Abstract: By the end of the Second World War, many of the Polish cities—and especially their historic centres—were in ruins. This was caused by both bombings and sieges conducted by the Nazis and Soviets. The particular group of cities is associated with former German lands—now called the “Recovered Territories”—which were incorporated into the borders of Poland as compensation for its Eastern Borderlands lost to the Soviet Union. These cities started to be gradually rebuilt after the end of the war, although one can distinguish certain stages and types of interventions, varying from the restoration and idealisation of the pre-war townscapes (so-called “Polish School of Conservation,” which was developed along principles contradictory to the urban conservation theories of these times) to late modern as well as postmodern (called the “retroversion”) principles. This process is ongoing, meaning the reconstruction of the historic cities is not yet completed. At the same time, these processes were embedded within the changing political perspectives—varying from “restoration of destroyed heritage” through “providing modern living environments” up to the “theming urban spaces.” In some cities, various stages and approaches overlapped, creating unique palimpsests. The article focuses not only on the evolution of both politics and design paradigms but mostly on the interplay between them and, as a result, on the doctrine’s evolution. Consequently, these considerations allow presenting the similarities and differences in the evolution of the reconstruction of Polish cities to the cases known from Western Europe and provide the framework for understanding the contemporary urban design paradigms of Central and Eastern Europe.
Keywords: conservation; Polish School of Conservation; Recovered Territories; retroversion; socialist modernism; socialist realism; theming; tourism economy; urban heritage