The origins of the Museum of the History of the Polish Jews go back to the mid-1990s, when the founding director of Tel Aviv’s Diaspora Museum and theHolocaust Museum in Washington DC, Yeshayahu Weinberg, convened an international working group to plan a new museum dedicated to the history of the Polish Jews. Some 150 researchers from different countries in Europe, Israel and North America participated in gathering the material on the history and lives of the Jewish people. By the year 2003, the fundamental idea and preliminary exhibition plan for the museum had been completed.
In spring 2005 an international architectural competition was held for the design of the building to house the museum. The selection of the participants of the architectural competition was based on expressions of interest. Among the architects invited to join the second stage of the competition were Studio Daniel Libeskind, Kengo Kuma & Associates, Zvi Hecker Architects, Peter Eisenman, David Chipperfield and six other groups, including Lahdelma & Mahlamäki Architects.
The international members of the jury included among others, Professor Kenneth Frampton. The proposal “Yum Suf”, “Sea of Reeds”, by Lahdelma & Mahlamäki Architects was declared winner in summer 2005.
Warsaw has been one of the most important cities for Jews; before the Second World War there were half a million Jewish inhabitants in the city. The museum’s plot is about a kilometre away from the old centre of Warsaw. The site is a park surrounded by residential buildings. The park located there today, named after the former Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, Willy Brandt, formed the core of the Warsaw ghetto. The Memorial to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising is erected in the park.
The Memorial to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising located next to the museum is one of the key points of departure for the design. The square in front of the memorial and the museum are sufficiently close together and their dimensions are mutually compatible: the square and the museum building will form a new urban space.
The main entrance is placed on the memorial side of the building, from where a series of spaces continues via a bridge towards the landscape. The basic form of the building is compact and simple, reducing its footprint in the surrounding park. The competition jury stated in its evaluation, that the concept had been realized “without unnecessary rhetoric, with simplicity and elegance”.
The name of the competition proposal, “Yum Suf”, symbolically refers to the architecture of the main hall. The inspiration for the space has been the legends of the Old Testament, although at the same time forms of the hall refer to the universal and abstract phenomena of nature. The main hall is the most important element in the architecture of the building; a pure and silent space introducing the museum to the visitors.
The museum building is a multifunctional centre for research, exhibition, education and culture relating to the Jewish heritage. The core exhibition area comprises a hall that resembles an only half-finished space, almost five thousand square metres in area, beneath the main lobby. The exhibition will present the
different forms and periods of Jewish culture from the Middle Ages on until today– the holocaust is only one of the themes of the exhibition. The message will be conveyed in the form of a narrative exhibition, making use of reconstruction, moving pictures, and various constructed milieus and to minor extent also historical
objects. The plan for the core exhibition was part of the competition source material, and the functional requirements and gallery division for the exhibition were to be considered in designing the building.
There is to be a special focus on young people. The museum expects half a million visitors annually. The frame of the building is cast-in-situ concrete. The free-form walls and the curving shapes of the roof connecting to them form part of the frame system. The total thickness of the steel structured and sprayed concreted wall is about 60 cm. The design of the curved walls, which are bearing structures, was particularly challenging. To the best of our knowledge it is the biggest uniform, geometrically double curving surface that has ever been realized.
The design was partly implemented with assistance of software developed by the designer specifically for this project by Markus Wikar / Architects Lahdelma & Mahlamäki.
The outer layer of the double facade is to be clad with laminated glass panels and pre-treated, perforated copper panels.
The groundbreaking ceremony of the Museum was held on site in Warsaw the 26th of June, 2007. The building permission drawings were handed over to the City of Warsaw in the spring 2008. The foundation stone was laid in June of 2009. The Opening Ceremony took place on 19th of April 2013. The Core Exhibition will open to the public in 2014.
Il nuovo Museo storico degli Ebrei in Polonia porterà la firma di Ilmari Lahdelma e Rainer Malmäki. I due architetti finlandesi, vincitori del concorso internazionale di progettazione promosso dall’associazione degli istituti storici sull’ebraismo, hanno battuto ben 118 candidati provenienti da tutto il mondo, tra i quali compaiono nomi di fama internazionale quali Daniel Libeskind e Kengo Kuma.
Il museo sorgerà su una pianta quadrata accanto al monumento dedicato agli eroi del Ghetto di Varsavia. Le pareti in cemento saranno rivestite da lastre di vetro trasparente illuminate che daranno lucentezza alla facciata.
L’intero edificio sarà attraversato da una grande fenditura, simbolo del passaggio degli ebrei attraverso il Mar Rosso e della loro tragica storia. Il tunnel di vetro condurrà significativamente al monumento agli eroi del Ghetto di Varsavia.
Nel sotterraneo sono previsti gli spazi per le esposizioni; la biblioteca sarà ospitata a piano terra, mentre il centro culturale e l’auditorium troveranno spazio rispettivamente al primo e al secondo piano. “Abbiamo suggerito delle modifiche al progetto – spiega il direttore del Museo Jerzy Halbersztadt – Il progetto è eccellente ma cercheremo di convincere gli architetti a sistemare parte degli spazi espositivi a piano terra”.
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