The “Grodzka Gate – NN Theatre” Centre is a local government cultural institution based in Lublin. It works towards the preservation of cultural heritage and education. Its function is tied to the symbolic and historical meaning of the Centre’s location in the Grodzka Gate, which used to divide Lublin into its respective Christian and Jewish quarters, as well as to Lublin as a meeting place of cultures, traditions and religions.

Part of the Centre are the House of Words and the Lublin Underground Trail.

The “Grodzka Gate – NN Theatre” Centre is a local government cultural institution based in Lublin. It works towards the preservation of cultural heritage and education. Its function is tied to the symbolic and historical meaning of the Centre’s location in the Grodzka Gate, which used to divide Lublin into its respective Christian and Jewish quarters, as well as to Lublin as a meeting place of cultures, traditions and religions.

Part of the Centre are the House of Words and the Lublin Underground Trail.

Towns of the Lublin Region – transformations of landscape

Small towns of the Lublin Region are a repository of our national cultural heritage. These towns are not only a collection of buildings and places, but also living forms that constantly change over time. Today, each historic town is regarded as a town of cultural heritage.

 

Definition of a small town

Based on traditional definitions, a small town or a town may be described as a spatial grouping of a limited number of buildings within a specific clearly laid-out area, intended for a small population, as well as relationships between and within these elements. The adjective “small” is used to describe populations of various sizes, usually ranging between a few and a dozen or so thousand people, and generally not more than thirty thousand inhabitants. The term “small town” is used by historians and urban planners to describe settlements with urban or near-urban functions, mostly the ones exerting a local economic impact and with the largest urban population in the region.

In the majority of Polish small towns, the existing resources reflect the character of the town and create its distinctive urban landscape. The landscape is like a setting formed by history for the life and activities of the changing generations. The evolution of this setting should be gradual so as not to destroy the identity of the place, its tradition and culture.

>>> see the virtual model of Józefów Biłgorajski who shows the town space in the period between the world wars

Urban landscape vs. cultural landscape

The definition of urban landscape is consistent with the definition of cultural landscape in which the effects of human activity can be observed. The term “urban landscape” appears in the context of cultural landscape typology for the purposes of landscape architecture. In the majority of Polish cities and towns we still find old centers that fall into the concept of the historic city / town. Consequently, such complexes should be considered as areas of cultural, historic and urban landscape with a unique and complex structure.

Analysis of spatial layouts

In order to trace the process of urban landscape formation over the centuries, and to identify locally-specific forms of architecture determining the tradition and cultural heritage of a place, one has to analyze spatial layouts. This analysis consists of several stages:

– examining the historical background, including the emergence and development of the historic layout and individual components of considerable cultural and landscape value, combined with the identification of types of architecture, including historic complexes and structures, traditional residential housing, public buildings, and postwar buildings, and their respective impact on the evolution of urban landscape;
– listing the types of development that have had a significant impact on shaping urban landscape and its historical continuity of development, e.g. temporary housing from the Second World War and the postwar period, remnants of Jewish houses, industrial buildings;
– describing the course of development of cities / towns, analyzed based on population density, migration and utilities;
– characterizing the transformations of architecture and landscape, taking into account historic structures and complexes significant for landscape, the landscape value of urban architectural complexes, and changes in the landscape of small towns.

Cultural identity of small towns

The cultural phenomenon of a small town is closely linked to determinants of its cultural identity created by many generations.
Cultural identity consists of the following elements:

– formation and development of a spatial layout;
– historic elements of architecture of high cultural and landscape value;
– historic residential housing, church and monumental architecture;
– remnants of buildings from the era of the Partitions (1795–1918);
– residential housing from the Second World War and the postwar period;
– industrial buildings;
– contemporary buildings;
– greenery and the landscape at the “borderline” between the city / town and the surrounding environment.

As is the case with the society, where several generations with different mentalities and customs coexist, several generations of buildings standing side by side can be observed in urban landscape, particularly in small towns. What we have here is the coexistence of various forms of architecture, dating back to different epochs, and although they may not yet be considered historic monuments, they shape the character of the urban landscape. These are remnants of buildings from the times of the Partitions (1795–1918), buildings from the interwar and Second World War period, temporary residential housing from the postwar period, remnants of manor house outbuildings and servants’ houses, cooperative buildings erected by cooperatives and state-owned farms, buildings from the time of the People’s Republic of Poland, and contemporary buildings.

