The results of the selection process were unveiled on July 31. Several architecture studios had been invited to present their ideas and concepts for the project. 15 studios were accepted to the second stage, 12 of which confirmed their participation. The plans submitted by American architect Thomas Phifer turned out to be the most interesting of the final 12 designs.
The museum’s director Joanna Mytkowska and Wojciech Gorczyca, director of TR Warszawa, noted that all the procedural and preparatory details have already been discussed during the negotiations so Phifer’s team can begin preparing the design. The negotiations did not consider completed, ready-to-build plans – the final design has yet to be created. What the jury mainly looked at was the way the building would adapt to the urban space, and how the building would be utilized – a certain philosophy of designing and putting an architectural structure in a specific metropolitan context.
Thomas Phifer’s vision divides the facility into two parts – a museum and a theatre, connected by a square covered with a canopy. The priority of Phifer’s plan is to create a convenient link between the building and the surrounding streets, some of Warsaw's busiest. The building should not only serve as an art space for connoisseurs, but as a bustling urban facility which will attract people’s attention. Therefore, for example, the ground floor will be entirely surrounded by glass.
A building that reveals all it has - this idea of openness captivated the jury’s attention.
Since both institutions present visual and performative arts, the architecture of the facility must reflect the nature of both disciplines and disclose their nature to any chance observers and passers-by, summed up the jury.
Thomas Phifer, who worked with Richard Meier before embarking on a career as a solo architect, likes the idea of openness, transparency and simplicity in architecture. He is probably best known for the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh, USA. The visually deceptive transparency of his design for the Brochstein Pavilion at Rice University in Houston, Texas, blurs the line between the building’s interiors and the green spaces of the academic campus. Phifer’s projects are obstinately plain, stripped of any unnecessary details, ornamentation and extravagant formal solutions. They are mostly based on the shape, clarity of form and the juxtaposition of the materials used - the American architect uses concrete, stone, brick, and glass.
The facility is scheduled to be ready by 2019. The architects are hoping to finish designing the plans by 2016 so that construction can begin around mid-2016.
It’s worth mentioning that the first competition for the Modern Museum of Art project was announced as long ago as 9 years ago. However, the initial plans did not consider the theatre space.
The competition had great feedback yet certain inaccuracies in the rules of procedure made it impossible for several studios to take part in the competition. One year later, another international contest was announced, in which a Swiss architect’s project was chosen. Christian Kerez’s minimalistic concrete block stirred up a lot of controversy and eventually was never realised due to numerous misunderstandings between the architect and the investor, technical issues (as construction works for a new line of the Warsaw underground were about to begin), and financial problems, as well as an issue regarding property rights to the building site, as many people claimed they owned bits of the area at Pl. Defilad, in the heart of Warsaw.
Due to this controversy, the majority of investors were discouraged and for that reason negotiations with other design studios proved to be the best option.
The final dozen included well-known names such as UK’s Foster + Partners, the Danish Henning Larsen Architects, UNstudio from the Netherlands and Blond&Roux. Fiszer’s Studio, WXCA, JSK Architects and nsMoonStudio, Inżbud, Pas Projekt Archi Studio, Prochem SA and Kaczmarczyk Architect Studio also took part in the negotiations.
As the jury put it, Phifer’s concept will hopefully create a strong contrast to the monumentality and architectural conceit of the Palace of Culture and will represent the modern spirit of the capital.
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Authored by: Anna Cymer, July 2014