanism from the female social subject” (S. Szanter, Socjologia kobiety, Warszawa, Wydawcnitwo B. Kądziela, 1948, p. 408), and opposed such relics of the bourgeois system as dresses or stockings. But for a young female gantry operator who was discovering the power of the body’s plasticity, the interest in fashion was not another unconscious enslavement, but a gesture as liberating as can be, encouraging active involvement in transforming the possible trajectories of her social role: “I wanted to get married because I loved him, but at the same time I was afraid his character would change. I had seen enough of marriage rows, so I was careful.” (J. Chałasiński, Drogi awansu społecznego robotnika, p. 112). Gaining self-confidence through fulfilling one’s consumer needs was an act of emancipation.


Before she came to work in the Steelworks, the gantry operator-to-be had been subjected to other types of forming – a bodily discipline that confronts her with her peasant origins, and through that confrontation triggers shame. Humiliation is the driving force behind the will to change: it releases individuality, but also creates the possibility for articulating the common experience of the embarrassed.


[The canteen was the worst. The head taught us how to each, how to hold the spoon, knife and fork. My place at the table was opposite the head. No wonder her eyes were tracing every move of my hand. I had never used a fork or a knife at home, and I found it difficult to get used to them. I remember that one day we were served pork chops and when I lifted the fork to my lips I could feel the head watching me. My hands started to shake badly, my whole body was shaking. Instead of putting the fork into my mouth, I pricked my lip. I felt the taste of blood. I was ashamed and did not know what to do, I said “thank you” and left – J. Chałasiński, Drogi awansu społecznego robotnika, p. 110]


[One of the strangest features of shame, but perhaps also the one that offers the most conceptual leverage for political projects, is the way bad treatment of someone else, bad treatment by someone else, somebody else’s embarrassment, stigma, debility, bad smell, or strange behaviour, seemingly having nothing to do with me, can so readily flood me – assuming I’m a shame-prone person – with this sensation whose very suffusiveness seems to delineate my precise, individual outlines in the most isolating way imaginable – E. Kosofsky-Sedgwick, Touching Feeling: Affect, Pedagogy, Performativity, Durham, Duke University Press, 2003, pp. 36-37]


[Some metamorphoses disrupt the snowball that one forms with oneself over lived time, that big round ball: full, replete, complete. These strange figures rise out of the wound, or out of nothing, an unhitching from what came before. These figures do not arise from an unresolved infantile conflict, nor from the pressure of the repressed, nor from the sudden return of a phantom. There are some transformations that are attacks on  the individual – C. Malabou, Ontology of the Accident. An Essay on Destructive Plasticity, trans. C. Shread, Cambridge, Polity Press 2012, p 2]


Make-up is an ornament applied to the body and an excessive breach of the rule of efficiency as the plasticity of the body is used against the dictates of functionality and usefulness. It is also an expression of powerful rejection of turning the female worker’s body into a fetish, reduced to a stereotypical imaginarium of a natural face and hands busy with work.


The danger of ornament lies in its sensuality that disturbs the eye. The need to create feminine architecture, an architecture of pleasure, is a risky one – it entails potential seduction. The deception of superficial and pleasing appearance upsets the truth of the proper place.


Ornament is risky because it allows bodily sensuality to mislead the reason that tries to control it. The reason is in danger of succumbing to feminine mobility which must be curbed. Boundaries within the female body are disarranged, they become fluid. The walls of a feminine building are riddled with openings that need to be constantly secured in order to save the soul.


