This is undoubtedly the biggest success of Polish architecture in recent history. Opened in Autumn 2014 , the Mieczysław Karłowicz Philharmonic Hall in Szczecin received the Mies van der Rohe Award, the most important award in Europe and one of the most prestigious in the world. The award was announced on May 8, 2015, at the Mies van der Rohe pavilion in Barcelona.
In 2007 Fabrizio Barozzi and Alberto Veiga won an international architecture competition to build Szczecin Philharmonic Hall . They proposed the construction of this historic, monumental building topped with opaque glass, which was finally completed and opened in September 2014. From the outside, the building has a form that, at a first glance, stands in contrast to the city’s architecture. It almost seems to clash with the environment rather than blend into it. The building is evocative of either a palace, or the tip of an iceberg. And, while it continues to attract controversy, it certainly does its job as it draws attention to the city of Szczecin.
To this day, it is the architecture of the Philharmonic which draws the most attention. Since its creation, the bright, white concert hall has stood in the center of the city. The building has been carefully designed: The white hall is only divided by two staircases (one straight and wide, the other spiral). The focal point of the building is the symphonic concert hall, with acoustics permitting even the preparation of studio recordings. The color of the auditorium is evocative of the sun: It is golden, and composed of irregular triangle plates. The concert hall is not only visually impressive–Acoustic tests conducted in the auditorium of the Szczecin Philharmonic have confirmed that its conditions compare to the standards of the Viennese Musikverein concert hall, considered a global benchmark of acoustic quality. The 951 seats designed especially for this space also play a part in this extraordinary quality of sound transmission.
However, many are still wary of its modern design. Such abstract buildings are rare in Poland, and the Philharmonic Hall goes against many of the architectural norms we are accustomed to. In the hall there are almost no windows, no traditional divisions between floors, and the abnormal colors stand out against the bricks of the surrounding buildings.
But you cannot say that this building, designed by Spanish Studio Barozzi Veiga, is a piece of typical abstract architecture devoid of context. The building was created to replace a concert hall that was destroyed during World War Two, and the white silhouette of the Philharmonic harkens back to its historical roots. According to the architects’ vision, the shape of the Philharmonic is evocative of the cityscape, as well as the environment of the grounds directly surrounding it. The sharp and pointed structure echoes the towers of nearby churches, as well as the shapes of municipal buildings and housing with sloping roofs. The abstract, "artistic" nature of the building combined with the context of its surroundings shows its true value.
The international jury for the Mies van der Rohe Award visited Szczecin and the four other finalists at the end of April 2015. The jury was comprised of several famous architects, including Italian architect Cino Zucchi, Bolles+Wilson co-founder Peter L Wilson and the RIBA's Tony Chapman. The other finalists were the Maritime Museum in Helsingør, Denmark created by BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group), Antinori Winery in Florence by the Archea Associati studio, the Ravensburg Art Museum designed by the Lederer Ragnarsdóttir Oei architects, and the Saw Swee Hock Student Centre at the London School of Economics, created by O’Donnell + Tuomey architects.
All of the finalists for the award were truly qualified, but in the end the Mieczysław Karłowicz Philharmonic Hall in Szczecin was recognized for its artistic and impressive form.
Edited by: ASJ 11/5/2015