Everyone has an opinion about the panel blocks and panel apartments, it tends to be a love/hate relationship.  In some countries, the communist-style panel apartment blocks are reviled as a breeding ground for social degradation, allocated to the unemployed and unemployable and consequently, these areas become a haven for drug use and criminality.  The United Kingdom was one such country who suffered from this problem mostly due to their mishandling of social housing policy. 

Consequently, most panel blocks that were constructed during the reconstruction efforts after the second world war during the 1950’s and 1960’s have now been demolished in the UK. 

In contrast, the panel blocks in Hungary and in particular Debrecen are lovingly cared for, despite their limitations and problems, they are known for their durability, better quality than most in Europe. 

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A recent ongoing renovation project is recladding the entire “commieblock” housing stock with insulation blocks to improve energy efficiency, – which was already pretty good considering their age.  During the renovation work, the exteriors are painted bright colors that naturally blend into the surroundings.  The success of this project is telling, with panel apartment prices skyrocketing in recent years as they have become more desirable.

The international exhibition at The Modem, Debrecen is entitled “Panel”, explores housing estates built primarily in panel technology in Debrecen and the region, using interdisciplinary methods, science, architecture and art, and actively addresses the inhabitants of Debrecen. 

Hungary has nearly 788 thousand flats in panel buildings, one-fifth of the population live in them, including most of the population of Debrecen. There is no doubt that commieblocks have significantly influenced the image of the former Eastern bloc and not positively.

This exhibition challenges all views, just as Debrecen has challenged the international perspective with its brightly colored cityscape.

Commieblock PANEL 1024x683 - PANEL Exhibition - Modem. Panelity?
Works of art being installed at the PANEL Exhibition – Debrecen 2019. Frame show represents the actual size of an apartment.

The main question is, what effect has the panel apartment had, how has it impacted on society, community, individual and even our senses and minds, smell, touch? Is there a housing / panel identity, is there a concept: PANELITY?

Szabolcs Süli-Zakar, the event curator invites anyone attending the event to bring a photo of their own panel apartment, visitors photos will be used in one of the most important installations at the exhibition. Be sure to also supply a short one-sentence description.

Exhibiting artists: 
Althamer Paweł, Dániel Bajkó, Andrej Balco, Balázs Beöthy, Tibor Uhrin, Imre Csaba, László Csáki, Elena Chernyshova, Balázs Csizik, Lajos Csontó, Tomáš Džadoň, Marcell Esterházy, Zsolt Ferenczy, Andreas Fogreas, Cyprien Gaillard, István Gellér B., Susanne Hopf & Natalja Meier, Franz Höfner & Harry Sachs, Imreh Sándor, Emese Kádár, Zsolt Keserue, July Koller, Péter Korniss, Anita Kroó, Ferenc Lantos, Emese Miskolczi, Miskolczi, Tamás Réthey-Prikkel & András Schmidt, Józef Robakowski, Dagmar Schmidt, Kristóf Szabó, Lenke Szilágyi, Slava Sztepanov, Judit Török, Lilla Vass, Julita Wójcik, Liam Young

Curated by Szabolcs Süli-Zakar

Exhibition is open: August 3, 2019. –  November 17, 2019