[Even building materials can claim relevance in the process of gendering architecture. A building’s architectural integrity is derived from the masculinisation of its materials and culturally-prescribed/connoted manly attributed as austerity, authenticity, and permanence. Wooden panels are conventionally used for the sheathing recreational and professional interiors – men’s clubs, bars, law courts, corporate boards rooms – which are codified as ruggedly masculine. Masculine properties of being hard, cold, and crystalline are similarly attributed to glass, steel, and stone. The use of applied ornament in order to fabricate a masculine environment are reduced to its inherent qualities and barest essential, adhering to the dictum that less is more masculine – G. Rey A. Lico, “Architecture and Sexuality: The Politics of Gendered Space”, Humanities Diliman, vol. 2, no. 1, 2001, p. 35]


[Magazine covers, even those from the 1950s, feature girls by welding machines or gantries, wearing make-up and with perfect curls, smiling. The image of a woman driving a tractor was only occasionally seen in the press, even though it was supposed to be the omnipresent symbol of communist emancipation – M. Fidelis, “Szukając traktorzystki – kobiety i komunizm”, Znak, no. 689, 2012]


The paradox, however, lies in the fact that it is individual corporality, the discovery of its potential and susceptibility to transformation that enables joining social revolution and openness to getting involved in the project of changing the world.


The individual, biological body is the measure of changes, but it can equally well make them ineffective. Socialist femininity, before it becomes the tool in the post-thaw campaign for morality, is shaped with the awareness of the risk that old patterns might return – aesthetisation of the female body as a collective spectacle preserves hierarchy.


The beauty contest – a radical extension of individual aesthetic projects – is a festival of beautiful objects, a bizarre competition in the exquisiteness of the bodily craft and ultimate commodification of the body.


[Immensely popular in the West, the event consisting in choosing a beauty queen along with a massive advertising campaign, and with a pornographic touch to it, was considered by the Polish press as a symbol of the sordidness of capitalism not that long ago… Today – in 1956 – we are doing the same thing (or nearly the same thing as the principle is identical) in the first socialist city – Budujemy socjalizm, no. 105, 1954, p. 1]


[Here is another weird idea developed for American women to “kill” the time. In Hollywood, a sex-appeal school has opened, with film artist Gilda Grey as its head and main teacher (…). The school allegedly prepares young American women for life, educating them how to behave in all imaginable situations. And they are taught to behave gracefully and charmingly, or to use what we call sex-appeal – “Szkoła seks-apelu”, Budujemy socjalizm, no. 125, 1954, p. 6]


Critique of sex-appeal education is perhaps aimed at anachronistic ideas related to an added bonus that womanhood enjoys – allure and charm are the female excess uncovered in the Western world that differentiates it from manhood, and so is both differentiating and hierarchising. But the critique of the educational project may be justified by the notion of it being useless as the skills to be trained are ‘natural’ in women who behave “charmingly and gracefully” without having to learn how to do that. In this case, the biggest threat to the order of the new city is what disturbs natural characteristics of the sexes. And it is not the body of a working female bricklayer or gantry operator – it submits to the discipline and maintains the universal proletarian subjectivity formed by the worker’s overall – but the body at leisure, marked with sex, captured in a temporary stage that should remain disguised.


[Considering the latest craze for fashion, I would describe Nowa Huta as a “city of sloppy beauties.” When one walks its streets on a sunny day, one sees many women wearing dressing gowns no matter what time of day. They spend hours dressed like that, lingering in front of their blocks of flats, on benches, in squares, the bolder ones even venture to do the shopping. Strangely enough, this trend that seems suitable for early morning or evening at home has come to be seen as extremely pleasing and worth copying on a large scale. The gown is accompanied by uncombed hair and worn-out slippers, and this is what we see every day, and now the picture of the “city of sloppy beauties” is complete – C. Tarnogórski, “Rozmamłane piękności”, Budujemy socjalizm, no. 105, 1956, p. 6]


[The city is the social scene where woman can publicly express her struggle. She was/is not accepted in the institutions of powers, she is dispossessed (of her body) and is with the dispossessed. The public place is a no-man’s land ready to be appropriated. The scene of the city, of the street, of the public place, is that of the dispossessed; there she is “at home” – D.I. Agrest, “Architecture from without: Body, Logic, and Sex”, Assemblage, no. 7, 1988, p. 40]


