The Palace of Culture

The Palace of Culture:
An Exploration in Design, Humanities, and Social Sciences.

2017 Spring Intensive Course

Tues. Feb. 14 and 28, 7:00-8:50 pm in NYC
March 18 to 28 in Warsaw, Poland


A tall skyscraper towers over a sprawling complex of shorter, but still imposing outbuildings surrounded by a vast, empty space. This is the Palace of Culture and Science, Stalin’s “gift” to Warsaw emerging from post-World War II rubble. Completed in 1955, it continues to dominate Polish capital’s center and remains the tallest building in the country. Many in Warsaw will agree that it is a design that wields enormous city-making power, whether they like it or not. Multiple modernities incarnate, it embodies Soviet imperial designs to dominate the region and revolutionize social relations by reclaiming the downtown for the proletariat, but it borrows from a form recognizable on the other side of the Iron Curtain, that of a Chicago or New York art deco high-rise. It has been an invader and a savior, a blessing and a curse, a silent witness and a violent genius. It was construed as a beacon of a bright future to come, then as a ruin of the fallen order, and recently as a site of struggle, innovation, and resignation for urban activists, city planners, private developers, and architects. Today the Palace continues to lead complex lives: symbolic, ideological, historical, practical, and infrastructural.

This international project, which will take place in lecture halls of the Palace itself, brings together matters of history, architecture, and the urban future, in order to develop new capacities and strategies for design education. Seniors and graduate students from Parsons School of Design and The New School for Social Research in New York, and seniors and graduate students from the School of Form, Poznań, will collaborate in a design workshop that will move from a rigorous but imaginative research into contemporary urban complexities to the creation of speculative design propositions.  Over five days, students will meet in morning seminars to discuss readings on the nature of memory and complexity of spatial interventions as political gestures. In the afternoons, they will work in teams to propose alternative visions for this site (or others like it elsewhere in the world, i.e., the Freedom Tower in NYC).

The course is offered in conjunction with Making Home in Wounded Place: Memory, Design, and the Spatial symposium, and Far Away from Where? exhibition, both held at Parsons.