Poland, a central European country, has a rich tradition, art and architectural heritage which bespeak its glorious past and the religious and cultural developments. The nation emerged as an independent political state during 9th -10th century CE and continued to flourish under the sovereignty of several ruling dynasties until the end of 18th century CE. Similar to other European countries, in Poland, the royal family, aristocrats and the church were major patrons of art, under whom there was a prolific growth in artistic activities. They commissioned large scale of history paintings, portraiture and sculptures and erected monumental edifices, both secular and religious architecture.
Polish art became recognized for its artistic refinement, opulence, ingenious rendition, sophisticated style and classical disposition, truly reflected in the grandiose architectural endeavors representing confluence of manifold stylistic idioms, like the Romanesque, the Gothic, the Italian, the Venetian and the Neo-Classicist styles. These architectural expressions not only unfold the richness of artistic tradition, but are also regarded as great repository of Polish art, which store and preserve variety of antiquities, sculptures, paintings and decorative objects that once served as the chattel of the royalty. The monuments and historical sites, however, suffered great losses and were massively devastated during the Second World War. Warsaw, the capital of Poland, was blown off the map and the entire city was turned into ruins and heaps of corpses.
Despite the dark phase marred with political and financial miseries, the country managed to restore much of its cultural property by adapting statutory and fiscal measures to facilitate the conservation of the heritage. The task of maintaining, protecting and enhancing the architectural heritage is recognized as one of the major goals of the cultural, environmental and planning policies. Several private initiatives, institutions, and business agencies are encouraged by the Polish government, which works in cooperation with the administrative bodies in order to support the cultural interests of the state. Each organization undertakes necessary actions to save the national heritage by giving funding and grants, developing new scientific and technological advancements and bringing about innovative ideas in action.
The M Promotion Agency is one of the leading private organizations in this field, based in Poland having its headquarter located in Warsaw, which actively runs ‘Business Promotion Program of the Polish Monuments Protection and Maintenance Industry’ in cooperation with the Polish Ministry of Economy. The program endeavors to promote polish companies from conservation sector, endorses them to undertake business activities focusing on architectural conservation projects and encourages them to build outsourcing relationship. By developing an advanced approach, the program implements new models of promotional activities for the companies by employing research based strategies, through organizing international seminars and study tours in order to assemble delegates/ experts from different parts of the world. This not only opened the way for networking, sharing of ideas and intellectual interests on a global level, but also enabled to establish a business interface between the experts or professionals and the companies. At present, the promotional activities related to the program are running successfully in various countries, such as Austria, Germany, Egypt, Libya, India, Russia, Vietnam and Poland and some projects are still in the pipeline for future cooperation. The list of companies which have joined the Business Promotion Program and those which are working under collaboration are as follows- Atlas Golden Age, Fronton Sc, Renova Solutions, Mode 360 Astragis, Silten Terburd Art Studio, Margaret Paździora Sattler Polish Conservators of historic monuments (PKZ Barański and Associates).
Summary of the Study Tour
In September 2014, the M Promotion Agency organized a study visit to Poland for experts and research scholars from the field of art, architecture and conservation sector and journalism. This event was designed as a part of the ‘Worldwide Promotion of the Polish Renovations Monuments Industry Program’. The period of the Study tour was 16th – 20th September 2014 in Kielce and Warsaw. Organizers invited selected international experts, scholars and professionals from all mentioned countries which are allied with the program.
In this study tour, I was invited as a PhD Research Scholar and Research Scholar from the Department of History of Art, National Museum Institute, Delhi, India. All invited delegates were given an opportunity to take part in a seminar held at the Kielce University of Technology in Kielce. This study tour not only offered better prospects for us to present researches, scientific innovations relating to ongoing restoration projects and also to comment on current status of heritage conservation carried out in our own respective countries. This three-day programme provided us an excellent opportunity to see and understand the architectonic features of different monuments and also to gain practical experience about variety of conservation methods and
materials by participating in the demonstration of restoration works carried out in the capital.
On 16th September, all the delegates, coming from various parts of the world for the study tour, gathered in Warsaw and then the group proceeded towards Kielce, so as to prepare for the seminar which was scheduled on the next day. On the way, the group made visit to few churches situated in the suburbs and observed the conservation work undertaken at the sites.
On the next day morning, 17th September 2014, the group visited the Cracow Bishop’s Palace, where we met with Mr. Ilia IIiew, the chief conservator and curator of the Museum. This monument has great historical significance in the political sphere. It was founded by Bishop Jakub Zadzik as a summer residence during 1637-1642 CE in the place of the old wooden mansion. It was built according to the design of an Italian architect J. Trevano, thus, the architectural style reflects a true amalgamation of Italian and Polish traditions. At present, the palace serves as a branch of the National Museum and houses some extraordinary collection of oil paintings, tapestries or wall hangings and murals painted on the wooden walls and ceilings. Mr. Ilia IIiew gave onsite lecture on the methods and practices applied for structural conservation of the building.