A woman walking the streets in a dressing gown is a negative heroine who should remain hidden at home, rather than going out into city space. City space is open to images of working bodies, consistent aesthetically with the canon of beauty right for action or attractive women, performing traditional roles and serving an ornamental function in the urban universe of signs. “Sloppiness” constitutes a crime against the world order committed by a fluid body, unformed and, as a consequence, unattractive. The disturbance is not caused by the mythologised female tractor driver – the collective (and unjustified) image of the alleged neutrality in distribution of jobs in the Polish People’s Republic – but by incomplete, provisional femininity that is brave enough to show this provisionality, celebrate it, and enforce its acceptance. The body wearing a dressing gown, exposed to public view, rejects the disciplining opposition between inside and outside, it is femininity disjoined from the role of a posing object, fossilised in an arrangement determined by the look. A female resident of Nowa Huta, enjoying a walk in her dressing gown, is the opposite of a model walking down the catwalk, of the kind of woman that imposes the contour-form, allaying the fear of fluid femininity. The fossilised body is explicitly outlines, it is finished and complete. It is the architectural ideal, a safeguard to protect the intactness of boundaries, to keep provisionality of architectural matter and the closely related body at bay.


[Nowa Huta is in no danger of chronic provisionality, a phenomenon that left such a pitiable mark on modern developments in Warsaw as well as other cities before the war. Even vitality is part of the plan, and this is something that becomes obvious straightaway. There are no temporary shacks or stalls here, typical for estates under construction. All necessary shops – cooperative stores, canteens, offices, or milk bars – are located in complete buildings, in what is mostly going to be flats, but is temporarily being used for these purposes, effectively, conveniently, and hygienically. So, there are provisional solutions here as well, after all. Well yes, there is no other way. But they are different, as it were, regulated – J.J. Szczepański, “Robotnicze miasto”, Tygodnik Powszechny, no. 1-2, 1952, p. 3]


The shell of the city of Nowa Huta, its sculptural surface was meant to be decorative, and so was the ornament in the city design that included an ideological guidepost – a steeple-shaped obelisk, and a theatre with a monumental colonnade on the southern side of Central Square. But these plans fell through, and Nowa Huta never received its vertical landmark that would harmonise the city’s arrangement, leaving a potentiality of the empty, horizontally-oriented space.


[The “market square”, underscored by arcades of the buildings surrounding it, accommodating all kinds of shops, was part vast garden and part junction. Initially, such functions of Central Square were surely occasioned by the artificial layout of the city which was also the reason why it sprouted five stellate roads that led nowhere at all – B. Klich-Kluczewska, Przez dziurkę od klucza, Warszawa, Wydawnictwo Trio, 2005, p. 42]


[But you continue and you find instead other vague spaces, then a rusty suburb of workshops and warehouses, a cemetery, a carnival with Ferris wheel, a shambles; you start down a street of scrawny shops which fades amid patches of leprous countryside. If you ask the people you meet, “Where is Penthesilea?” they make a broad gesture which may mean “Here,” or else “Farther on,” or “All around you,” or even “In the opposite direction” – I. Calvino, Invisible Cities, trans. W. Weaver, Orlando, Harcourt, 1974, pp. 156-157]


[The first finished estate (A-1) reveals traces of some yet unprocessed influences of de-urbanisation. Houses are loosely distributed, spaced out, with huge distances between them. Buildings are small, and low. But the further away from the estate, the greater the sense of responsibility, the realism in construction and urban planning, the greater the interior harmony, order, peace, and restraint – A. Wróblewski, “Oglądamy miasto”, Miasto, vol. III, no. 1(15), 1952, p. 13]


[No verticality or underground, no intimacy or collectivity, no streets or facades, no centre or monuments: a fantastic space, a spectral and discontinuous succession of all the various functions, of all signs with no hierarchical ordering – an extravaganza of indifference, extravaganza of undifferentiated surfaces – the power of pure open space, the kind you find in the deserts – J. Baudrillard, America, trans. C. Turner, London, Verso, 1999, p. 125]


The life of the city, the smoothing of ridged ground, the uncovering of the creases in the surface, takes place in the centre above all, where folds and veils part; in the centre which is the place proper, its memory, and the border protecting against the peripheral element.


