The Fab Five: Which of these stunning designs will be crowned Poland’s best?
Conducted by the prestigious Property Design portal, voting is underway to find Poland’s best public building of 2021.
Whittled down to a shortlist of five, the nominees include two museums, a mausoleum, a concert hall and a historic sanatorium. Returning after a covid-enforced break last year, the latest edition will accompany the 4 Design Days event, reputedly the largest architectural, real estate and design festival in the CEE region.
Aiming to showcase “unique investments, facilities with exceptional architecture, and spaces full of inspiring design”, polls will close on January 10th with the winner subsequently announced at a gala to be held in Katowice on January 27th.
Defined by their stylistic diversity, but unified by their standout quality, the five projects include the Gurewicz sanatorium in Otwock.
Completed in 1921, and financed by the Jewish entrepreneur Abram Gurewicz, it became known as ‘the pearl of Otwock’, a luxurious wellness resort that featured verandas for sunbathing, English-style gardens, a tennis court, reading room, and an in-house hairdresser to preen and prune the rich and wealthy.
Later used as a military hospital by the Luftwaffe, and then by the NKVD for the same purposes, it eventually fell into something approaching ruin – regardless, its fairytale charms were not lost on songstress Mela Koteluk who recorded the video of Melodia Ulotna in the grounds of the villa.
However, after years of abandonment it was handed a new lease of life this year by Grupa 5 Architekci despite the complete deterioration of its wooden substrate. Meticulous in their processes, the renovation saw the structure returned to its best with its confines housing a top-class clinic, hotel and restaurant.
Cited as one the finest examples of the Świdermajer architectural style, the project has been hailed as a triumphant demonstration of artisanal practice.
At the other end of the spectrum, Bielsko-Biała’s Cavatina Hall is positively futuristic in comparison and has been described as “a national first” for the manner in which it has combined A-class commercial and cultural functions.
Designed by the Cavatina Group, the visionary building is notable for its stunning glass orb-like design, and is believed to be the first concert hall in the world to contain a special ‘music therapy zone’.
Of it’s other key features, its 1,000-seater concert hall has been equipped with a state-of-the-art immersive sound system which allows ever visitors – no matter where they are sat – to feel like they are in the very middle of the sound.
Touting views of the Beskid Mountains from its upper floors, the landmark object also features 800 sq/m of green terraces as well as numerous publicly accessible sections.
Not far away, Chorzów, too, finds itself in the running for recognition thanks to the success of its Metallurgical Museum.
Created with the intention of promoting the history and heritage of Poland’s steel industry, the museum has handed the century-old Huta Królewska plant a new direction whilst enriching its pre-existing architecture with new elements such as naturally corrosive Corten steel.
Spectacularly illuminated in the evenings, the cultural value provided by the museum has gone hand-in-hand with both its visual and social qualities. Specifically designed to integrate with the local architecture and community, the facility includes a permanent multimedia exhibition, meeting spaces and surrounding greenery.
The work of Blank Architekci, the studio has already earned widespread praise for the way in which it has readapted a previously unloved industrial plant.
The company said: “It was a great challenge and adventure for us. We still remember from our childhood the plant that operated here and the enormity of the objects, the flames visible from the street, the heat, omnipresent noise, dust and smoke.
“What was so fascinating, frightening and alluring at the same time, no longer exists today, but our intention was to recall these memories, save them in the project and, as it were, preserve them for future generations.”
This, though, is not the only museum in the running, and competition has been provided by the Siberian Memorial Museum in Białystok. Designed by ARKON Jan Kabac, the ground-breaking institution has also helped regenerate a previously unloved building and has seen the conversion of a pre-war military warehouse into a museum dedicated to the Poles that have been exiled east over the centuries.
Comprised, also, of a new body characterized by its austere combination of glass and concrete, the museum has been purposefully surrounded by a ‘forest’ of steel poles symbolic of the bleak Siberian landscape.
Finally, it is no surprise to find Nizio Design International also presenting a case for the top prize. Already well-known for an enviable list of projects that have served to transform Poland’s cultural offer, their Museum of Martyrdom of Polish Villages in Michniów has cemented their reputation yet further by marrying architectural merit with user-friendly experience.
Commemorating the 1943 pacification of Michniów and other similar brutalities committed during WWII, the memorial was 13-years in the making and was created to consist of eleven concrete segments, six of which have been left as open structures.
According to the design team, “the expressive architecture and intentional, progressive degradation of the solid,” were built to emphasize and foster an atmosphere that was unique.
“The materials that dominate in the interior are concrete, wood from the old huts and barns that was brought in from the surrounding villages, and black steel, and these serve as a medium for the exhibition narrative,” they say.
“The viewer can feel the disturbing smell of steel and blackened, scorched wood,” they continue, “and these factors were designed to affect the senses of the visitors.”
Moreover, the symbolic huts were specifically constructed so as to clash and collide with each other so as to bring to mind “a cataclysm.”
Set partially within a field of crosses, it has already won a slew of plaudits for its style and treatment of this raw but often forgotten subject.