The meaning of Polish 'doing something on knees' or 'on a knee' is completely different than English:https://www.macmillandictionary.com/dictionary/british/on-your-knees
It is rather a metaphor to a student who instead of doing his homework properly at the home, he did it in hurry, supported his notebook on knees and did it in a short break between classes.
In other words it means doing something in hurry, usually resulting in poor quality and unsophisticated enough.
Who designed this building? Looks like some architect 'made it on a knee'...
Or nowadays according to software engineering:
There are lots of bugs in this application! They came short on deadlines and 'wrote it on their knees' even without unit tests...
My question is, is there an English equivalent (in idiom or phrase) which preserves this meaning better?
After reading some answers I realized that my examples were a little bit misleading.
In reality, the phrase does not carry itself any negative connotations about the 'author'. Rather poor quality of his job results.
The only negative connotations about author we can only deduce from the quality of his job:
'He did his job inaccurately so we can assume that he may be inaccurate.' or
'You Will Know Them by Their Fruits' sort of thing.
Done too hurriedly and carelessly.
She frowned at the messy handwriting and slapdash clump of phrases.
quick and dirty
Makeshift; done or produced hastily.
‘a quick and dirty synopsis of their work’
Threw it together, often with at the last minute appended is frequently used for a project that was done on short notice with little planning. It often but not always implies that the quality suffers as a result.
Who designed this building? Looks like some architect threw it together at the last minute.
When talking about computer software in particular, the term kludge is often used to mean a quick but low-quality solution to a problem. Usually it means a deliberate choice to use a poor solution, something the creator is not proud of but was forced to do by circumstances.
There are lots of bugs in this application! They came short on deadlines and kludged it together.
So far I've not seen Slip shod, meaning rapid work of inferior quality. If I recall correctly, it is in reference to the making of shoes.
cobble together (or cobble up):
To make something or put something together hastily or carelessly.
Who cobbled this thing up? Take it apart and start over.
The kids cobbled up their model planes badly.
However, I think there is a small nuance that sets these two expressions apart.
While the Slavic "on a knee" is frequently used to criticise the end result, the English "cobble together" feels more like a somewhat neutral statement of the fact that the work was done hastily and with no due diligence, leaving the final judgement of whether that hastiness was justified or not to the listener. After all, if a flash flood comes, a cobbled together raft is better than no raft at all.
There are several idioms that mean a poor and hasty solution:
I would affirm quick and dirty as having the closest meaning and usage to what you describe. However, the closest metaphoric parallel is a "back-of-the-envelope" or "back of a napkin" calculation or drawing. This is often done by someone with skill, who is imagined as having a casual conversation about an idea, perhaps over lunch, and makes some quick calculations on an envelope, or sketches a crude diagram on the paper napkin.
"Quick and dirty" similarly describes the process and resulting work, without specifying anything about the author or causes of their rushed efforts, whereas the metaphor of your Polish phrase seems to denigrate the author as juvenile, unprepared, and irresponsible.
Half-assed is the phrase for not putting your full attention and effort into a task. The origin of the term half assed
did his homework on the bus
An American idiom that's similar to the Polish is "wrote it on the bus" or "did his homework on the bus." In the idiom, bus means school bus.
For example, Lin-Manuel Miranda tweeted in 2013, "Finishing a tune at 10:30 for actors who are learning it at 11. Horrible horrible when will I stop doing my homework on the bus I'm 33."
I've looked at the other answers, but few of them in my view really capture the essential point that the work was done too quickly.
I would suggest a rushed job.
There is also a well known adage in English which says more haste, less speed, which is connected to this.
It is also related to the well-known Aesop fable of The Hare and the Tortoise, which is often quoted in English - meaning that it is not always the person who is fastest who gets to the required objective first.
I think the closest equivalent (the one I thought of immediately!) would be a "bodge job", or "botch job" (from "bodged/botched job").
This describes something that has been botched (carried out carelessly/bungled) and the resulting object or piece of work is a bodge job.
There may be a slight difference in meaning between the two forms (see the comments on this answer), with "botch job" emphasising that something was simply done badly or ruined, and "bodge job" emphasising that it done quickly and/or carelessly.
Example: "Who designed that building? Looks like the architect made a bodge job of it".
An idiom with similar meaning albeit more literal is rushed through it.
Who designed this building? Looks like some architect rushed through it...
