Autoportret: Self-organisation 2 [81] 2023

Autoportret: Self-organisation is now also in English! All articles are now available on the website, and the pdf is available for download. This edition was supported by the National Institute of Architecture and Urban Planning.

Intro by Dorota Leśniak-Rychlak

To begin with, let me admit my mistake. I once said publicly that regeneration would not begin until destruction ended. I was wrong. This was made clear to me by a radio broadcast in which Paweł Pieniążek talked about his book Resistance. Ukrainians against the Russian invasion. He spoke about the situation during the shelling of a district in Donetsk in 2015: air raids lasted most of the day; residents were only able to go about their business between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.

“You can imagine all the things that need doing when you only have eight hours to spend outside of the basement. And what they did was clear their backyards of rubble and broken trees, repair shop windows […], try to maintain the reality they used to have. They fought for that reality. This became the factor that caught my attention for years to come. Namely, how people try to fight for their former everydayness.”

The image of people fixing up their surroundings despite the inevitable destruction stuck in my imagination. The ineffective hustle and bustle. The future is uncertain, the present is dangerous, but the inhabitants are rallying and self-organizing. It is not about the result: what counts is the act of refusing to submit to the order of war. Regaining agency.

Two main threads intertwine in this issue about self-organization. First, in the context of the war in Ukraine, we look at our neighbours’ ability to create a horizontal network state. We refer to the formative experience of Ukrainian society – the Maidan Revolution of 2014. We analyse examples of bottom-up architectural and artistic responses to the refugee situation during a full-blown war and the tremendous force with which civic movements began to create more or less rudimentary shelters. Architecture is changing: from spatial form to human activity, to the ability to think about the future despite the surrounding brutality of war. In an interview with Natalia Raczkowska, Joanna Kusiak evokes the past reconstruction of Warsaw and the future of Homs in Syria in order to explain the radical hope that drives action even in the face of urbicide.

The second thread concerns bottom-up spontaneous architecture, or anarchitecture. This is something that overturns hierarchies, ignores established orders, and values collective effort. It is often excluded from official textbooks and discourses – it tends to be overlooked. It confers human agency, empathy, and the ability to cooperate. It is a constant movement; it is change for which it is increasingly hard to find room within the space appropriated by money and ground rent.

The examples of a different logic that are collected in this issue bring hope. They prove that we can overcome apathy and despair – together.

 (I don’t know which is more difficult).

Dorota Leśniak-Rychlak