He explained about the techniques and variety of new materials used and the role of scientific analysis in detail, with respect to preservation of interior decorations, paintings on the walls and ceilings, and reconstruction of the sculptural decorations, sgraffitio, polychrome stuccoes, stone cornices, door/ window frames (marble or galena) and wooden flooring. Besides, the palace has a good collection of collectibles, decorative objects, pottery, textiles, arms and furnishings which show extravagant lifestyle of the nobility and their eclectic taste for art. The complex also comprises several other buildings, the Collegiate Church, the Holy Trinity Church and a seminary, but the group was not allowed to enter in these monuments since they were undergoing restoration work.
Afterwards, the group proceeded towards the venue of the seminar. The Kielce University of Technology hosted the international seminar on ‘Architectural Conservation in Poland and Abroad’ on 17th -18th September, 2014. The event was a joint collaboration of the Kielce University of Technology, Faculty of Building and Architecture and the M Promotion Agency. The members of the Scientific Committee of the International Scientific Seminar were- Dr. Marek Iwański, Prof. PŚk, Dean of the Building and Architecture Faculty (Chairman), Dr. Lucjan Kamionka, Chief of the Architecture and Town Planning, Dr. Marek Barański and Dr. Andrzej Żaboklicki.
Seminar on ‘Architectural Conservation in Poland and Abroad’, Kielce University of Technology, Kielce
The seminar aimed to provide a shared platform for the practitioners and scholars coming from all corners of the world, belonging to various fields of specialization, including architects, civil engineers, art historians and professional conservators and associated to different institutions or organizations. The delegates actively work in their respective fields and have experience in research, design and implementation of restoration works. The seminar addressed the issues of changing conservation policies and technological advancements employed to restore the architectural heritage worldwide nowadays. The seminar provided an opportunity to build new contacts among experts and deepening of cultural linkages between different countries through cross-cultural exchange of ideas and knowledge. It helped the scholars to share their intellectual property, expertise and viewpoints about upcoming policies, methods and technological innovations that need to be implemented for the maintenance and conservation of historic buildings in a larger dimension.
In this seminar, I presented a paper titled ‘Restoration of the Nalanda Mahavihara Ruins: Reviving the Great Buddhist Center of Faith, Scholasticism and Art’, based on art historical analysis of Nalanda Mahavihara, an ancient Buddhist monastic-cum-university site in India. The paper aimed to focus on the architectonic features of the historical monument and traced its socio-political and religious significance in ancient India. It also attempted to examine the role of archeological excavations and conservation practices carried by Archeological Survey of India (ASI) in the preservation and conjectural reconstruction of the site. Besides, the papers presented at the seminar were highly insightful and had a multidisciplinary approach, encompassing all aspects relating to structural conservation and focused on key topics like- restoration methods, scientific techniques, archeological and art historical analysis of architectural sites, implementation of policies and rules for conservation practiced in various countries. Other scholars who presented case studies/ research papers included-‘A Report on the Restoration of Medieval Architectural Edifices at Chanderi/India’ by Sohini Singh; ‘Conservation of the Frescoes in the Church of the Naqlun Monastery in Egypt’ by Dr. Osama el Basuony; ‘Scientific research in architectural conservation’ by Dr. arch. Marek Barański;‘The Restoration of the Stone Facade of the Vienna City Hall/Austria’ by Ms. Josephine Reissig, ‘Technology in Restoration and Conservation of Hue Heritage Monuments/Vietnam’ by Mr. Phung Hung; ‘View on Restoration of Kazan Cathedral in St. Petersburg in the first quarter of the XXI c./Russia’ by Ms. Sophia Gonobleva and ‘New Material Solutions for Complex Insulation of Damp Walls and Rendering and Restoration of Deteriorated Walls’ by Dr. eng. Alicja Mokrzycka.
The seminar was concluded with a thought-provoking discussion, in which the experts expressed their concerns about the issue of architectural heritage conservation, and responded to queries of the attendees at the same time. This interactive session, hence, shed light on the multifaceted aspects of conservation methods and policies, recent inventions and ongoing researches in the field. After the highly inspirational and enlightening talks of the experts, we went for an interesting heritage walk in the nearby suburbs to view landscape and cityscape of the surrounding area, walked through the woods and made visit to various churches and cathedrals to learn about their architectural style and art. This enthralling trip enriched our knowledge about the local culture and lifestyle of the people.
On the next day, the study group reached Warsaw, which is a historic center of great political significance and is rich in artistic and cultural heritage, because of which it marked a special position in world history. It is a picturesque city, known for the eclecticism of its cultural and architectural heritage. We stayed in Warsaw from 18th -20th September 2014. During the stay, we visited the Warsaw Build Fair, Lazienkowski Park and various historic buildings and sites, which are the main attractions of the city.