Urban landscape

Currently, the urban landscape appears to be an inconsistent accumulation of codes from various historical and political eras. The prewar landscape was generally consistent but it was substantially modified by postwar elements. The changes reach deeper than the scale of the buildings themselves as they also encompass the mentality of the inhabitants. The mechanisms that have altered local landscape primarily include the transformations of architecture that took place mostly in the second half of the 20th century, considerably degrading the landscape of small towns.

In 1952 Wejhert suggested and compiled the preconditions, of which at least one must be met in order to consider a city / town or its element as beautiful:

– a single building constituting an element of beauty can be found in a spatial complex;
– a complex of buildings forms a harmonious whole, even if it is part of an urban layout that cannot be ranked among the finest;
– there exists a spatial layout of the urban interior;
– spatial complexes reflect clear urban planning schemes;
– urban planning schemes harmoniously combine with greenery;
– the landscape outline of the city / town is shaped in a rich and interesting way;
– the technical condition of buildings and facilities is good.

Urban architecture and its landscape value

Religious buildings are the most important from the perspective of urban landscape as they dominate the cityscape and influence the formation of landscape panoramas and interiors. The formation of the latter is particularly influenced by accompanying facilities such as fences, bell towers, presbyteries, vicar’s houses, organist’s houses and outbuildings. These auxiliary structures and a church often form a compositionally coherent complex.

As the Lublin Region is located on the border between Eastern and Western culture, it has a few relics of religious buildings other than Roman Catholic churches, namely buildings used by the Reformed denominations (in Piaski) or Orthodox Christians and Uniates (in Tomaszów and Dęblin). A significant group of buildings associated with Jewish culture consists of numerous synagogues, shuls and houses of prayer.

In some small towns of the Lublin Region, such as Łęczna or Józefów, town halls have survived down to our time. Manor houses and palaces, with parks and gardens as their inherent part, have survived in various forms, often adapted to new uses. Today they constitute an integral part of the cultural landscape, most often complementing the landscape of the former outskirts of small towns.
Later on, the dominants existing in small towns were supplemented by industrial and public buildings: mills, granaries, breweries, distilleries, sugar refineries and brickyards. The phenomenon became particularly apparent in the late 19th century.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the development of the cooperative movement resulted in the construction of banks, people’s houses, shops, dairies and firehouses in many localities. In the interwar period, the new construction projects also included public schools, train station complexes, town halls, hospitals and other public facilities. In small market towns, with fairs lasting several days, a special type of architecture evolved, namely inns and roadhouses. Schools represent a large group of public buildings.

Obviously, residential buildings were the basic form of small town architecture. The oldest ones, constructed of wood and broadly described in the interwar period, are arcaded houses. A few isolated buildings (in Łęczna, Tarnogród, Grabowiec, Tarnogóra, Frampol, Wojsławice and Wysokie) are the only remnants of the historic complexes of arcaded houses. According to J. Górak, arcaded houses existed in at least 32 former small towns of the Lublin Region.
An integral part of small towns are cemeteries, including Christian and Jewish cemeteries. They form a significant landscape component in the panorama at the border between small towns and the surrounding agricultural areas. Roadside shrines and crosses are an interesting part of the borderland landscape.
What is essential for the landscape of small towns, apart from their actual architecture, are historical urban planning schemes. In most cases, they have survived largely untouched from the time of the incorporation of a given town.

The urban landscape of small towns in the Lublin Region, particularly of the smallest ones, is characterized by the regularity of urban planning schemes. The location of town along major trade routes actually determined its character. It has been preserved, in varying degrees, in all towns, mainly in the form of a market square with buildings along the adjacent streets, and in the character of residential and service buildings. From the street grid of a town, we can extrapolate when the town was established and what function it had then.

The most important landscape assets of urban planning schemes:
– a clear and compact spatial layout;
– historical landscape dominants;
– historical layout of streets, squares, plots and green areas;
– monumental structures;
– the “anonymous tissue” of residential housing, filling the spatial structure of a town;
– landscape at the point of contact with the surrounding environment.

