Warsaw History Museum

This competition entry sought to make a building, a park, and an urban space promoting participative interactivity with both Polish history and the culture and city of urban Warsaw. The design should be viewed as a set of interfaces through which the visitor — or simply the passerby — can explore, experience, and engage with history in a park setting. The following considerations inform the building:

Information Strategy

The project should be seen more as a mediatheque than as mere storage for dead reliquaries and found objects from history. Many efforts were made through the use of architecture, landscape architecture, and urbanism to promote the re-animation of history through conversation, digital interface, and pneumonic devices. The site was developed as a network through which Polish history was continually re-energized by the re-evaluation of the present alongside the facts, supported by objects, of the past. The media room, envisioned more as a living room than a library, took the ceremonial center of the building and directly connected it with all of the departments for which the building is planned. Directly above, on the roof of the building, and connected with the media room, is a history garden. This garden is also easily accessible by the public and incorporates space for inscribed instructional texts, surfaces for fleeting texts (an urban blackboard, electronic ticker-tape), selected objects & statues, discussion gardens, and 2-meter tall hybrid skylight/touch-screen computers all of which allow people to engage directly with the history of Poland and Warsaw informally. From this garden views were orchestrated into the exhibition areas to help make connection between living and curated history. The exhibition rooms were choreographed into two bands which allow different speeds for the explanation of Polish history. Throughout the expanded site, the 2-meter tall glass totems were used to allow the same digital access to history as well as becoming signals for the location of events throughout the year through light and sound.

Building Strategy

The project maximized its relationships to the site forces and the beautiful surrounding environment. As such, the Forum, the Exhibition Reception Hall, the café, and the administrative offices all peek over the edge to views of the Wisla River Valley below. The building is a slender form located in the gap between the trees above the causeway, working in conjunction with the Ujazdow Castle by re-enforcing the Skarpa as the location of the most prominent Polish cultural buildings. The Forum and the café both open to a patio adjacent to the bikeway which connects this building to the Parliamentary building to the North, helping to make the MPH a destination and part of collective experience of the city through landscape. The design made the MPH an “open” building and “user-friendly” — making it easy to bring people into and on top of it, providing numerous activities to allow visitors to stay awhile, and helping them to experience the best elements of the site alongside the history of Poland. 

Urban Strategy

The design pushed to reconnect the site with the original Baroque planning system through placement of a series of circular elements helping pedestrians navigate the path from the city into the culture park. In combination with other strategies, the circles sought to erase the current spatial separation of the park from the city. Visual access of the Ujazdow Castle along the Baroque axis from the city was maintained and a new row of trees — though spaced farther apart — emphasized this connection for future generations as they grow larger. Additionally, the axis was re-energized as an art walk mixing pedestrian, bicycle, automobile, and bus traffic. The site will remain under the canopy of the existing trees. The covered freeway, Trasa Lazienkowska, could be seen as an open pedestrian bridge floating between the existing trees of the forest. It hosted a series of park-programs and supplementary planting structures. Ancillary programs featured vendors of Polish cuisine, spaces which seek to memorialize aspects of Polish history, as well as structures such as a beer garden and a merry-go-round which facilitated the enjoyment of the park

Park Strategy

The competition entry sought to affirm the park as a continuous system providing an understanding of the city through a series of landscape strategies. It was developed as a cultural landscape seeking to infuse components of Polish History alongside other events and activities with the intention to transform this region of the park from its current passive/pastoral existence to a participatory/programmed landscape complimenting and supporting the activities of the buildings which are there. The circles, inspired by the numerous Baroque planning circles of Warsaw, became locations for activities, but also how planting was organized. In them were planted miniature, contained forests of single tree types important to Polish history. Atop the Trasa Lazienkowska, the circles were mass planters for plants with shallow roots such as edible gardens, rhizome plants, and large seasonal flower beds.