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The Museum of the Zakopane Style


Serving as the seat of the German youth organization Hitler-jugend during the Nazi occupation, the Koliba survived the period without damage. After the war, at first a rest house, it was an orphanage till December 1981. In 1984, the Tatra Museum ordered and supervised repairs to stop the degradation of the deserted building; in 1987 conservation-cum-repairs were launched, later the interiors were arranged. Almost a century after the erection of the Koliba, the Museum of the Zakopane Style was opened here in December 1993. The interiors were arranged by Władysław Hasior.

Five rooms in the oldest part were arranged in accordance with their original function as, on the ground floor, the dining room, drawing room and bedroom, and, on the first floor, Gnatowski’s room and his servant’s room.

Zygmunt Gnatowski’s ethnographic collection returned to its place in the ‘Tatra highlander’s chamber’. Other pieces of furniture, household utensils and small craftsmen’s articles, all in the Zakopane Style, come from the turn of the century when the style was in full bloom. They were manufactured to designs prepared by Stanisław Witkiewicz, his pupil and closest co-worker Wojciech Brzega, and Stanisław Barabasz. Barabasz, from 1901 head of the School of Timber Industry in Zakopane, was credited with the introduction of the Zakopane Style into school workshops. To offer material for comparison, the servant’s room has been provided with furniture designed by František Neużil, the first head of the school. Neużil himself introduced the term ‘Zakopane style’ to describe his self-designed furniture decorated with the typical Podhale ornaments. Witkiewicz was highly critical of this aspect of Neużil’s activity, charging him primarily with a failure to understand the essence of the Tatra people’s style and superficiality and artistic incompetence in the use and interpretation of folk art ornaments.

The Museum of the Zakopane Style is the only place in Poland acquainting the visitor with the history of the achievements of the first theoretically wrought and successfully effected concept of a Polish national style based on the architecture and decorative art of the inhabitants of the region of Podhale.

The Koliba villa opens the brief history of the Zakopane Style, which lasted barely twenty years. After the Koliba, Witkiewicz designed several other buildings in Zakopane, of the villa-cum-pension type, in that the most beautiful, called Pod Jedlami [House Under the Firs]. He also designed furniture, various objects of daily use and elements of the furnishing of the Holy Family parish church. He designed the Sacred Heart Chapel at Jaszczurówka. The main building of the Tatra Museum was erected in brick and stone to the artist’s last design drawn in 1913.


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Translated & edited by: Joanna Holzman, Adrian Smith, Anna Wende-Surmiak