Factors contributing to adverse changes in landscape

Several factors contributed to adverse changes in landscape during the postwar period. The most important are:

– economic and spatial development plans;
– a change in the “third dimension” of modern buildings, including housing construction, which emerge as competitors of historical dominants;
– neglected maintenance of residential buildings;
– a change in the functions of public spaces;
– a lack of a clear separation between the public and the private sphere;
– no concept for the re-use of abandoned facilities;
– “fragmentation caused by privatization” and fragmented development of many facilities;
– isolation of facilities from their previous environment and landscape by cutting off their historical ties with settlement units.

Methods of stopping adverse changes in architecture and landscape

Once the factors that contribute to landscape degradation are identified, it is possible to define ways and means of stopping adverse changes in architecture and landscape:

– protecting small town landscape in terms of sustainable development;
– self-identification of local traditions and culture: creating educational programs to raise public awareness of the value of landscape and cultural heritage for the identity of a place;
– using the local community’s capacity to shape their surroundings by means of local laws (in accordance with the guidelines of the New Charter of Athens);
– the recycling of space: developing recycling strategies for degraded urban and landscape areas;
– applying the reconversion method to shape contemporary landscape through comprehensive actions aimed at improving the attractiveness of architecture and landscape: implementing pilot projects;
– planning and management of heritage and, by the same token, landscape, by restoring the overall harmonious landscape expression of a place;– restoring harmony of landscape at the border between a small town and the natural environment; – adjusting town planning procedures (where the town is understood to be an element of public heritage) to procedures applicable in the European Union.

Summary

Small towns of the Lublin Region are a repository of our national cultural heritage. These towns are not only a collection of buildings and places, but also living forms that constantly change over time. Today, each historic town is regarded as a town of cultural heritage, hence it is imbued with a symbolic meaning and certain values passed on from generation to generation. Towns should not be regarded as a sum of preserved buildings and sites, but rather as a phenomenon that is created today by each generation anew, in accordance with its attitude to its past.

Heritage planning should encompass the rehabilitation, revitalization and restoration of specific areas. The environment should be shaped by striving for an overall balanced recognition of the socio-economic, cultural, spatial, technical and ecological aspects of the communities inhabiting the place. Sustainable development must be synonymous with the concern for cultural identity and a sense of community and environmental responsibility at the local level.

The landscape of the late 20th century towns was formed by numerous factors. Education of local communities should be conducted through a variety of teaching activities, targeted at children, adolescents and adults. Inspired by the experiences of Western European countries, we can conclude that the most effective campaigns are those targeted at children and presenting the tradition and history of a place through games. On the other hand, it is particularly important to show the economic benefits of beautiful landscape to adult citizens. The preservation of the value of urban space should extend to all items of historical, natural, social or aesthetic value so that the entire space can become an object of aesthetic contemplation, and thereby an attractive place for both tourists and residents.

One needs to know what components of landscape should be preserved. In order to identify them, we need a joint effort by different professionals: naturalists, historians, architects, urban planners, sociologists as well as economists and planners.
Landscape, as an element which changes over time, requires not only preservation but also planning for future generations because it combines national and cultural importance with economic value. Similar preservation should be extended to historic panoramas of cities and towns.

Based on:
E. Przesmycka, Przeobrażenia zabudowy i krajobrazu miasteczek Lubelszczyzny (Transformations of the Architecture and Landscape of Towns in the Lublin Region)
Multimedia presentation as part of the promotion of the book at “Grodzka Gate – NN Theater” Center, March 2003
 
Prepared by: Joanna Zętar

About the book by Elżbieta Przesmycka "Przeobrażenia zabudowy i krajobrazu miasteczek Lubelszczyzny" (Transformations of the Architecture and Landscape of Towns in the Lublin Region)

Elżbieta Przesmycka’s book Przeobrażenia zabudowy i krajobrazu miasteczek Lubelszczyzny (Transformations of the Architecture and Landscape of Towns in the Lublin Region) is the author’s post-doctoral dissertation, which is a summary of her research on the state of the architecture and landscape of small towns in the Lublin Region in the context of the current situation in Europe. The postwar period and resulting economic changes have become a cause of irreversible changes taking place in Poland’s cultural landscape. It can be argued that the processes transforming urban landscape in postwar Poland occurred at an accelerated pace.

