SAH Blog

  • Łódź: The Promised Land, a City of Density and Diversity

    By
    Zachary J. Violette
     |
    Aug 5, 2019

    Zachary J. Violette is the 2018 recipient of the short-term H. Allen Brooks Travelling Fellowship. All photographs are by the author, except where otherwise noted.

    It has been quite a whirlwind since my last entry in April, made on a balcony in Bucharest. In that time not only have I visited five additional cities and spent a couple months stateside to attend the SAH and Vernacular Architecture Forum conferences, I am now back on the second and final leg of my short-term Brooks Fellowship. Instead of running through a narrative of each of the places I’ve visited—I’ll cover all of these in a subsequent entry—today I wanted to focus on just one place—Łódź, Poland—somewhat on the beaten path, unlike most of my other stops, but one of the highlights of my itinerary.

    Indeed, I had Łódź in mind when I was formulating my proposal for the fellowship period. As I have noted before, I set out to study the cities of central and eastern Europe, with a focus on their 19th century growth. Most of these places followed a similar growth trajectory, usually a late medieval and baroque core of an old town, ringed by blocks of apartment houses that were developed in the half century or so before World War I. The relationship between those two kinds of places was what I was most fascinated by in my entry this spring. But Łódź is not that sort of place. Instead it is a nineteenth-century industrial boomtown, more like Chicago in that way, than is typical of Europe, even if many of these cities also grew rapidly. As late as the 1820s its population was under a thousand. By the time of its peak at the start of World War I it had a population of nearly half a million. What little there was of an old town was swallowed up by nineteenth-century growth. The city was perhaps most famous as the location of Władysław Reymont’s 1898 novel The Promised Land, chronicling the experience of the migrants from the rural countryside to the industrial city. The population there was notably diverse, a multi-ethnic society made up of ethnic Poles as well as Jewish settlers from the countryside, migrants from Germany and other parts of Europe, as well as officials from Russia. In the early twentieth century the city claimed to be among the most densely populated on earth. It was tenement city, one with architecture very much of the region, but on an industrial scale. And, compared to Warsaw and Berlin, two other cities that had similar landscapes, much of Łódź escaped the horrors of the twentieth century with a large majority of its nineteenth century buildings intact.

    About 90 minutes by train from Warsaw, Łódź’s central location, and access to natural resources and labor made it the textile manufacturing center of the Russian Empire (of which this part of Poland was then a part). Its landscape is fabulously instructive, especially in comparison to the textile landscapes of the industrial northeast of the United States, with which I am quite familiar. Łódź town plan, such as it was, was clearly platted with agricultural occupation in mind, with comparatively narrow, very deep lots set on gridded streets of long blocks. There is little center of which to speak, nothing like the town squares of the older settlements in the region. (The pre-industrial old market square became the center of the infamous Łódź Ghetto during World War II, was destroyed by the Nazis, and rebuilt in a Soviet realist style). The Plac Wolności, a circular plaza at the crossing of two major streets, is the center of the “new” city, the location of a number of important churches, including the domed Church of Pentecost, as well as other public buildings. It forms the head of Piotrkowska Street, the city’s main north-south axis. Although not a wide street, Piotrkowska Street is the grand boulevard of Łódź, lined on each side with palace-type store-and-tenement buildings in a fantastic range of styles, the city’s grand hotel, and other important buildings. Erected at the height of the city’s late nineteenth and early twentieth century boom, in which hundreds of such buildings would be erected in a year, these buildings were designed by a diverse group of Polish, Jewish, German, and Russian architects, many with training in St. Petersburg or Berlin. Piotrkowska Street, now pedestrianized, was the heart of Łódź. Around it are blocks upon blocks of tenements, interspersed with factory owners’ villas, and the steam-powered factory (some with their tall brick chimneys intact) which were the engine of the city’s growth.

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    Figure 1: The Plac Wolności and the Church of Pentecost.