But without vertical symbols, the centre lacks the barrier against peripheries, and oblivion.


The city as a space that is guarded and defended against intrusion and violence is at once exposed to the public as a visible object, making itself present in the rhetoric of pose, subjected to the objectifying look. “This is the paradoxical situation of the city gone feminine, shaped to resemble woman” (T. Sławek, “Akro/nekro/polis”, p. 13).


A fortified sphere, this protective carapace of mathematical abstraction finally has an interior – a womb which embodies the dream of security. The sphere is a cave, a dark recess which stands in the visual discourse of the revolutionary mind for everything that has been pushed beyond norm. The mound of the cave is connected to the earth and, as a result, connotes femininity. The mound, the recess, the cave is like the inside of a solicitous body. But from the perspective of the reason it is also the menacing “Other”, incorporated into the cityscape. The Wanda Mound, Wanda being the symbolic patron of Nowa Huta (people created the mound near the place where the body of the legendary queen had been fished out of the river), representational arcades in Central Square are the sexualised reverse of the geometric fantasy of a sexless urban city.


[The Dutch painter Piet Mondrian (…), who founded the art magazine The Stijl with Theo van Doesburg (…), thought that man represented spirituality, verticality, and abstraction and woman represented materiality, horizontality, and carnality – Kerstin Dorhofer, “Symbols of Gender in Architecture and Urban Design”, in U. Terlinden, City and Gender: International Discourse on Gender, Urbanism and Architecture, Opladen, Springer, 2003, p. 86]


[Vertical architectural elements are usually associated with the celestial, divine, and the masculine, while horizontal elements are associated with the earth, sea, and the feminine. Other spatial and symbolic correspondence includes curve (female) and straight line (male) – G.R.A. Lico, “Architecture and Sexuality: The Politics of Gendered Space”, Humanities Diliman, vol. 2, no. 1, 2001, s. 33]


A feminine space devoid of verticality, open and horizontal, waits to be bodily filled; it allows bodies but it also controls and disciplines them. The broad streets and squares of Nowa Huta are expecting grand and awe-inspiring marches, spectacles of human bodies meant to give them a form and to supervise its movements – to make them predictable by imposing regularity and strict symmetry upon them.


[The urban renewal of Paris by Baron von Haussmann in the nineteenth century was famously a strategy of state control and clearing, opening long, wide boulevards such as the Champs Élysées that would offer few opportunities for the erection of revolutionary barricades and serve as unobstructed firing ranges for artillery to suppress popular uprisings. Red Square in Moscow and Tiananmen Square in Beijing have served as staging grounds for both popular protests and spectacles of absolutism – W.J.T. Mitchell, “Image, Space, Revolution”, p. 19]


But opening the space to corporality is a risky gesture, especially if concept premises, formulated in a language promoting functionalism and liberating humanism, are very precisely defined.


In the empty, horizontal space of Nowa Huta it is the human body that becomes an urban monument in a gesture of taking over and sculpting the surrounding structure. A radical form of such appropriation of urban space is occupation – a refusal to move that makes material bodies necessarily visible – barriers for movement, an intruder in the design of pure architectural thought.


In 1952, an illegal barrack emerges in Nowa Huta, which is later to become the Nurt theatre. Its builders violated the law of the design but did not surrender the piece of space. Eventually, the authorities accepted the construction, they accepted an arbitrarily built barrack as part of the Nowa Huta project.


