Museum of The Polish History


Design: 2011

Client: Museum of The Polish History, firt prize in competition

Location: Warsaw, Poland

Team: Boris Kudlička, Marcin Mostafa , Natalia Paszkowska, Michał Bartnicki, Maciej Burdalski, Iwona Borkowska, Mateusz Pakuła, Antoni Szubski


Idea: Marcin Kobylecki, Krzysztof Noworyta

Art director: Jakub Jabłoński

Modelling: Sebastian Ośka

Animation: Alan Uran, Dominik Wawrzyniak, Wojciech Bagiński, Tomasz Dyrduła (Juice), Magdalena Samosiej (Juice)

Visualisations: Damian Bajowski, Marcin Panasiuk

Polish history is a topic so broad in scope and content, so multi-layered that only the introduction of a clearly readible leitmotif  linking all the elements of the exhibition can make it understandable and legible at its all levels. Concurrently, the leitmotif should be sufficiently universal so that  visitors representing different cultures and different age groups could identify with it. There exists a wide array of connotations and symbols depicting and defining Polish history – like patriotism, independence, motherland. But the most powerful, resounding and universal idea seems to be that of Freedom. It epitomizes all what is of the greatest importance in Poland’s history. We would like a person leaving the museum after seeing all the exhibition to be captivated by the idea that whatever happened in our history – anything good or bad – it  happened because of Freedom –  the excess or the lack of it, the painful efforts and fighting in order to regain it. At the same time we want to communicate that ‘yearning for freedom’ permeated, to a different degree, into all spheres of life – culture, economy, science. It was a motivation for significant, powerful political  actions as well as for individual decisions taken in everyday life. The idea of freedom creates a meeting space for two narratives –  the world of great politics and the world of an ordinary citizen. Visitors will maintain the balance between these two diametrically different stories once they discover and understand  their common denominater. By marking out freedom as an idea bonding together stories of Polish history we do not want to impose the interpretation of events. This is left to a visitor. We only suggest what could have motivated the events. We change the accents by signalling  that more important than remembering the very events is understanding  the cause they served and what they finally led to.

A starting point for creating a comprehensive narrative was devising a quick visiting path which will constitute the exhibition backbone by presenting some crucial moments of Polish history. Eight landmarks of Polish history are envisaged  to be included in the whole exhibition scale: Accepting Christianity, the Period of Regional Disintegration, Free Election, Partitions, Independence, the World War II and Solidarity Movement. All these events will be presented through long-lasting processes resulting from them. Visitors’ attention will be directed at cause-and-effect relations in different spheres of life – culture, economy, religion, science etc. Spatial  forms indicating consecutive stages of a quick visiting path will be ‘nests’ (a working term) – large, interactive installations, occupying a central place in each gallery. The ‘nests’ will differ in shape and aesthetics in order to be appropriate to the presented content and to enhance the communicative function of the presentation. The processes presented in the ‘nests’ will be depicted by means of visually attractive computer animations. Their aesthetics will vary according to the topic of the presentation, from comparatively simple iconography to spectacular reconstructions of the world of a given period. The highest priority of each process presentation is to make it  possibly most communicative and visually attractive. Visitors are expected to form a general view on each of presented topics so that everything they will see following the visiting of  the central installation will supplement their  previously gained  knowledge. By indicating the milestones in the exhibition narrative we want it to acquire the character of a film story. We want to produce –  in the space of the museum – a powerful effect of surprise while maintaining a sense of the continuity of time and action. This is to be attained by making the installations mutually visible, i.e., situating them in a way allowing the visitor to a particular installation  to see the next one in a place suggesting a logical connection of consecutive historical occurences.

The process of designing the artistic, material aspect of the exhibition was motivated by an overriding motto: ‘a detached form – a poignant content’. Working with abstract shapes and masses, which acquire meanings only after being appropriately lit and set up with projections and exhibits, we can succeed in creating a timeless and universal structure the reception of which is easily legible to visitors of different age brackets, of different cultural backgrounds. The exhibition design fully avails of a potential contained in the architectural project of the Museum – a largeness of an undefined, daylight flooded exhibition space. This space seems to call for a more explicit commentary, for introducing some dramatic effects and internal divisions. Then again, the simplicity and sincerity of the Museum’s architecture compels one to treat its interior in the similar way, which on the one hand complies with the best modernist traditions of pre-war Warsaw, on the other with the most recent world trends in designing museum buildings. The division of the exhibition space into particular zones determined by the narrative, was not achieved through introduction of walls or separate rooms – the whole stucture evolves creating successive spatial arrangements. The visiting path commences with organic forms, ‘boulders’, where the story about the origins of the Polish state begins. An act of Christening of Poland is presented by a concentrical  arrangement of elements which with the development of the narrativey become organized orthogonally creating an area on the plan of a square. In the middle of the square the visitors find a capsule – an alien form being a sort of a peculiar transporter to the place of an interesting action-event, namely the Election Field.  In the next Partitions zone an already dense urban structure levitates over the visitors heads, torn into three thematic parts. The Independence zone is created by floating shapes containing some realistic forms – a kiosk, a cinema, a theatre. They are the embodiment of people’s dreams about ‘glass houses’, offering at the same time a brief respite before entering the next zone, the World War II. Here the visitors encounter the city already in ruins, the exhibition shows arrangements reminding defragmented houses and streets between them. The last stage of the exhibition is Polish People’s Republic –  strongly marked by the  arrangement of forms evocative of powerful blocks of concrete buildings characteristic for that period. From this place the visitors proceed to the garden of Freedom  closing in this way a symbolic circle with the exhibition starting point. It is worth noting that this peculiar urban planning employed in the exhibition design is happening on the previously planned grid, visible in the flooring and in the majority of  divisions – the principles for creating space are pretty rigorous and only some exceptionally important events, the ones changing the course of history, like Poland’s Christening or Election Field, escape from under this strict rule.