The multiply awarded building of POLIN Museum is a gem of contemporary architecture. Its symbolism touches upon Jewish history while the building itself reflects the idea of a “museum of life” that POLIN Museum promotes.
The POLIN Museum building is stark and aloof, its facades clad with copper and glass. Inside, an undulating and dynamic ravine splits the building in two separate halves.
The Museum building boasts 12,8 square metres usable floor space. One third of it is occupied by the core exhibition, while the remaining space accomodates offices and various other purposes:
The Museum building was constructed at a symbolic spot: the very heart of a once thriving district inhabited mainly by Jews, and during the war transformed by the Germans into a ghetto. The Monument to the Ghetto Heroes, designed by Natan Rapaport, was erected here in 1948. The POLIN Museum building rose on the plot located amongst the residential buildings of Muranów, reconstructed after the end of the war.
Producing an architectural design for this very location, envisioning a building aimed to tell a 1000-year history, was by no means an easy task. The project designed by a Finnish architectural office Lahdelma & Mahlamäki won an international architectural competition organized in 2005 and headed by Bohdan Paczowski. Over 100 architects from all over the world submitted their projects to the competition, amongst them Zvi Hecker, Kengo Kuma and Daniel Libeskind.
The jury appreciated Rainer Mahlamäki’s project for its restraint and moderation with which it referred to the recent Polish-Jewish history. Despite its plain, geometrical volume, the building boasts a unique interior. Dynamic, curved walls of the main hall divide the building along the east-west axis. This fissure symbolizes a gap in the 1000-year long history of Polish Jews. Simultaneously, the monumental hall, full of light let in by an unusually large glazing opening onto the park, reminds us that the history has not yet ended, and that POLIN Museum is indeed the museum of life. It also serves as a link between the past, the present and the future – symbolized by a bridge on the first floor level, connecting the two halves of the building. The symbolism of the Museum is not limited to the interior: the building’s façade is clad with glass panels printed with Hebrew and Latin letters which read: “Polin” (Hebr. rest here), thus evoking the legend of Jewish arrival in the Polish land. The Museum’s name stems from this very legend.
The Finnish architect made sure his projects fitted in well with the surroundings. The building was constructed on a square plan, akin to the square of the Monument to the Ghetto Heroes. Its volume corresponds with the shape of adjacent residential buildings and the Monument itself. The Monument and the building enter into a dialogue: the former being a place of reflection and commemoration of those who perished, the latter providing means to discover the history of a Jewish existence in Poland.
In June 2009, two years after the winning project had been selected, an official ceremony of setting the foundation stone at the future building’s location took place. The construction of POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews began. It was completed in 2012.
Awards for POLIN Museum building
2016 Property Design Awards 2016 in the Massing – a public utility building category; presented at the 4 DESIGN DAYS in Katowice
Stavba of the Year – Czech architectural Prize
The Architectural Award of the Mayor of Warsaw for the best buildings of the years 2001-2014 – the award in the category: public utility building (public facility)
- The POLIN Museum building was shortlisted to enter the semi-final of the Mies van der Rohe international architectural competition, organized by the European Commission and Parliament, as well as the Mies van der Rohe Foundation
The Republic of Poland’s Architects’ Association Award of the Year
The Republic of Poland’s Architects’ Association Award for the best architectural realization financed by public funds, under the Honorary Auspices of the President of the Republic of Poland, awarded to the POLIN Museum building
POLIN Museum selected by the readers of the Polityka weekly to the Architectural Award (the building was shortlisted to the top five of the Polityka 2013 Architectural Award; it won the Internet users competition)
The Finnish Architectural Association (SAFA) awarded POLIN Museum with the Finlandia Prize for Achitecture
First prize at the Eurobuild Awards for the best design project of a commercial building or a public utility building in the Architectural Design of the Year category
The constructor of the Museum’s undulating walls, realised using the shotcrete method, was awarded the Outstanding Shotcrete Project of the Year in the international projects category
- The project of POLIN Museum building was granted a prestigious International Architecture Award by the Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design