[Our argument is simple and straightforward enough to make any deliberations unnecessary. We have no intention of destroying the building, it is a natural child of Nowa Huta – J. Kurczab, “Nielegalny barak”, in S. Kozicki and Z. Stolarek (eds.), Krajobraz ogni, p. 278]


Appropriating space demonstrates the existence of a community, it introduces a symptom of difference to preserve the idea of the public character of the city.


[And occupation, it should be noted, is not only a visual and physical presence in a space but a discursive and rhetorical operation. It is directly linked to the trope of occupatio, the tactic of anticipating an adversary’s arguments by preempting them, taking the initiative in a space where one knows in advance that there will be resistance and counterarguments. In the context of the rhetoric of public space, occupatio is, as the original meaning of the word reveals, the seizure of an empty place, one that is supposed to be res nullius, not owned by anyone, not private property – W.J.T. Mitchell, “Image, Space, Revolution”, pp. 9-10]


[- No infringement of the right here (…).

– How come?

– The workers’ right to culture – J. Kurczab, “Nielegalny barak”, p. 277]


Unauthorised development is a manifestation of architecture used for the benefit of social utopia, based on the initiative displayed by residents who believe collective effort valuable, for whom access to culture is not a gesture of civilization control, but an inalienable right.


[Anarchitecture is thus a product of an emotional approach to the city as a net of human interrelations, rather than lifeless and closed neighbourhoods. It reflects social care, but also human resourcefulness, lack of attention to form, randomness, chaos, and interruption of established order. It is a game involving associating materials, preferences and tastes of residents – K. Wiącek, “Architektura, anarchia i tektura”, Recykling Idei, no. 8, 2006]


The story of Nowa Huta as a city is a story of labour and transformation of space. The story of the city as a shell being shaped constitutes a parallel to the matter which was to become the centre of the new organism: steel. Smelting ore into steel, converting nature into culture require human toil and overstepping the limits of corporeality exposed to physical, exhausting experience. The source of difference in an utopia of homogeneity is somatic experience, a concatenation or a bunch of narratives of a necessary progress and an equally inevitable training in perseverance. Mythical metallisation of the body, transformation of an unruly crowd into a steel organism is constantly made ineffectual by the discovery of the body’s ambiguity, its material brittleness and capriciousness, subjected to the workings of history.


[Does Nowa Huta have a microclimate of its own? No one seems capable of giving me a straight answer, and if so, my opinion is as good as anybody else’s. In my opinion then – it does. This may not be evidenced by thermometers in one of the Combine’s squares, but the senses will know. You are in gas. You are immured in quavering hot air, in a box of the nearby horizon whose boundaries are defined by roofs of rolling mills, steel mills, furnaces, and walls.


We keep on walking. The sun above our heads is the sun that shines upon you. We are carrying our own shadow along, the same shadow that you see on the sand by the sea. If you give it proper thought and reject the most possibly erroneous impression that it is hotter here, in the street of the Combine, than on the beach – it will turn out that our situation is just the same. You and me. You will agree that this is true and that this observation is hilarious? – Z. Kwiatkowski, “List do urlopowanych”, in S. Kozicki and Z. Stolarek, Krajobraz ogni, pp. 8-9]


[Glamour and squalor, bodily pain and a celebration of the abstract powers of industrial invention, physical oppression and technological advance, have to be accommodated in the same discourse. The narratives of factory tourism struggle to formulate a language that recognizes suffering at the same time as it displaces an appalled response to physical endurance and tried to put it elsewhere – I. Armstrong, Victorian Glassworlds: Glass Culture and the Imagination 1830-1880, Oxford, OUP, 2008, p. 19]


“People do not all sweat in the same way!” (Z. Kwiatkowski, “List do urlopowanych”, p. 13). Bodies relaxing in the sun and bodies under physical strain in the steel mills react alike, but their distribution in space affects somatic responses and rules out the possibility of seeing them as natural and common. Sweat becomes an instrument of determining class difference, denaturalising the human body, and making it political by attaching importance to physiological reactions. A journalist visiting the Combine finds himself confronted with an altered urbanscape, and the change reveals the political character of what is considered natural and obvious.