There are lots of bugs in this application! They came short on deadlines and rushed through it even without unit tests...
- To do or complete something in a hurry: The staff rushed through the meeting because they had started late. I rushed through the test and got a lot of answers wrong.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Phrasal Verbs. Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
For calculations and mathematical workings there's back-of-the-envelope calculations
It's used to mean rough work with lots of assumptions and approximations rather than thorough well explained and justified work.
My answer is brief. It was done in a hurry
[Later edits after consideration]
An equivalent alternative to hurry is rush. (Note this is biased towards British English)
Who designed this building? Looks like some architect "did it in a hurry"
Or nowadays, according to software engineering:
There are lots of bugs in this application! They came short on deadlines and "did it in a rush" even without unit tests...
Indeed, knee may convey a connotation of tiredness, submission or defeat, not what we are looking for.
Am I correct to believe that "on a knee" means that you had to do something quickly because there was no time, like a hunter who shoots kneeling because they need to do it fast, without the time to find a proper support for the rifle? Of course the result would be less precise (see brief description here) than e.g. leaning the rifle on a tree, being prone, or prone with a bipod, etc.
The connotation here is the time constraint.
In that case, a close equivalent (meaning and connotation) would be in a pinch:
pinch: An emergency situation: This coat will do in a pinch. (American Heritage)
So for the hunter:
In a pinch, use the kneeling position for shooting.
Hence your sentence:
There are lots of bugs in this application! They wrote it in a pinch, they did not even have time enough to perform unit testing...
And the student who had not done her/his homework the day before, did it in a pinch (and probably not terribly well!).
whip up or whip out
"produce in a hurry"
"write something hurriedly" https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/us/whip_something_out_(or_off)
However, "whip" occurs in several idioms and might confuse readers. "Whip out" can mean take out quickly. "Whip up" can mean excite.
I suggest the phrase “to wing it”
“To wing it” is an idiom that means to improvise, to do something without proper preparation or time to rehearse.
Taking your edit into consideration:
The only negative connotations about author we can only deduce from the quality of his job...
The closest phrase I can think of to doing something on knees that is not necessarily negative is...
doing something on the fly
On the fly (informal):
If you do something on the fly, you do it quickly, often while you are doing something else, without preparing and without thinking too much about how it should be done:
This new rule seems to have been created on the fly.
The example sentence above seems to imply something negative about the rule created and, by extension, its creator(s), but on the fly may have positive connotations as well:
On the fly (mainly American):
If you do something on the fly, you do it quickly, without thinking about it or planning it in advance.
These people can make decisions on the fly and don't have to phone home to their boss. This gives architects and designers the power to build an environment, explore it and maybe do some designing on the fly.
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012
After your edit, I would say on a shoestring
informal A small or inadequate budget.
"many early studies were done on a shoestring"
as modifier "a shoestring budget"
At a slight tangent - but possibly useful. "Like a Friday car"
There is exactly same phrase in Russian.
I would translate as "slap together". As OP mentions, it is not necessary negatively colored.
As a teenager in Wisconsin, speaking very informally, I would say janky.
of extremely poor or unreliable quality.
"the software is pretty janky"
In England we can also say about a job that was done too quickly and lacks quality:
which is "to do something in the easiest, cheapest, or fastest way"
Shoot from the hip
The image is a shooter who fires a pistol as soon as possible after drawing it from a hip holster, not taking time to properly aim from eye height. One connotation of the original English prose that may not be part of the original Polish is a fight to the death but in practice, the idiom is often used outside of any competitive context.
Another answered with "cut corners". A suitable definition is in the Collins English Dictionary:
"to do something in the easiest or shortest way, especially at the expense of high standards"
shoddy immediately came to mind, and I'm surprised I didn't see it.Note I am american NOT english per definition below.
shoddy in British
adjective -dier or -diest
imitating something of better quality
of poor quality; trashy
made of shoddy material
noun plural -dies
a yarn or fabric made from wool waste or clippings
anything of inferior quality that is designed to simulate superior qualityWord Frequency
shoddy in British (ˈʃɒdɪ ) adjective -dier or -diest 1. imitating something of better quality 2. of poor quality; trashy 3. made of shoddy material noun plural -dies 4. a yarn or fabric made from wool waste or clippings 5. anything of inferior quality that is designed to simulate superior quality
Haste makes waste.
Haste is analogous to fast. Waste in this context means poor quality.