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The Building

Claudio Nardi, who designed the Museum, with his characteristically Italian approach to architecture attempted to make connections to the urban context of the location, putting emphasis on the cultural significance of the place. The new structure was supposed to merge with the environment rather than become an urban mark that stood out and looked out of place. To achieve such an effect of fusion, part of the new building was ‘sunk’ into the surroundings, thereby becoming invisible. The characteristic industrial shed roofing of the existing workshops became the design’s visual leitmotif and was extended over the new construction, providing architectural coherence to the entire compound and emphasising the continuity between what had formerly existed on the site and the present day.

The exhibition space enfolded the buildings, making use of the open area in between the buildings that had been made available to the Museum. This resulted in an irregular, sprawling form that itself became significant, enhancing the size of the exhibition space, stretching from the main entrance in Lipowa Street to the open space in the north at the back of the building.

The south wall, on which the Museum logo is displayed, marks the beginning of the route which runs across the Museum, its mass providing a counterpoint to the Schindler Factory Historical Museum, which predated Nardi’s design.

Viewed from the perspective of Lipowa Street, the Museum has both the appearance and substance of modern architecture. Technologically,  it is a light structure, filled with light, which naturally fuses with, complements and enhances the buildings predating it on the site.

A long, sloping approach, with more than 300 mm difference in height between its ends, takes the visitors to the external plaza, surrounded by seating and a small number of inobtrusive trees complete the composition. Facing each other across the plaza are, on the one side, an exhibition loggia located inside one of the sheds and a large glass door to the Library, and, on the other, the entire length of the Museum foyer as well as the Bookstore and the MOCAK Café.

The Museum building

This building is dispersed, non-monolithic, its character determined by the harmonious co-existence of a number of elements such as: good visibility, aesthetic and functional cohesion between the new and the original buildings; the height of the new building does not clash with the existing structures but rather takes up a dialogue with them. The shed roof is the dominant feature that provides coherence.

The new building has two levels: the ground floor (3.9 m high) and the basement (4.5 – 6 m) and, for reasons of safety and stability, its structure and installations are independent of the pre-existing buildings. The dominant feature of the main façade to the south is the glass wall; this inspiring and inviting accent also improves the energy efficiency of the building in the winter. The main roof covering of the new pavilions consists of metal grid elements that support a zinc titanium alloy covering, both light and resilient, which combines well with the pre-existing roofing. The roof structure of the remaining buildings has been constructed from concrete and steel. Intensive lighting has served to allow the greatest possible flexibility of interior space, simultaneously reducing pilasters.

The use of natural light inside the building plays a crucial part in the architectural concept. To achieve the desired lighting effect, skylights were installed in the new part of the shed roof together with a large area of glass as part of  the ground floor. A vertical stream of light, filtered by the transparent elements, penetrates from the ground floor to the basement, creating the effect of welcoming, naturally open space.

The character of the entire building can be sensed from the outside. It is emphasised by a sizeable partition made out of anthracite Eternit cladding, which flows, as if pointing the way, from the entrance courtyard, to penetrate the Museum through the south door.

The 10 m tall concrete surface of the south wall – crude and industrial in appearance, is the marker and the shared element between the street and the interior passages and exhibition pavilions, which run inside the building.

Auxiliary functions

The storage of works of art is naturally one of the most important tasks of the Museum. In order to make the warehouse easily accessible, it has been placed close to the south wall. There, a sizeable open space was designed, which highlights its monumental quality. At certain times, the spot performs the function of temporary parking space for the large vehicles that transport art works. In the vicinity of the courtyard, on the ground floor, there is a 270 m2 warehouse, which connects to the exhibition halls and which has a direct security exit.

The remaining 500 m2 of storage space is situated in the basement, directly below and is connected by a staircase and large hoists that also service the basement and the conservator’s workshop.

The administration part is situated on level +2, near the storeroom and some of the exhibition halls.

The foyer is located at the beginning of the ramp that links levels with a 300 mm height difference; at the same time, it makes the entry point visible from the street.

The spacious hall, with an entry from the walkway and the second courtyard, stretches along the entire length of the south plaza, providing a sort of filter – a significant whilst elastic partition between the spaces that are linked but simultaneously autonomous: the Reception, the cloakroom, the audiovisual hall, the Bookstore and the Café.

The web page of the architectural practice Claudio Nardi Architteto: www.claudionardi.it

Photo: Rafał Sosin