THE DECADE OF LUXURY. PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF POLAND AND THE HOTELS IN THE 1970'S (Dekada luksusu. PRL i hotele w latach 70.)
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If judged by the People's Republic of Poland's (PRL) standards, the 1970's were a decade of luxury. After the hungry years of the post-war reconstruction and then the years of 'small-scale stability', luxury became the trademark and the passport to legitimacy for the new government. Hence, luxury assumed a strictly ideological dimension. New models of leisure culture, the rapidly developing tourism among them, were some of the signs of luxury. In the entire history of the PRL the 1970's were undoubtedly the highest point of architecture related to leisure and tourism, both with regard to numbers and with regard to quality. For instance, in this period 'Orbis', the state-owned tourist bureau, built twenty-three hotels, thus doubling its possessions in this respect. The Warsaw hotels Forum (1973) and Victoria (1976) stand out among new edifices constructed with a clearly propagandist aim in mind. They were built on the basis of the so-called 'investment import' by Swedish architects and mainly using methods of construction imported from Sweden. The other larger towns and tourist centres in attractive regions of Poland soon followed in Warsaw's footsteps. Several hotels were constructed in cooperation with partners from beyond the Iron Curtain; their construction was financed by international loans. Very few could afford this level of luxury, since prices there were astronomical; the 'democratisation' of luxury was only visible in health and holiday resorts constructed by state-owned enterprises. For instance, the state heavy industry plants built the 'Orle Gniazdo' holiday home in Szczyrk (1974), the tourist village in Porabka-Kozubnik (constructed from 1969 onward) or the health resort section of Ustron-Zawodzie designed to house seven thousand visitors (1971-75). A far more modest, but more accessible 'mass luxury' was provided on holidays organised by the Employee Holiday Fund. The level of luxury at particular hotels demonstrated the stratification of society and attested to the new strategy of the authorities. By manipulating the attributes of affluence, the authorities wanted to convey an impression of a dynamic development of the country. Hotels were used as a very specific simulacrum. Paradoxically, the attributes of capitalist consumption were perceived as the signs of progress. This demonstrates that the Communist regime was ready, to a large extent, to submit to the process of 'auto-colonisation' and create a hyper-realist picture of the West as a model for imitation in the country. Despite all those efforts, however, the hotels of that decade were only a modest version of the hotels aboard (the interiors of the Victoria Hotel in Warsaw being only an exception to the rule). They just attested to the provinciality of the People's Republic of Poland, where the 'Soc-Modernist', grotesque kitsch received accolades. In the 1970's, therefore, luxury constituted an element of control over the society, and hotels were the space where reality was 'carnivalised'.
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