Building of the Year architect talks to CLAD about form, function and why public space is vital

The form is in a way secondary. This project connects various times and traditions and gives a lot of new possibilities to the city, thanks to the generous public space
– Robert Konieczny

Robert Konieczny, the principal of Polish architecture studio KWK Promes, has described how he won the World Architecture Festival’s 2016 Building of the Year prize by creating a museum that doubles as a “city-forming” public space for the people of Szczecin, Poland.

The National Museum and Dialogue Centre Przelomy – which explores the city’s history of Nazi occupation, resistance against post-war Soviet communist authority, and eventual transition to democracy – sits largely underground, with its roof forming part of the Solidarity Square. The concept was hailed by the festival’s competition jury, led by David Chipperfield, as “a piece of topography as well as a museum” that addresses the city’s past “in an optimistic, poetic and imaginative way.”

“We broke the rules for the project’s design competition,” Konieczny told CLAD. “The site was originally smaller, but after we got to know the history of the place, we thought the whole square and the building should be treated as one entity.

“Pre-war the location was an urban quarter and post-war it became a memorial square to remember 16 [anti-regime protesters] who were killed there in fights with militia in December 1970. Our idea was to bring together these two contradictory traditions. We created a hybrid which encloses the site like a quarter, while keeping the values of an open public space.”

KWK Prones decided to eliminate any barriers in the square, enhancing its potential as a meeting space located walking distance from cultural landmarks such as Estudio Barozzi Veiga’s Konzerthaus – described by Konieczny as “the best building in Europe”. Smooth uplifts in the site were created to house the museum underneath, while enclosing the square from traffic and busy surrounding neighbourhoods. The concrete floor of the square, which is covered with rectangular tiles, was replicated on the slopes and the facade of the museum, creating the illusion of one continuous monolithic structure.

“There are many buildings nowadays that look interesting, but when you analyse deeper, there's nothing more than the form,” said Konieczny. “Our projects have another layer below the surface. They’re always consequence of a logical process, and the form is in a way secondary. This project connects various times and traditions and gives a lot of new possibilities to the city, thanks to the generous public space.

“When the museum is closed, life on the square still goes on, due to the topography. It encourages people to ride a bike, skate or even sledge – because when it snows, it’s the only one hill in the city. Sometimes kids turn the whole square into one big blackboard, covering it with drawings until it becomes a kind of colourful ornament. We’ve created a canvas for events far beyond of our imagination, and life has begun to write its own scenarios in ways we never expected.”

The studio had to fight with city officials to create a space that could be used in such a myriad of ways, as sport and recreational uses were previously banned on the sensitive remembrance site. This issue was eventually resolved, but other controversies hit the project. The rising slopes – which have created a type of urban amphitheatre – provoked anger from some quarters, as they prevent the army from marching through as they once did and place politicians and military leaders below members of the public during ceremonies.

“We believed that the square should not divide people, it should connect them,” Konieczny explained. “It's built to serve everyone. After long discussions and negotiations with veterans and city officials we together came to an agreement on how to use the space. Now they understand it can host various occasions, such as concerts, outdoor cinema screenings and events for thousands of people. Equally, the citizens of Szczecin have learned that this is their place. Now they gather there to express and manifest their opinions.”

Konieczny argues that more cultural buildings should find innovative ways of integrating with areas of public realm.

“A well-designed space can attract crowds and build a positive relationship with institutions,” he said. “In our case, both the museum and the square can be used separately, which is a big advantage, but at the same time the two spaces can constantly stimulate each other. Any one space can have a positive influence on the other. That benefits citizens, which ultimately benefits the city.”

Building of the Year  KWK Promes  Robert Konieczny  World Architecture Festival  Szczecin  architecture  design  National Museum and Dialogue Centre 
Related stories

World Building of the Year awarded to Poland's National Museum and Dialogue Centre

European Prize for Urban Public Space awarded to two leisure projects

Robert Konieczny, the principal of Polish architecture studio KWK Promes, has described how he won the World Architecture Festival’s 2016 Building of the Year prize by creating a museum that doubles as a “city-forming” public space for the people of Szczecin, Poland. The National Museum and Dialogue Centre Przelomy – which explores the city’s history of Nazi occupation, resistance against post-war Soviet communist authority, and eventual transition to democracy –
CLD,VAT,HAM,ARC,DES
David Chipperfield chaired the jury that awarded Robert Konieczny the Building of the Year Prize at the 2016 World Architecture Festival / KWK Promes
More news
News stories: 1 - 30 of 6619     
 
 
 
News stories: 1 - 30 of 6619     
 
 
 
latest jobs
£24000-27000
Job location: North East, UK
company profile
Company profile: Fabio Alemanno Design Ltd
Based on ancient knowledge – and confirmed by scientific research – warmth is one of the most important sources of healing and preventative therapy available.
Try cladmag for free!
Sign up with CLAD to receive our regular ezine, instant news alerts, free digital subscriptions to CLADweek, CLADmag and CLADbook and to request a free sample of the next issue of CLADmag.
sign up
features
Serenbe offers a varied fitness programme that includes group yoga. A growing body of research suggests that exercising outdoors is better for you than working out indoors
"We love being surrounded by people who teach us and make us better. Serenbe has also really enhanced our thinking about the value of nature and being outside on a daily basis"