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    Figure 2: Piotrkowska Street shows a wide variety of architectural styles

    The largest of these, at the northwest corner of the city was the mill complex of Izrael Poznański, a Jewish merchant who pioneered large-scale textile production not only for domestic consumption, but for exports in markets throughout Asia. In doing so he amassed one of the largest fortunes not just in Łódź, but in the Russian empire. This industrial empire was centered on a sprawling collection of five-story brick buildings on Ogrodowa Street. While their hulking size recalls the factories of Lowell, Lawrence, and Manchester, their finely articulated brick facades, designed by St. Petersburg-trained architect Hilary Majewski, seem particularly distinctive to the region. More impressive, the location of the Poznański’s grand palace immediately adjoining the mill yard of the Łódź factory was also striking. Its limestone and stucco façade with high Mansard roof forms a stark visual contrast to the red brick factory buildings next door. Although apparently not uncommon in Europe, in few American factory towns was the residence of the owner—and such a conspicuous display of his wealth—so closely situated to his works, and his workers. While the profits made at Lowell mills went to distant capitalists in Boston, and Pullman lived and worked in Chicago not his eponymous town, for Poznański, although the social distance was great, the physical distance was but a few feet. Certainly, this meant that the Poznański family was far more deeply embedded in the local community than most American capitalists, it put material inequality fully on display. This can still be read clearly in the landscape.

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    Figure 3: The limestone and stucco façade Palace of cotton magnate Izrael Poznański contrasts to his large red-brick factory next door.

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    Figure 4: Detail, Izrael Poznański palace and factory

    Indeed, Poznański’s neighbors at his Ogrodowa Street palace were his workers. The red brick factory is mirrored, across the street, by large company tenement blocks. Also designed by Hilary Majewski, these employ the same red brick piers and corbelling of the factory buildings across the street. These look like the factory, not the palace. This visual continuity between factory buildings and worker housing is not unusual in the American landscape, either. But few American companies built such large multi-family buildings—the Poznański tenements housed over 1000 families. Instead, of course, American corporations preferred single and duplex tenements, and short rows with private entrances, like those at Lowell. Nearly matching the Poznański complex in scale Księży Mill on the south side of the city employed small, Anglo-American style duplexes for its worker housing.

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    Figure 5. Izrael Poznański worker housing blocks

    These complexes of company-provided tenements paled in both scale and interest to the landscape of private tenements that covered most of the city’s blocks. From the street these buildings follow the pattern of the bourgeois palace-type apartment buildings that I have been looking at in many other European cities, with their elaborate stucco facades. Here we see, a little bit, of a reflection of the palace. As elsewhere, they were mixed in both class and use—with an economic zoning that placed the best units on the lower floors of the front buildings, with units behind diminishing in size and quality, and mixing with industrial uses. That pattern can be seen in the extreme in the Łódź tenement. Set on comparatively narrow but very deep lots, which seem to have been platted with agricultural occupation in mind, the formal façades of these building shelter the separate world of the Łódź commercial courtyard. While similar buildings in most other cities had some form of courtyard, I discussed varieties of these at length in my last entry, the courtyards of Łódź were distinctive for their size, evolution, and complexity. Behind the formal front building were a series of “annexes” four, six, eight, or more other buildings, built all the way along the edges of the lot, but leaving a comparatively generous space at the center. While sharing party walls, these annexes are separate buildings, each with their own circulation. Rarely, it seems, were all of the buildings on a courtyard built at once. Indeed, evolution seems to have been quite common, with some of the oldest buildings, sometimes small and wood-frame, although these have almost all been replaced, at the rear of the court, and the fancy front building among the last to be completed. A number of historical photographs show commercial courtyards with high masonry tenements at the rear and much older, low wood-frame buildings at the street. Yet the rear buildings seem to have been built in anticipation of the completion of the palatial front. The courtyard here is a cultural phenomenon, an integral part of the city’s culture—vibrant sites for the mixing of class and culture, and part of its industrial iconography (famous Polish-American pianist Arthur Rubenstein was born and raised in such a courtyard off Piotrkowska Street). The Museum of the City of Łódź—a fabulous institution located in the former Poznański palace—even has a whole room dedicated to courtyard culture here.

