The 2005 announcement of a new national museum in Warsaw generated great enthusiasm, for a museum of this magnitude had not been built since 1936. The museum of modern art (Muzeum Sztuki Współczesnej) plans to bring contemporary Polish art from various sources and galleries in Poland and abroad, into one space. The location of the museum is especially significant; in the very centre of Warsaw, situated on a vast central square (Plac Defilad - Parade Square) before the Palace of Culture and Science. The current site contains a large 'temporary' market hall which is the source of many scandals in itself. New urban planning guidelines dictate specific criteria for this building (such as a limited number of floors, an L-shaped form, etc).
In late 2005 an international competition was called, and an international jury was selected. The jury was made up of:
Christine Binswanger (Architect, Herzog and de Meuron)
Sir Nicholas Serota (Director, Tate Gallery)
Deyan Sudjic (Director, Design Museum in London)
Adam Szymczyk (Director, Kunsthalle, Basel)
Andrzej Rottermund (Director, Royal Castle in Warsaw)
Bohdan Paczowski (Architect and critic, Luxembourg)
Vittorio Lampugnani (former Director of the Museum of Architecture, Frankfurt)
Ryszard Jurkowski & Jerzy Grochulski (Polish Architects Association representatives)
Michał Borowski (Chairman, Chief Architect for the City of Warsaw)
Maria Poprzęcka (Director, Institute of Art, Warsaw University)
Anda Rottenberg (Chairperson of the Programme Board of the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw)
Tadeusz Zielniewicz (Director, Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw)
Paweł Althamer (Artist, Warsaw)
In early 2006, a set of new rule changes came into effect. The first stated that to design a project in Poland, one must be registered with the National Chamber of Architects (Krajowa Izba Architektów). This obviously was a problem for architects outside of Poland and Europe, so the deadline was moved from the end of February to the end of April 2006 in order to obtain the necessary entitlements. The second rule change affected Polish architects. It stated that in order to enter the competition one must have completed no less than three public buildings within the past three years, of a size not less than 10,000 square metres. This disqualified a number of smaller firms with big potential.
At the time of the deadline, 551 entries were submitted by architects from 61 countries. This was cut down to 27 foreign projects, 49 Polish projects after the analysis of legitimacy in regards to the new rules! Projects by Zaha Hadid, Richard Meier, David Chipperfield, Will Aslop, Colin Fournier and more were eliminated due to improper documentation. You could imagine the outrage by the architects, the public, and the jury members...
June 15th 2006: The first four jury members to quit were Sir Nicholas Serota, Deyan Sudjic, Christine Binswanger and Vittorio Lampugnani on the terms that the new, slow submission process no longer guaranteed the highest standards in an international competition. They pleaded with the City to call on a new competition, and for the remaining architects to pull out. Michal Borowski, Chief City Architect and jury member, assured the competition would move on, albeit with 4 less jury members. In effect, the jury was now a completely Polish body.
On June 18th Ryszard Jurkowski and Jerzy Grochulski of the Polish Association of Architects resigned from the jury.
On June 19th the Mayor of Warsaw stated it was impossible to call on a new competition, even though former rule changes had been liberalized only a few months earlier.
On June 21st, Paweł Althamer, Bohdan Paczowski and Adam Szymczyk resigned from the jury.
On June 26th, under pressure, the competition was made null by the Mayor of Warsaw. The new competition would contain straight-forward regulations and focus on bringing back spurned international architects. In late July, the new competition was re-started, the jury returned and Daniel Libeskind replaced Vittorio Lampugnani.
February 10th 2007: the deadline brought forth 109 new projects, a third of which were non-Polish. The winner would be revealed to the public on February 18th. And the winner is....
Much to the dismay of Varsovians and many others, the winning design of the new museum was an overly minimalist structure by Swiss architect Christian Kerez (http://www.kerez.ch/)
. Architect of the famed Vaduz Museum in Liechtenstein, the Warsaw design caused a great uproar among the public and media. It was instantly referred to as a giant Carrefour supermarket, a parking garage, a bunker (among less 'colourful' descriptions).
From Christian Kerez, 'the proposed building does not attempt to appropriate the neoclassical architecture of its immediate surroundings. Instead, the new art museum creates another pole to the architecture of the Palace of Culture. The Palace of Culture is a monument, whose abrasive facades do not allow any insight and whose volume does not reveal its inner organization. The new art museum reverses these characteristics by presenting itself as a vast and transparent interior...'
Daniel Libeskind, jury member, 'It’s not as simple as we first look at it and simple things are not necessarily bad either. It’s a museum that will create urban spaces for the streets, will bring Marszalkowska Street back to Warsaw as well as the great public space in front of the Palace of Culture. It will be a living place, not just a monument standing by itself but it will be related to public life and city life of the people. And I think it will have very beautiful exhibitions. It will be developed in a very successful way as an easy-to-organise museum.'
Deputy Minister of Culture Tomasz Merta, ‘This is an example of ‘minimalism’ in architecture whereas many people anticipated a highly controversial, avant-garde project. I think though that with the passing of time Varsovians will appreciate it and get accustomed to it.’
The director of the Museum, Tadeusz Zielniewicz, ‘Those who expected something absolutely extraordinary or perhaps even wild may be disappointed, because the design is rather restrained and elegant. However, it is successful in creating a free exhibition space.’
On February 21st, the Director of the Museum of Modern Art Tadeusz Zielniewicz, released a statement on the museum's website (http://www.museumcompetition.pl/):
'...The stand I took was rejected by foreign members of the the jury. It may very well be that my views were not "avant-garde" enough. In that situation my capabilities to participate in the implementation of the project that has been chosen are exhausted. I have therefore decided as the Director of the Museum to submit my resignation... I am ready to struggle for the project that was specially distinguished - ALA Architects Ltd. / Grupa 5 Architekci / Jaroslaw Kozakiewicz, from Finland and Poland.'
His current call for the implementation of a different design is simultaneously being met with various opponents of the Kerez project. Many people believe the design by the Polish firm Tamizo Architects should have been chosen, although it had not been distinguished, or even recognized.
More info, reactions and news: http://www.museumcompetition.pl/