The beginnings of Nowa Huta have been colonised by mythical imagination. An enemy of such homogenising imagination is the difference embedded in the most naturalised and de-politicised ingredients of myth.


[To destroy a building is, thus, to destroy that which comprises the condition of possibility of a community in the context of which individuated modes of existence are possible.This assault on community is one that is intended to reshape individual identity from one that exists in a state of plurality to one for whom homogeneity is the norm – M. Coward, Urbicide: The Politics of Urban Destruction, Abington, Routledge, 2009, p. 12]


[The programme proclaiming a moral mission of architecture adopted by architects of socialist realism and their consistence in giving it a possibly ‘immaterial’ shape presumed some mystical communication between the viewers and the architecture, and more precisely – a set of truths, ideas, the doctrine it advocated – W. Włodarczyk, Socrealizm. Sztuka polska w latach 1950-1954, Kraków, Wydawnictwo Literackie, 1991, p. 47]


[Difference must become the element, the ultimate unity; it must therefore refer to other differences which never identify it but rather differentiate it – G. Deleuze, Difference and Repetition, trans. Paul Patton, London, Continuum, 2007, p. 68]


The colonised space of Nowa Huta, the mystical nature of architecture, and the social homogenisation are countered by the material, rather than mythical, body, a historical one. The source of difference, and at once the beginning of a community. Its plasticity and impermanence are the driving force behind the changes, instruments of utopian visions, but also positive intruders forcing the myth out from its timeless and indisputable nature. The story of the city is somatography.

A man with a pole is standing on the roof of a huge tank with more in the background.
A view from the height of the first floor of the crowd gathered below it, looking into the lens.
A view from the height of the first floor of the crowd gathered below it, looking into the lens.
A view from the height of the first floor of the crowd gathered below it, looking into the lens.
A man in work clothes and a cap on his head, pouring a bucket over the link between prefabricated panels.
A man in work clothes and a beret on his head and with a cigarette in his mouth welds the elements of the base of the construction pole.
A view of a shop wardrobe full of goods.
View of a semi-circular unfinished residential building
A shot through a metal, painted white grille onto a tiled pole located in the school corridor.
A woman in a trench coat and a briefcase under her arm stands against a prefabricated wall with a window opening.
Road under construction, around the field.
Road under construction, around the field.
The shot shows a monumental one-story building with spiers above the skylights.
The workers, standing on the wagon's transport platform, assemble the cables.
The workers, standing on the wagon's transport platform, assemble the cables.
The workers, standing on the wagon's transport platform, assemble the cables.
The workers, standing on the wagon's transport platform, assemble the cables.
A man in denim assembles gigantic pistons with a crane.
A man in denim assembles gigantic pistons with a crane.
Men in dungarees assemble giant pistons with a crane.
Men in dungarees assemble giant pistons with a crane.
Men in dungarees assemble giant pistons with a crane.
Men in dungarees assemble giant pistons with a crane.
A woman in an apron is mixing with a ladle in rotary boilers.
A woman in an apron is mixing with a ladle in rotary boilers.
Blood is collected from the hand exposed through the wall
Freely arranged, unfolding rolls with tar paper, on the square of the city square with Renaissance buildings and a monument in the background.
Freely arranged, unfolding rolls with tar paper, on the square of the city square with Renaissance buildings and a monument in the background.
A woman in an apron is mixing with a ladle in rotary boilers.
A group of children and several women look through the window into the interior of a shop on the ground floor of a modernist building.
A group of children and several women look through the window into the interior of a shop on the ground floor of a modernist building.
Two children pose for a photo by a net with a raised peacock behind it.
A group of children and several women look through the window into the interior of a shop on the ground floor of a modernist building.