Inherited Monumentality:  The Centennial Hall in Wrocław From Wilhelminian Times To UNESCO Approval

19 Apr

fig. 3_iglicaBerg_Max,_Jahrhunderthalle_Breslau,_1911-1913


Sarah M. Schlachetzki, Ph.D., Visiting Fellow, Department of History, New York University

Wednesday, April 27, 6:30 pm

New York University Department of Art History

Silver Center, Room 301

100 Washington Square East (entrance on Waverly Place)

Max Berg’s Centennial Hall in Breslau––completed in 1913 and UNESCO-listed today––was the largest dome constructed in reinforced concrete at its time and it was included in most major publications on the ‘New Architecture’ during the Weimar Republic.  When Poland as a whole was shifted westward after the Second World War, this early modernist building too changed nationalities.  No longer a ‘Prussian’ or German edifice, it now had to be discursively as well as architecturally appropriated by its new nation.  In 1948, an enormous steel spire was erected in front of the hall, marking the compound’s transformation and countering an inherited ‘colossus’ with the future-oriented iconography of Socialism.

The relationship between these two architectonic structures informs not only our understanding about the multi-layered history of the Polish metropolis Wrocław.  It also tells us a lot about historiography’s shifts, touching upon problems of monumentality and materiality.  The paper will address these connections and disentangle some of the metaphorical ties between the tangible quantities of material––tons of reinforced concrete and tons of steel–– and a century of buzzing propaganda around monumental appropriations.

Sponsored by the Society of Architectural Historians, New York Metropolitan Chapter, and the NYU Department of Art History, Urban Design and Architecture Studies.


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