CIAM Archipelago. The Letters of Helena Syrkus

”I dream of piles of unwritten letters,” complained architect Helena Syrkus to a Swiss art historian Sigfried Giedion. 

In contrast to the correspondence of writers, artists or other public figures, a publication of architects’ letters is hard to come by. In the case of Helena Syrkus—an architect who was as comfortable using a typewriter as she was sitting at a drawing board—they are the best source for learning about her fascinating, complex but also controversial biography. 

The publication inaugurates the new SOURCES series of the National Institute of Architecture and Urban Planning. It contains a selection of Helena Syrkus’ correspondence with her close friends and key figures in the international architectural community: Walter and Ise Gropius of the Bauhaus, Dutch urban planner Cornelis van Eesteren and his wife Frida Fluck, or the CIAM (International Congresses of Modern Architecture) General Secretary, Siegfried Giedion. 

For people interested in the work of Helena and Szymon Syrkus—the couple who were among the most important figures on the Polish architectural scene between the two world wars—this correspondence will be an excellent source of information on the history of architecture. For others, it will be an intriguing portrait of a person whose life had been torn by the winds of history. The correspondence reflects, as if in a mirror, the complex political history of Poland and the world which also affected the architectural community—the 1930s antisemitism, the atrocities of the Second World War or the delusions associated with the introduction of Socialism. “In these difficult times, the most precious thing we have is a network of friends scattered across the globe torn by upheavals,” Walter Gropius consoled Helena and Simon Syrkus in one of their letters. 

Archipelag CIAM. Listy Heleny Syrkus [CIAM Archipelago. The Letters of Helena Syrkus] 

Editors: Aleksandra Kędziorek, Katarzyna Uchowicz, Maja Wirkus 

Consultation and introduction: Bolesław Stelmach 

Graphic design: (Idalia Smyczyńska and Robert Zając, SOURCE series) 

Publisher: National Institute of Architecture and Urban Planning 

Warsaw 2019 

ISBN: 978-83-951542-2-5