On 18th September 2014, the study group was invited to visit the Warsaw Build Fair 2014held at the International Expocenter. In this event, the Agency M Promotion participated as one of the exhibitors. The agency highlighted and promoted their restoration projects and contribution in conservation of the Polish monuments. We met the organizers of the event and got information pertaining to the conservation projects undertaken by the program and their associated agencies and conservators. We had a close look on the modern scientific processes and building equipment used for reinforcement of damaged buildings and renovation of monuments.
Then, the group proceeded towards the Warsaw University to see the practical conservation work undertaken by Fronton Sc Company to rebuild and restore the University Museum situated in the campus area. There we met Mr. DariuszSzymanek, the chief conservator of the company, and he explained us about the conservation work in progress and variety of methods and techniques involved in this project. He lectured on the latest restoration techniques and materials used to achieve a true archaic look of interior decoration matching to the past. The conservators and young apprentices working under him demonstrated traditional methods in doing stuccowork for wall decoration and methods used for restoring wall paintings.
General view of the conservation work in progress (Interior), University Museum, Warsaw
Afterwards, the group went to see the historical monuments of the capital, including the Castle Square, the Royal Castle and the iconic King Sigismund’s Column, St. John’s Cathedral, Market Square, Roman Catholic churches, mansions, residential quarters etc. As stated before, the Second World War brought heavy damage in monuments, both architectural and works of art. Among them, the Old Town of Warsaw is one of the greatest landmarks of structural reconstruction in the history of conservation practices, as it has managed to restore the true spirit of Warsaw’s history. The entire complex is reconstructed by using anastylosis method based on extant art historical records. The architectural style of the Old Town can be characterized as a mixture of Gothic, Baroque and Neoclassicist styles. In fact, the reconstructed Warsaw is an outcome of large-scale restoration projects handled by various authorities of Poland.
On the last day, the delegation visited the WarsawUprising Museum, which commemorates the victory of Poland in its struggle of independence. The museum itself is a kind of encomium to extol the martyrdom of the innumerable soldiers who fought and died for the freedom of Poland and its capital Warsaw. It has a huge collection of militaria, war memorabilia, military collectibles, antiquities, documents and about 1,500 photographs and films, which represent the historical storyline of the country, beginning from the horrors of the World War II to the post-war communist terror and the fate of insurgents who fought for the independence. This study visit not only enlightened us about the history and socio-political state, but also gave an idea about the modern methods of display and lighting (like- usage of new media, graphics, films and interactive games) used in modern museums. By using advanced technologies for museum display, an interface between the museum and visitors has been created, hence, achieving a visitor friendly environment.
After the museum visit, the group was taken to Lazenskwoski Park, often called as ‘Royal Bath Park’, where we met Mr. Piotr Zambrzycki, the main conservator of the site. This park is one of the largest parks of Warsaw and has a huge garden and palace complex extending over 76 hectares of the city, comprising of many buildings designed in the baroque style by Tylman van Gameren, the Dutch born Polish architect and engineer architect, in the 18th century for a Polish noble named Stanislaw Herakliusz Lubomirski. Several other architects were also involved in this grand architectural project, including- Domenico Merlini, Johann Christian Kammsetzer and Jan Chrystian Schuch, the landscape gardener. The chief conservator gave an onsite lecture on the restoration work conducted in the Old Orangery and the adjoining well-preserved wooden theatre, Temple of Diana, Water Tower, Roman theatre and the Palace on the Lake (Lazienski Palace) which housed the original royal bath chambers. At present, the royal chambers of the palace are converted into museums, consisting of several galleries, which house masterpieces of Polish and Dutch art, fineries of the royalty, potteries and furniture. The interior halls are profusely decorated with gilded motifs, painted ceilings and wall paintings, which are remarkably outstanding.
To sum up, I would like to say the study tour conduced to a broadening of new ideas about the development of conservation science and current happenings in the field of architectural conservation in an international sphere. In this three-day tour, we could see many different sites through which we have a better understanding of conservation of historic heritage in Poland. For conservators and art historians this tour was chance to develop conservation knowledge. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that participation in such a programme conducted by M Promotion Agency is an important step towards the main aim- the combined role of high level of conservation science and art historical studies in rebuilding and restoration of historic buildings. Finally, I wish to thank the organizers, the conservators and other related organizations for offering great hospitality and their concern and cooperation.
Research Fellow and Research Scholar in the Department of History of Art, was invited by M Promotion Agency, headquartered in Warsaw, Poland, to participate in the international seminar titled ‘Architectural Conservation in Poland and Abroad’ at Kielce University of Technology, Kielce, Poland. Abira Bhattacharya presented a paper titled ‘Restoration of the Nalanda Mahavihara Ruins: Reviving the Great Buddhist Center of Faith, Scholasticism and Art’ through the art historical standpoint. She also had the opportunity to visit heritage sites in both Kielce and Warsaw where restoration work was in progress. This programme was conceptualized by the M Promotion Agency and supported by the Polish Ministry of Economy.