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    Figure 6. Typical street of Łódź tenements with stucco details

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    Figure 7. Typical Łódź commercial courtyard. Set behind the formal front building are a series of “annexes,” some of which are older than the front. These contained residential, commercial, and industrial uses.

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    Figure 8. Model of a Łódź commercial courtyard from the Museum of the City of Łódź

    Although the city retains an industrial base, like many cities in the post-industrial area Łódź is rapidly changing, with a growing emphasis on the creative economy: the city is now the center of the Polish film industry. The Poznański mill, which operated until the late 1990s, has now been converted into a lively mixed-use complex with rows of restaurants and shops, a hotel, offices, and other uses. Called Manufaktura, it claims to have been the largest renovation project in Poland since the postwar reconstruction. Others, like the former Ramisch factory, now known as OFF Piotrkowska, are also coming back, although in a seemingly less capital intensive, more ad-hoc sort of way. And a massive urban redevelopment project is taking place around the Łódź Fabryka station, the city’s main train depot. Here a more intense sort of urban renewal is taking place, with blocks of old tenements—I watched the demolition of one in progress—making way for large glass-fronted office buildings, housing bank service centers and other white-collar industry. The sleek modern train station incorporates—under its broad glass roof—some of the façade of the old station, a fitting symbol of a city which celebrates its industrial heritage.

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    Figure 9. The former Poznański mill has been converted into a festival marketplace called Manufaktura

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    Figure 10. Demolition of a tenement near the Fabryka train station, as new glass-wall office buildings rise behind it

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    Figure 11. The façade of the old Fabryka station has been preserved under a new glass roof.

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  • 2018 Edilia and François-Auguste de Montêquin Senior Scholar Fellowship Report

    By
    Dr Laura Fernández-González, Senior Lecturer in Architectural History, School of History and Heritage, University of Lincoln (UK)
     |
    Jul 29, 2019

    Dates: April–June 2019
    Locations: Havana and Santiago de Cuba, Cuba

    The generous support of the 2018 Edilia and François-Auguste de Montêquin Senior Scholar Fellowship offered by the Society of Architectural Historians has enabled me to undertake extensive archival research and fieldwork in Cuba in April–June 2019. My project for the Montêquin fellowship, ‘Architecture, Empire and Public Rituals in Early Modern Havana and Santiago de Cuba’, explores architectural and urban development in both locales through the lens of public rituals with a view to comparing similar processes in other cities, for example, Seville. Public rituals had a major impact on the urban and architectural development of early modern cities and there has not been any study to date that explores comparatively the impact of empire on the built environment and ritual life of the port-cities that received and saw the departure of convoys to and from the Americas. The research I have undertaken as part of this fellowship forms part of a book project tentatively entitled Entangled Imperial Cities in the Early Modern Iberian World that examines architecture and ritual not only in Havana, Santiago de Cuba and Seville (i.e., some of the main city-ports in Spanish-American navigational route) but also compares analogous processes in Lisbon and Old Goa (i.e., on the Portuguese-Indian navigational route).1 Lisbon and Old Goa were the two main Eurasian city-ports from which the convoys to and from India departed and arrived. The impact of empire can be arguably charted through an analysis of the architectural development and ritual life in these locales.

    The Portuguese philosopher and historian Damião de Góis (1502–1574) claimed that the cities of Seville and Lisbon were ‘the queens of the ocean’, a metaphor that underscored the role of both ports on the main navigational routes within the Iberian world.2 The strategic location of Goa (now Old Goa) in the Indian Ocean was considered crucial for the Portuguese trade in India, so much so that the city was called the Chave de Toda a India (the Key to All India).3 In the same vein, the significance of Havana to the Spanish imperial enterprise was crucial for it provided access to New Spain; the regidor of Havana, José Martín Félix de Arrate, in his famous manuscript of the history of the city of 1761 called Havana the Llave del Nuevo Mundo (the Key to the New World).4 The wealth of the Americas (and the world) travelled through Havana en route to Seville and to New Spain. Because Santiago de Cuba was the main port on the island before the seat of government moved to Havana in the sixteenth century, charting its architectural development is also useful for comparative analysis. The wealth of India and the East travelled in convoys from Old Goa towards the famous market in Lisbon, while from Goa goods were also redistributed elsewhere to Asian ports (and vice versa). This book compares the impact of empire and transoceanic communication on the architectural development and ritual life of some of the most significant city-ports of the early modern Iberian world. The theoretical framework of this project adheres to the practice of ‘connected’ or ‘entangled’ architectural histories, a methodology that crosses the boundaries of modern nation-states and aims to de-centre our understanding of the early modern world. Thus the fieldwork and archival research I was able to undertake as part of the funded project by the Society of Architectural Historians has been pivotal for the advancement of my Entangled Imperial Cities book project. It has also allowed me to include some considerations on the built environment of early modern Havana in an article entitled ‘Architectural Hybrids? Building, Law and Architectural Design in the Early Modern Iberian World’ which is forthcoming with Renaissance Studies.5

