The Open Air Museum of Łódź Timber Architecture
The Open Air Museum of Łódź Timber Architecture
The Open Air Museum of Łódź Timber Architecture is a glimpse at a world as if taken out of the pages of Władysław Reymond’s “Ziemia Obiecana” (“The Promised Land”). The Museum is located on Piotrowska Street, the city’s main artery, and next to the White Factory (currently the seat of the Central Museum of Textile Industry); it was created with the purpose to envision the world of 19th century workers’ Łódź.
The Open Air Museum of Łódź Timber Architecture is one of the newest open air museums in Poland. May 2009 marks the first year of its functioning. The institution, which appeared as part of the Central Museum of Textile Industry in Łódź, contains seven buildings: five timber workers’ houses (two storied houses on Mazowiecka 61 and Kopernika 62 streets and three one-storied houses on Żeromskiego 68, Wólczańska 68 and Mazowiecka 47 streets), an evangelical church and a summer villa. The history of the houses and the villa are closely tied to the industrial history of Łódź in the second half of the 19th century. The church, however, comes from Nowosolna, once a suburban village and currently a part of Łódź. The aim of the exhibition is to supplement the display of the Central Museum of Textile Industries, serving as an introduction to touring the White Factory. Before viewing the remnants of Łódź industry, it is worthwhile to examine the conditions in which the textile industry workers lived and what the road to their workplace might have looked like. In order to intensify the effect created by the exposition, the Museum entrance will soon be relocated from Piotrkowska Street to Milionowa Street, transforming the brick road which runs through the open air exposition into a natural track leading to the Museum entrance.
A walk through the Museum sets into a mood for meditation about the history of the city, which, thanks to the development of textile industry, experienced a sudden economic growth. The first workshops, seeds of the future factory fortunes, appeared where the conditions were suitable: inside already existing or easy to build timber houses, often former craft workshops. Five such structures were placed inside the Museum on a brick road, lit by stylized streetlamps. The street is surrounded on both sides by steened gutters. The outside walls of the buildings were painted in different colors, while the interiors are whitewashed. Currently, it is possible to study the wall construction, but within the next year, these architectural details will become hidden behind numerous tourist attractions which will fill the interiors: glaziery, tanning and, naturally, weaving workshops. The goal of the initiators and creators of the Museum is to create a place which gives the visitors a possibility to experience the atmosphere of the Łódź City of old. The static expositions enclosed in glass show-cases, which are sometimes, not altogether rightfully, perceive as lackluster, will constitute only an addition to the interactive presentation.
Standing close to the Milionowa Street entrance is a beautiful yellow-and-green summer villa. During relocation to the Museum the building was subjected to fundamental renovation. In its new location, it also acquired a spacious cellar. Before the Second World War, it belonged to a Jewish industrialist who rented its living quarters to a few poorer Jewish families. A large number of tenants and the fact that the construction was unsuited for winter conditions caused damage which was intensified still by the lack of a landlord during the post-war period. Currently, the renovated villa stands empty. The organization of any exhibition inside this building is troublesome due to the summer character of the building. Perhaps an investor who adapts the building for year-round functioning will appear. So far, it is possible to admire the exterior beauty of the structure, but it is also worthwhile to take notice of the chill inside the cellar, a luxury in the middle of the summer!
The church of St. Andrew Bobola should also be mentioned. It was built in 1838 as a Protestant church. Not without complications, it was moved from Nowosolna, which was once a village and now constitutes a part of the Widzew district of Łódź. The walls of the building are constructed with individual timber beams. Their transportation through the city and to the museum was possible only during the lightest traffic, that is between 3 and 4 AM. The trucks carrying the beams required time and space to maneuver around street corners. When the church was safely installed in the Museum, it was renovated, plastered and opened for viewing. The gable of the front façade is crowned with a clock wound up by a clock-maker, who visits especially to perform this task. Currently, the building no longer functions as a temple, although the interior has maintained a sacral look. From time to time, however, weddings do take place here.
Łódź is a beautiful city in which the past – rich, industrial, but also poor, of crafts and workers, may be encountered at every step. The Open Air Museum of Łódź Timber Architecture is where the reminders of the old city can be seen.