This dissertation investigates the materiality of ruins in the postwar history of Warsaw. Introducing the Marxist understanding of nature in architectural history, the thesis proposes to account for the metabolism of ruins during the socialist reconstruction of the city. The resulting narrative operationalises rubble, salvaged bricks, and waste aggregates as key historical categories of the critical enquiry into the relationship between architecture and nature in 20th-century modernity.
In recent years, an interdisciplinary body of knowledge has emerged in academia, seeking to offer a new understanding of the human–nature relationship in history. This thesis contributes to that task from the disciplinary position of architectural history by tracing a twofold historical trajectory of ruin metabolism. The dissertation documents the history of the material transformation of rubble, i.e. a process in which manual workers, builders, architects, engineers, and politicians engaged with the materiality of ruins, shaping its meanings and values. Simultaneously, the thesis accounts for the socialisation of rubble, i.e. a process in which the materiality of ruins influenced the labour, industry, and knowledge of architecture in the postwar years and decades. Accounting for the history of the transformation and socialisation of rubble, the thesis offers the architectural history of the process of establishing the continuity of social, professional, economic, and political life in the wake of World War II.
Engaging rich and original archival material, the thesis traces the impact which the metabolism of rubble had on the postwar practice and knowledge of architecture, the organisation of the socialist construction industry, and transnational circuits of engineering expertise. Moreover, it shows the capacity of rubble, salvaged bricks, and waste aggregates to foster the historical expressivity of postwar architecture and the landscape of Warsaw. Therefore, the thesis makes a set of specific contributions to the existing history of memorialisation, industrialisation, and modernisation in postwar architecture.
Supervisors: Prof. Łukasz Stanek and Dr Kim Förster