    Church of the Espíritu Santo

    Church of the Espíritu Santo
    Figures 1 and 2. Interior of the Church of the Espíritu Santo, considered the oldest surviving religious structure in Havana. This is a small yet fascinating church, which was built in the seventeenth century (and restored thereafter). Observe the design of vaulting on the apse, which echoes examples found elsewhere in the Iberian World. Photographs by author.

    I spent the vast majority of my time visiting buildings and researching in archival and library repositories, for about six weeks in Havana, and one week in Santiago de Cuba. In Havana I explored the spaces and buildings within and outside the colonial city wall. I also undertook extensive archival research in the rich cartographic collections and consulted the Actas Capitulares of the Concejo de San Cristóbal de la Habana (the records of the local council of Havana), both of which are kept at the Archive of the Oficina del Historiador de la Habana. The Actas meticulously record the reception of governors, the festival culture of the city and the buildings erected in the city (including houses, palatial structures, as well as churches, convents and monasteries). The warm welcome and support from all staff members at the Oficina were instrumental in the success of my project. I am extremely grateful to Dr Eusebio Leal Spengler, Director of the Oficina del Historiador de la Habana, for hosting my research stay as a Visiting Scholar; his kind support enabled me to conduct research in archives and libraries in the Isle of Cuba.6 In the Archive at the Oficina I was able to chart the local council records concerning the built environment and public rituals between 1550 and 1654 approximately, but I have consulted (or obtained copies of) many historical records from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. I also benefitted from the generosity and kindness of staff at the Archivo Histórico Nacional and was able to further explore the records pertaining particularly to convents and monasteries in Havana and also Santiago de Cuba. In Santiago de Cuba, on a shorter trip lasting one week, I was able to greatly advance my work at the Centro de Documentación of the Oficina del Conservador, which has a rich collection of architectural plans, and reports on domestic and religious architecture. Research in archives and libraries will have a positive impact on my book project. In the Library of the Oficina del Historiador I was able to consult a wealth of publications; the literature on architectural history of Isle and Havana in particular is rich. As part of my research I did extensive fieldwork in both cities, particularly Havana, but also Santiago de Cuba.

    The architecture of all ages in Havana is stunning, regardless of the contrasting state of conservation; the city can pride itself on the rich architectural heritage it possesses that ranges from sixteenth-century forts to delightful Art Deco buildings or residential architecture that boasts modernist design. Santiago de Cuba, a smaller city, also boasts impressive buildings. The majority of my photographs focus on colonial architecture. I spent the greater part of my time in these buildings and spaces as the images below illustrate.

    Cathedral of Havana
    Figure 3 Dome (interior) at the Cathedral of Havana. A fine example of Havana’s baroque. The Cathedral was erected in the late eighteenth century on the grounds of the former Society of Jesus buildings in Havana. Photograph by author.

    Colegio Seminario de San Carlos
    Figure 4 Cloister of the old Colegio Seminario de San Carlos in Havana. Founded originally in 1689, the School (Colegio) also occupies the grounds of the Jesuit properties in the city (and is adjacent to the Cathedral of Havana). The Jesuit building was completed in 1767, the year in which the Society of Jesus was suppressed from the Isle of Cuba (and the rest of the Spanish empire). The building underwent important reforms thereafter. Photograph by author.

