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What is left of the General National Exposition?

For Poland of that time, a country being pieced together having just regained independence, the General National Exposition of 1929 in Poznań was a show of strength and an opportunity. Its establishment coincided with an explosive revival of modernist architecture throughout the city. This year's 2nd "New Plan' Festival of Modernist Architecture will serve as a reminder of the exhibition's splendour and its significance for Poznań.

photograph from the press
photograph from the press

The sheer size of the General National Exposition is best expressed in numbers: while the present-day Poznań International Fair covers an area of ​​11 ha, the 1929 Exposition extended over an astounding 65 ha! The General National Exposition was housed in 112 buildings divided into 5 display sectors. It attracted 1,427 exhibitors and a mind-boggling 4.5 million visitors. All this took place in pavilions designed by Poland's leading artists in the spirit of modernism. Designs were contributed by the likes of Roger Sławski - the Exhibition's head architect and the author of the Heavy Industry Hall (today's Pavilion 2), the Gala Hall, today part of Pavilion 3A, and the Wilson Park fountain; Szymon Syrkus, who designed the Fertilizer Pavilion; Jan Goliński, the author of the Glassworks Union Pavilion with its shimmering façades, as well as Bohdan Lachert and Józef Szanajca, whose drawing boards spawned the Centro-Cement Pavilion. Last but not least, Anatolia Hryniewicka-Piotrowska designed the Women's Work Pavilion, in which women fought for equal rights under the patronage of Michalina Mościcka, the Mayor's wife. 

The majority of the facilities constructed for the General National Exposition are no longer there. The temporary pavilions have been demolished leaving Poznań residents with only a small number of surviving buildings to admire. The New Plan festival's organisers have prepared a nostalgic journey to interwar-time Poznań. The festival's main focus will be on the anniversary exhibition "The First Time - The Modernist Uprising of the General National Exposition". "Our aim has been to showcase the first modernist uprising that took place in Poznań during the General National Exposition", says Jakub Głaz, Curator of the Exhibition. "Pavilions sporting avant-garde architecture were erected on exhibition grounds. Most of them were designed by Warsaw architects better known for their later modernist achievements. Specially-made mock-ups of selected pavilions and the stories of their creators will be presented during the exhibition", he explains. 

Also to be viewed is a mock-up of the entire exhibition grounds covering the area of ​​today's Poznań International Fair, Wilson and Kasprowicz Parks and several streets in the Łazarz district. 

The New Plan Festival centres on walking tours. The guided tours on offer are the General National Exposition Palaces, In the Footsteps of Czarnecki and The Road to Modernity, which starts off at the Garbary Heating and Power Plant. All of the tours will explore the few traces of this largest "event" in the history of Poznań that remain to be seen in the city. Numerous lectures and debates featuring Agata Koprowicz, Jarosław Trybuś, Ryszard Nakonieczny, Hanna Grzeszczuk-Brendel, Piotr Marciniak and many others will complement the programme.

Adam Jastrzębowski

translation: Krzysztof Kotkowski

  • Exhibition:The First Time - The Modernist Uprising of the General National Exposition
  • Hall 10 of the Poznań International Fair
  • 11-30 October

For details, see www.nowyplanfestiwal.pl, www.pewuka.pl
Free admission, registration required for selected events

© Wydawnictwo Miejskie Posnania 2019