Wednesday, July 27, 2011

PCLS Interview: Marek Baranski, Ph.D., M.Arch

I first met Marek Baranski some 16 years ago when he was introduced to me through our mutual friend and business associate Witold Karwowski. Marek was then in the United States to represent the Polish Ministry of Culture. As I recall he was attending a Restoration & Renovation Show (now known as the Traditional Building Exposition and Conference) in Boston in search of business connections between Poland and the United States in the historic preservation industry.

Subsequent to our first meeting Marek has made numerous visits to North America. On occasion he has brought with him a number of Polish conservators and associates in the heritage conservation network that radiates out into the world from Poland. Likewise I have with Witold and other associates made to date three trips to Poland.

My first trip was the one where I spent four days in cardiac intensive care in a hospital in Szczecin. That was an education.

The second trip was involved with the Annihilated Heritage project related to reconstruction of a 17th century log and timber Zabludow synagogue at a skansen near to Bialystok. That trip included an intensive tour of historic sacred sites, churches, synagogues and mosques throughout the Podlaskie Voivodeship. For me the the log and timber synagogues were like rocket science in log building when compared to the same era of work on rectangular-boxes with a trussed roof of Christian churches in the region. It was on this trip that I became intensively interested in historic preservation issues related to Chernobyl.

The third trip was for a representative group of Americans to present at a preservation conference in Krakow. This junket included Marek leading with whirlwind gusto a private tour of historic sites scattered around the countryside between Warsaw and Krakow. Having worked for a time after High School at a salt mine in the Finger Lakes Region of NY State I enjoyed the tour of the Wieliczka Salt Mine. Of all places that I have visited in Poland I fell in love with Kazimierz Dolny along the Vistula River with the old buildings, igneous cobble streets and stone castle on the hill.

Marek has attended a number of conferences and events in North America. He has spoken at APTI conferences (notably the one in Montreal in 2008 where the film Srebrne Wrota that documents the reconstruction of the Silver Gate of St. Sophia of Kiev was shown) and Marek has presented at several Preservation Trades Network IPTW events as well as participated in several Traditional Building events.

It was in October 2001 at the IPTW held at Floyd Bennet Field, Brooklyn when Marek as a gesture of solidarity with the newly stunned Americans, right after 9/11, proposed an American contingent of timber framers and log builders to visit Poland for a workshop on the Annihilated Heritage for the Zabludow Synagogue. The Zabludow Synagogue project is a long and complicated story that continues to this day.

This interview was recorded on the event of Marek making a presentation in Philadelphia. It is shortly after his six year tenure as CEO of PPKZ. Trivia related to this particular trip is that Marek on behalf of the son of an associate in Poland returned from the United States with a Lego Death Star. If you are not familiar with this object suffice it to say that it comes in a very very large box. Much larger than two standard suitcases in my estimation.

PPKZ was the organization that at one time employed approximately 14,000 people and was responsible for the reconstruction of destroyed historic and heritage sites throughout Poland, most notably Old Town Warsaw. PPKZ included a widely diverse working group consisting of archeologists, architects, planners, stonemasons, carpenters and conservators. Subsequent to perestroika the network and connections of PPKZ became fragmented at the time of Marek's tenure the organization was down to roughly 200 people, but with a vast network of connections.

Marek now has his own firm, of which we are associated, for which you can find information here. Working with our business associate Witold Karwowski we provide support and representation for Marek on his various visits to America, as he so generously provides his time, support and hospitality to us when we visit Poland. If you have an interest to work with Marek and his associates, or would like to know when he will next make a visit to North America, then please connect with us.

There are 6 videos in a series.... each of less than 10 minutes in length.

Introduction, Those Stones, The Winchester Rifle, To Begin

The Over Material Approach

Chopin Birthplace, Salt Mine, Wyckoff House. Wyckoff House and More

Doors to Nowhere, Preservation Poland vs USA, Silver Gate of Kiev

Silver Gate of Kiev, New Company, PPKZ

PPKZ to Mount Everest

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