    Capitanes Generales Palace
    Figure 5 Vista of the Capitanes Generales Palace (foreground), the attic of the Segundo Cabo Palace and the Cabaña Fortress at the far end. The Plaza de Armas is found to the right-hand side of the Capitanes Generales Palace. Photograph by author.

    Segundo Cabo Palace

    Segundo Cabo Palace
    Figures 6 and 7 Patio and Main Hall (respectively) of the Segundo Cabo Palace in Havana. The building recently restored as a museum is a fine example of Havana’s neoclassical eighteenth-century governmental building. The palace is located in the Plaza de Armas and adjacent to the Castillo de la Real Fuerza. Photographs by author.

    Museo de la Cerámica

    Museo de la Cerámica
    Figures 8 and 9 The current Museo de la Cerámica in Havana in what was a house of an eighteenth-century merchant. The products were sold on the ground floor and the family quarters were located on the first floor. The image of the staircase shows the division of the house with the wooden work. The second image showcases the sophisticated woodwork found in the roofs of residential and commercial buildings erected in Havana in the eighteenth century. Photographs by author.

    House of Diego de Velázquez
    Figure 10 Interior of the House of Diego de Velázquez in Santiago de Cuba. This building is the oldest structure in the city, fully transformed in the early twentieth-century with a restoration project which saved the building from demolition and re-created domestic interiors. Photograph by author.

    Castillo del Morro
    Figure 11 Vista of the Castillo del Morro in Santiago de Cuba and the Caribbean Sea. Photograph by author.

    Basilica of Nuestra Señora
    Figure 12 Interior of the Basilica of Nuestra Señora de la Caridad del Cobre, in the town of El Cobre in the vicinity of Santiago de Cuba. Photograph by author.



    1 The 2018 Edilia and François-Auguste de Montêquin Senior Scholar Fellowship awarded by the Society of Architectural Historians has funded research in Havana and Santiago de Cuba. In addition, a generous research grant awarded by the British Academy/Leverhulme Trust 2017-19 has allowed me to fund research travel to Lisbon and Old Goa and to undertake fieldwork in other locales and buildings sites in Goa, India. I was able to undertake extensive fieldwork in Cuba (and in the Iberian Peninsula and India) having been generously granted a one-semester research leave (from January 2019) by the College of Arts-School of History and Heritage at the University of Lincoln, UK.

    2 Damião de Góis, Urbis Olisiponis Descriptio, Évora, André de Burgos, 1554, p.3. A translation into English can be found in J.S. Ruth, Lisbon in the Renaissance. Damião de Góis. A New Translation of the Urbis Olisiponis Descriptio (New York, 1996).

    3 See for example, Catarina Madeira Santos, Goa E a Chave de Toda a India: Perfil Politico Da Capital Do Estado Da India, 1505-1570, (Lisbon, 1999).

    4 The manuscript is entitled: Llave del Nuevo mundo, antemural de las Indias Occidentales. La Habana descripta: Noticias de su fundación aumentos y estados has been published in print on several occasions since 1830, and is now also reproduced in digital form.

    5 This article is part of a Special Issue I have co-edited with Dr Marjorie Trusted entiled ‘Visual and Spatial Hibridity in the Early Modern Iberian World’ forthcoming with Renaissance Studies.

    6 I would also like to extend my thanks in the Oficina to Dr Michael González (Director of Heritage), Dr Grisell Terrón (Director of Collections) and Inés María López (International Office) for their warm welcome, support and friendship. I enjoyed and learned much from the conversations with peer architectural historians, particularly Dr Alicia García Santana (Cuban Academy of History) and Dr Maria Victoria Zardoya (Architecture, Universidad Technológica de la Havana - José Antonio Echevarría). In addition, my thanks go to Alexis, Natasha, Ana Lourdes, Marisa, Maite, Alaina (and many more) also at the Oficina, who made my work both possible and enjoyable. I am also grateful for the friendly support of the staff at the Archivo Nacional de Cuba. In Santiago de Cuba I must thank colleagues at the Oficina del Conservador.

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