Eliza Bacot and her husband Benton talk about living at Serenbe with their family

Architecture and mindfulness: Ben Channon
Ben Channon
"I hope architects gain a genuine understanding of how buildings and spaces affect our mental wellbeing and how their design can be tailored towards making people happier and healthier"

Ben Channon has written Happy by Design, a new book about how architecture affects our mental health. He explains how we can all be happier at home

Elmsbrook Healthy New Town in Bicester, Oxfordshire has extensive wellness 
offerings and is also a UK government Eco Town, promoting sustainability
"The Healthy New Towns initiative aims to design out ‘obesogenic environments’ and design in health and wellbeing"

The UK government is building 10 new towns based on health, with wellbeing incorporated from the ground up. Stu Robarts investigates

Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
To advertise in our catalogue gallery: call +44(0)1462 431385
features
Guests staying in the Dream Well suite can wake up to a slow starting bird concert
Experience the euphoria retreat
"Come to Euphoria Retreat if you’re looking for a full health-boost, you’ll leave feeling completely rejuvenated"

Wellbeing Escapes and Well Home have partnered to bring you this special offer for the Euphoria Retreat in Greece

features
"It’s important for people to be rooted in place. This is a very special house, with powerful connections to nature"

Jennifier Beningfield has built her dream home in South Africa, using ancient building methods

River House at the Green Village was designed by the team at IBUKU
"We want people to feel there’s hope and possibility and magic in the world"

John and Elora Hardy live a wildlife in the jungles of Bali. Magali Robathan finds out more about their work

The Living Room offers yoga, children’s programmes, art and family therapy
"The key to a happy and successful society is a philosophy that places wellness at the heart of everything"

Calvin Tsao and brother Frederick are reviving the Chinese culture of physical and mental wellbeing with their Octave Living development company, as Christopher DeWolf discovers

cladkit product news
Carlo Ratti's 'wonder wall' robot could become reality with kickstarter campaign
Unveiled at Milan Design Week, as part of Ratti's Living Nature installation, the Scribit is the result of Ratti's ongoing investigation into and development of writing machines
Lauren Heath-Jones
Carlo Ratti Associatti has developed an intelligent robot capable of writing and drawing on vertical surfaces. Called Scribit, the device ...
Bartok Design installs 'transformative' soaking tubs in SpaFusion at Pallazzo Varignana
Bartok Design creates traditional Japanese soaking tubs
Lauren Heath-Jones
Bartok Design, a Japan-based supplier of Ofuro (Japanese bathtubs), has completed a major installation at the newly opened SpaFusion at ...
EAS PREVIEW: Bright Buildings to exhibit BrightOpen designs
Bright Buildings will be showcasing its range of BrightOpen buildings
At this year’s Euro Attractions Show (EAS), design and architecture firm Bright Buildings will be exhibiting its range of BrightOpen ...
cladkit product news
Aotta launches sound panels made from hemp husks
The panels are designed to maintain 'healthy spaces' and consist of Hemp husks fashioned into a natural porous membrane that absorbs sound
Lauren Heath-Jones
Russian design studio Aotta has developed a range of eco-friendly, sound-absorbing panels made from the waste products of hemp seeds. ...
Tredje Natur launches Climate Tile to bring green spaces to urban settings
Tredje Natur has installed the pilot system of its Climate Tile system in the Nørrebro area of Copenhagen
Lauren Heath-Jones
Danish company Tredje Natur (Third Nature) has recently installed the pilot system of its innovative street paving system in the ...
Designworks launches new glow-in-the-dark tile collection
The tiles contain light-absorbing luminous pigments so they glow-in-the-dark
Lauren Heath-Jones
High-end tile supplier Designworks has created a range of illuminous mosaic tiles for commercial use. Designed to bring light into ...
cladkit product news
Artemide excites with latest lighting collection
Designer Alejandro Aravena created O to 'reconcile the needs of the natural and the urban environment'
Lauren Heath-Jones
Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), Herzog and de Meuron, Neri & Hu, MAD Architects and Elemental, the firm of Pritzker winner ...
Dornbracht launches 'next generation' experience shower
Rainmoon is an innovative sensory shower experience designed for use in the home
Dornbracht is taking experience showers to the next level with its multi-sensory Rainmoon concept. “Rainmoon is a culmination of bliss ...
Zaha Hadid Design partners with Royal Thai to create carpet collection celebrating Zaha Hadid's legacy
The carpets capture Hadid's notable use of layering and interweaving as well as her use of light and shadow
Lauren Heath-Jones
Zaha Hadid Design has partnered with carpet manufacturer Royal Thai to create a new carpet collection inspired by the work ...
x
Sign up with CLAD for regular news updates