My first memory of the Lentz Villa does not come from the distant past, nor even from a more recent one when the historic walls were filled with the buzz of creative youth – the dull rumbling of ballet steps, the lively tone of theatrical dialogues, the subtle sounds of chamber music. I did not encounter the Villa when it was a "youth palace" – this is the experience of my parents' generation.
When I first saw its interior – the building was already deserted. The diffused light falling in through the frosted glass, modelled columns of dust floating everywhere. Worn parquet floors did not sparkle as they used to. Brown layers of oil paint carefully covered every fragment of wall cladding. The ominous teeth of the bars obscured the entrance to the stairs, and there was the unreal perspective of a skylight in the main hall. All this heightened the impression of ceremonial solemnity and stimulated the imagination, pushed people to learn hidden secrets, and enticed them with the promise of potential and mysterious faded glory.. The Villa was like a noble, elderly lady, hiding her former beauty under a thick layer of makeup and draped with tarnished jewellery, yet quite aware of her beauty and extravagance, with the same gleam in her eye as in her belle époque at the time she was born.
Many who noticed this beauty, spoke about it loudly, demanded its restoration. For others, the monument's condition was a cause for shame, making them turn away embarrassed. However, a sense of responsibility prevailed, an awareness of the challenges posed by the bold vision of a comprehensive restoration, bringing such a demanding patient back to life. Debates over the future of the Villa lasted a whole decade.
And finally, a miracle happened!
It took a bold decision on behalf of the city authorities, aware that it was not appropriate to wait any longer. The time had come. The painstaking maintenance process took over two years, excluding the time needed to prepare documentation. Thanks to the superhuman efforts of architects, monument conservationists, renovators and people supervising the investment, the historic Villa delights to no less a degree than when it was built. What is more, it can be said that it has been elevated above its former self because it gained something more than just renovated walls, original colours, the brilliance of cladding or the craftsmanship of intricate decorations – it has been immortalized in the collective consciousness of the inhabitants of Szczecin – ready to discover its beauty and content enchanted in its walls, ready to engage in a creative dialogue with the generation of the Lentzs, Quistorps, Dohrns, Topefers and Grawitzs. The Villa of August Lentz dazzles again, this time not as a manifestation of the wealth of its first host, but as an expression of the ambition of Szczecin citizens, aware of the strength inherent in the heritage of their city.
Memories | Michał Dębowski