If we take a look at the changes from the most recent period of Poland’s political and economic transformation and the picture of small towns against such background, we can conclude that the urban landscape of small towns in the Lublin Region is subject to an accelerated degradation. Therefore, the mechanisms of this accelerated degradation must be pinned down. At the same time the research gap must be filled in the understanding of the phenomena and their interrelationships in order to develop a system for the preservation of the still existing assets of urban landscape.

The study is focused on a group of small towns in the Lublin Region against the background of the existing settlement network, and on the transformations of their architecture and landscape, as determined by the complex history of the region. The study covered urban layouts and architecture of small towns, with particular emphasis on the interwar period, the time of the postwar People’s Republic of Poland, and the last years of the political and economic transformation after 1989. The primary aim of the dissertation is to present the current state of architecture and landscape in small towns, investigate and evaluate the causes and mechanisms of changes. On this basis, the author formulated the rules and methods of landscape preservation and planning for small towns in new geopolitical circumstances. The solutions provide for: the historical continuity of spatial development; adequate shaping of the scale and form of buildings in terms of the most broadly understood preservation of cultural heritage; and, last but not least, the preservation of the historical, natural and landscape value and traditions of a place, in line with the latest European trends in urban development and formation. An important element of the study is to collect and systematize the existing knowledge on the evolution of urban settlement systems in the Lublin Region, combined with identification of their key values, as well as on the opportunities for making full use of landscape assets.

Urban spatial layouts are discussed in the study based on an extensive historical background in terms of: the emergence and development of the historical layout; identification of elements of considerable cultural and landscape value; identification, organization and systematization of types of buildings and their impact on the evolution of urban landscape.

Another significant issue was making a detailed inventory of building types which have a significant impact on shaping urban landscape and its historical continuity. These include: remnants of buildings from the times of the Partitions (1795–1918), temporary residential housing from the Second World War and the postwar period, remnants of Jewish houses, remnants of manor house servants’ houses, and industrial buildings.

The study area covers the historical area of the Lublin Region, i.e. lands between the Vistula and Bug rivers, shaped by historical bonds among its residents and a sense of a somewhat distinct economic and geographical identity. There were several lines of research employed, including analyses of urban planning, settlement, functional, architectural, technological and construction solutions. Archival research was supported by quantitative surveys and documentation of individual facilities.

Methods employed in the study of urban architecture and landscape are methods applied in historical research, i.e. searching for, classifying and comparing source materials, and drawing conclusions based on analyses of settlement, urban planning, construction, functional and architectural solutions as well as studies of landscape panoramas and interiors.

Field research included: photographic documentation, drawings, building surveys, studies of panoramas, outlines and interiors. Studies of the spatial development were based on the existing land use plans for towns, materials of the State Service for the Conservation of Historic Monuments, as well as statistics, national censuses and studies of the Central Statistical Office.

The study consists of three main sections. The first chapter discusses the history of the region as a basis for changes in the architecture and landscape of small towns. The second chapter examines the processes and mechanisms underlying transformations of the architecture and landscape in the small towns making up the study sample. The third chapter is devoted to the description of changes in the landscape of small towns in the Lublin Region.

The examination of phenomena related to the transformation of architecture and landscape is based on the following fields: urban planning, geography, economics, demography, economic history, history of social development, cultural history and sociology. Based on the description of transformations of the architecture and landscape, the author identified the following: historic structures and complexes essential to the landscape; the landscape value of urban planning schemes; changes in the landscape of small towns in the Lublin Region in relation to the applicable international principles for landscape conservation.

Detailed deliberations focus on towns with a long history of settlement, with preserved urban layouts, numerous monuments of material culture, as well as three former towns, i.e. towns whose charters were revoked in the years 1869–1870, and whose population does not exceed 3000 (Biskupice, Bobrowniki and Markuszów). The remaining study groups were: towns with the population of less than 5000 residents (Józefów nad Wisłą and Piaski); towns of 5000–10 000 residents (Bychawa, Szczebrzeszyn and Bełżyce); and towns of 10 000–25 000 residents (Łęczna and Lubartów). The upper, generally accepted population limit for a town to be ranked among small towns was a population of 25 000.

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