The Museum of Polish Jews

A Museum is the place where we save the details of the past, but can also be a wisp of hope for the future.

cisnenegro Fotografía Fox Searchlight Pictures

Hi, the history of mankind often is summarized with words or numbers, reducing the reality to entities that have not soul and that do not allow to understand all the dimension of a tragedy, of a discovery, of the work of a person, etc. Luckily, since ancient times the mankind has found another way to bequeath his past, more direct and explicit: through of the preservation and exhibition of objects that remind us of what has happened, what is commonly known as museums (how I like museums!).

On 28 October of the last year (2014 for who read it beyond the year 2015), opened its doors to the public a very special Museum, in Warsaw (Poland), but before giving more details I’ll talk about a girl named Natalie Portman, born in Israel and American of adoption, has become on her own merits in a star of the current movie scene. Her well deserved Oscar for the film “Black Swan” only testifies to this reality, but this woman is something else, for me, Rodolfo, is the best actress in the world, and you know by experience, rarely I am mistaken.

POLIN-Museum-of-the-History-of-Polish-Jews-ext02 foto Wojciech Kryński

But if you think that I name Natalie by pride and personal entertainment, you are wrong (although not much), despite my admiration for her work (and by herself) she would not be part of this study if she were not descendants of the Jews settled in Poland (paternal side), the Museum of which I spoke in the previous paragraph is in their honour: Museum Polin. Many Jews arrived in Poland fleeing from the conflicts of the Medieval, whose name in Hebrew, Polin, means “here you will rest”, this “signal” was interpreted as an invitation to stay in the place. They did so, settling in their new home until the devastating Holocaust.

The building was designed by Lahdelma & Mahlamaki Architecs and was carried out with the collaboration of other architecture studio: Kurylowicz & Associates. It consists of a volume parallelepiped within a huge Esplanade in the Park Willy Brandt, where was the Jewish ghetto during the war. But this is not the reason for the creation of the Museum, it is a memorial of the 1,000 years of history of those who lived there and live, a testimony of what happened in Poland, and has multifunctional vocation, devoting parts of its enclosure to the exhibition, research, education and culture.

POLIN-Museum-of-the-History-of-Polish-Jews-int02 foto Wojciech Kryński

The contest that given by winner this architectural gift was organized in 2005 and was organized to it, (nothing more and nothing less than) a hundred of projects, enough to ask if you had not chosen other project… we know that “to taste, colours”; some of popularity as Kengo Kuma & Associates, Peter Eisenman or Zvi Hecker. In July 2009 started the construction of the enclosure finishing in May 2013, although it was not until October 2014 when opened the central and permanent exhibition on Jews in this part of the world occupying the central part of the building with 5,000 square meters of surface.

3717_1_PUBLISHED_FULL Fotografía kurylowicz y associates

The total area of the site have been 12.442 square meters (with park included, of course), being the total area of the Museum of 16.374,16 (almost nothing). What won the hearts of the jury (as they say me in confidence) was the intention of the designer to give priority to the vitality and the optimism, not holding on, therefore, to specific periods. Thus, the outer volume is made of two layers, one glass and bronze, which gives a spectacular brightness to the enclosure, and another inside of reinforced concrete, being the main structure. The symbolism is present in every detail, from the glasses where is printed the word “Polin” in Hebrew, until the deep cut that extends from one end of the building to the other.

This court takes you from the entrance, with its singular inclination, until the larger indoor enclosure, to the rear with an incredible window. In front of it, a solitary tree seems to challenge with kindness, which big can be the architecture when used with intelligence and audacity. This “tunnel”, whose wavy walls were coated with sprayed concrete, is inspired in the distant past of the Hebrew people, when according to the Old Testament Moses opened the Red Sea so that his people could escape from the Egyptians. The concrete, of sandy color (remember you?) adheres to a structure composed of twisted steel elements, calculated by Arbo Projekt with detail, its diagonal strokes give sensation of movement and characterized its amorphous volume, I can assure you, I want an equal!

3658_1_PUBLISHED_FULL Fotografía kurylowicz y associates

Built by the company Polimex Mostostal S.A., the cost of the work was 152 million PLN (Polish Zloty, which are some 36 million euros to change), the height of the building is 21.15 meters and is divided into four floors, also taking two underground floors. The construction area is 4.414,50 square meters (with sides of 67 metres) and the area of interior curved wall (the cleavage) is 5,700 square meters. They have been used 15,000 cubic meters of reinforced concrete with 1,000 tons of corrugated steel supplied by the company ArcelorMittal (the most important European steel company), also have been used 800 tons of structural steel in the curved wall and other elements.

Just in front of the Museum, stands the monument to the heroes of the Ghetto uprising, installed in 1948, and in which the Chancellor German social democrat Willy Brandt became a genuflection in an act of humility and Penance toward the victims of the ghetto on December 7, 1970. The building is also composed of temporary exhibitions, auditorium for 450 people, a center of education, screening rooms, restaurant Café (never without this last). Inside, the Architecture Studio Plus Group, deployed all its good work, designing the necessary environment to 2.480 square meters of offices and combining elegance with bright colours.

3659_1_PUBLISHED_FULL Fotografía kurylowicz y associates

The Museum has already won the “architectural design of the year” award from the EuroBuild Awards, but more importantly, has earned a place in today’s Europe, the progress means not to forget. Two elements most called my attention above the rest, the powerful white spiral staircase and the replica of the roof of a synagogue from the 17TH century (of wood) painted with different religious, plant and animal motifs. Worth visiting this place, remember what happened in different centuries, and look to the future with renewed optimism (to the pair that with more knowledge).

I have clear that I will imitate to Rainer Mahlamaki (architect responsible for the design) and the construction that I have to make, I will include a huge amorphous wall that remind me this Museum, as well I will have a new excuse to visit it. Bye bye.

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