Jarosław Sellin: I’m sure Gdańsk can do more

The city government must recognize that conservators are there to protect the monument – said Dr. Jarosław Sellin, secretary of state at the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, General Conservator of Monuments

Minister – historicism, modernism, or maybe postmodernism? Emulate or look for new functionality in the architecture? How to build in the historical city center? To what extent should we protect monuments and to what extent should we allow developers to penetrate the historical structure of the city? This dispute in Gdańsk has been going on for decades. Do you think a compromise is possible?

This is, of course, a topic for a strong seminar, not a short interview. But in general, to reach a compromise, two things must be reconciled. The first is the legacy of the past, and therefore the legacy of our ancestors – something we are proud of. So does material heritage, such as architectural monuments. This is precisely what must be given special protection. We have about 60,000 items in the list of monuments. And in the registers at the local government level – several hundred thousand. It is the job of the conservation services – including my office, the General Conservator of Monuments – to ensure that these objects are undamaged, and preserved. So they have to be renovated and updated… On the other hand, the other side of the same problem is modern life which is understood as occupant comfort, safety, health, etc. And it is this context that we often find in the concept of urban planning… Every city must develop. And it’s natural that architects want to implement their ideas and possible space developments. In addition, not only for residential purposes. Planners are also looking for the best solutions to create space for the use of public institutions, businesses, road communications and citizen recreation. All of this, of course, cannot be created at the expense of monuments, so you should always find a middle ground between investor aspirations and the protection of the heritage I mentioned. And it is possible, you just need to develop mutual understanding. Conservators must understand that the city wants to develop, and city authorities must recognize that conservators exist to protect monuments. Sometimes it creates conflict. However, I believe that any conflict can be resolved.

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