Poland’s new housing estates are communities, but not for everyone | Europe | News and events from the continent | DW
Right now it’s still a hole in the ground, but Sylwia Zborowska’s house is supposed to be finished by the end of the year and she hopes to move in next spring. She’s fed up with her Warsaw Tower and swapping it for a housing complex called Przystan, or port, in Lomianki, a 30-minute drive from the Polish capital.
Zborowska proudly showed DW around her and described what her house would look like. Przystan is just one of many such projects in Poland. The market for semi-detached houses with gable roofs and terraces in the estates is booming. But this one is different: each of the 32 units will be assigned a particular patron saint and there will be a chapel.
“Our hope is to bring together people who feel comfortable with each other and who are united by a common element. And that is belief in God,” said Kamil Kwiatkowski, who introduced himself as the initiator of the project. He told DW that there had been misleading reports about the complex and that people were asking if there were any confessionals in the lobby, for example. The project even provoked overtly aggressive reactions.
But he humorously responded to the question of what credentials a potential buyer would need: “First, we need a certificate from the bishop, who then has to contact a priest, and ultimately it is the Pope who confirms the agreement. ” Then, more seriously, he insisted that anyone could apply and that no one had to prove their religious credentials.
He explained that more than two-thirds of the homes have been sold so far. At 5,000 zloty (approx. $ 1,300; € 1,000) per square meter, they are considerably cheaper than new buildings in working-class areas of Warsaw, where the price could be five times the price.
Besides the chapel, rosaries and crosses will be built in the houses and the owners can also put family relics there. “People who come here are very open,” Kwiatkowski said. “They could bring their grandmother’s rosary with them or a small cross, something that has spiritual significance.”
No children please
The Lomianki complex will also include a kindergarten and a playground. Unlike another estate currently under construction in Silesia, where children are explicitly not welcome. The idea is that singles and couples without children can live without being disturbed by the noise of children playing and the threat of soccer balls crashing out of the window.
Culture scholar Aleksandra Kunce fears closed communities have negative effects on society
Aleksandra Kunce, lecturer in cultural sciences at the University of Katowice, herself from Upper Silesia, is worried about the implications of these housing complexes. She and her colleagues have set up a research project to study Silesia and Oikology (a term for the science of house and houses, which derives from the Greek words for house and knowledge), which is partly based on the ideas of the German philosopher Martin Heidegger, who said that humans know how to build houses but not inhabit them.
Kunce believes that a community identity must evolve organically. Deliberately looking for neighbors with similar mindsets and lifestyles is not the right way to go about it and, in his opinion, can result in housing complexes that are “caricatures” of the community.
“It’s like a bunker: we feel safe but at the same time we are watching over the enemy,” she explained. She believes it is a housing model that increases anxiety and provides no refuge. “After all, people still have to come out into the real world, where everyone else is hiding.”
Kunce also points to the boom in closed communities in the capital, despite the fact that the crime rate in Warsaw is not particularly high.
The best known is the Marina Mokotow estate on the outskirts of town.
She attributes this cultural and sociological phenomenon to the fact that Poland quickly grew richer after the fall of communism: “Suddenly there was this amateur capitalism. It will take time to find the way back to the old bourgeois rules. “
Meanwhile, she predicted that residents of closed communities will not feel more secure but simply more restricted.
Closed communities have become popular in Poland in recent years
Living in cages
Architect Katarzyna Rokicka-Müller of Warsaw-based mamArchitekci agrees. Yet she herself has been instrumental in the emergence of housing estates over the past 20 years. She equates her job to that of a tailor and emphasizes that it is the investors who make the decisions in the last resort.
Architect Katarzyna Rokicka-Müller compares closed communities to cages
“All these years I have encouraged investors to work on building a good relationship with the local community and showing how good it is that something new is happening,” she told DW. “I am in favor of creating open spaces for people to come into contact with. But in the end, I never developed a project that was not closed.”
Rokicka-Müller herself lives in an old building with people from all walks of life. She is happy that there are no fences or security guards: “People who live in closed communities live in cages. I would never move there as that would also limit my freedom.” Polish society is quite divided, she said.
For her part, Sylwia Zborowska criticized housing complexes that prohibit children. However, she rejected the accusation that she and her future neighbors from Przystan to Lomianki wanted to cut themselves off from others. “By choosing to live here, we are choosing to live in a haven of peace, but without distancing ourselves from others.”