Meet the new Silesian Museum

While a preparatory work is running at the construction site of the new Silesian Museum and the prime contractor waits to sign the contract and to enter the site, take a few minutes and become familiar with the future building. Here is the interview with Anna Pędziwiatr, an architect from the Austrian Riegler Riewe Architekten studio based in Graz, which is responsible for an architectural and urban concept of the new Silesian Museum’s seat. Anna Pędziwiatr is also a leading architect of the project working on the concept from the beginning.

What was your key-stone while designing the new seat of the Silesian Museum?

A basis for our concept was the extremely interesting surroundings of the planned new seat. Actually, distinctive glass boxes were a next step while creating the architectural concept. The most important for us were the existing buildings of the former coal mine and a construction site in front of them designed for the new Museum. A location of the building under the ground enabled to propose a bigger and more functional structure. If we planned a building placed on the ground, it would limit the development area and the existing buildings would be shaded.

What was the main obstacle during the designing process?

It came out, that the real challenge for us was the elevation. We wanted, that the new structure do not shade the historic buildings. At the same time, we understood the new Museum will be hidden under the ground and will be out of sight. So, the new ground structure had to be interesting and intriguing for passers-by. It was our leading idea. In effect, we decided for glass solid figures. These boxes look very innocent, but in reality will be like quite massive buildings more than ten meters high.

© Riegler Riewe Architekten; Silesian Museum
© Riegler Riewe Architekten; Silesian Museum

Is there any other function of the glass boxes than the elevation?

We would like to give visitors a chance to contact with the surroundings located above, on the surface. We did not want to create a close, isolated world under the ground. Thereby, the next function is an illumination of the interior. While the illumination is also possible by typical garret windows in the roof, but our aim was to create a symbol for this place, some kind of a sign. These abstract glass boxes will be lighten up after dark. And this is another function which will cause a question asked by passers-by: “what is this, maybe it’s worth a look?”. The illuminated boxes will have a strong effect on human imagination. Furthermore, these blocks are going to have a technical asset. Some installations connected with an air-conditioning will be located inside. Such the fair-sized building for the very important institution has to use many installations which are to be located outside the Museum. We used the glass boxes to hide these installations. The boxes will be based on steel construction covered with the glass.

How the elevation will look like, if we come closer?

The glass boxes will be made of an acid-etched glass. We did not decide about the level of transparency yet, but there will be a texture on its surface imitating fossils which refer to coal. If we are talking about the elevation’s shape, it will not be a smooth vertical surface. This is a pattern of overlapped scales inclined to one side. The scales will not be bounded. There will be small free spaces between them to let the air flows. This is a practical solution. In case of a close block, a temperature would be too high inside. The underground part of the glass box will be estranged from the above level by a surface of the roof. The partitive surface will be made of glass as well. A similar solution was proposed in the administration’s office building located on the ground where a double elevation is planned. The internal elevation will be made of glass, the overlapped scales will be used on the external elevation. The scales can be opened in the place of windows. Each storey is going to be covered by four glassy scales with a size of 77 x 195 centimeters.

The underground interiors will surely be interesting…

There are three main zones in the building under the ground. If we take a look on the building’s section there is: a two-level stationary exhibition area located on the left, a 10-meters high one-level zone for temporary exhibitions in the middle and a three-storey conference part on the right. The administration building will be situated just above the conference area. To make a public circulation easier, ramps, lifts and moving stairs are going to be implemented. These various ways of circulation of visitors has to help arranging the public areas. It means, that a closing of, for example a temporary part to exchange the exhibition, will not cause any difficulties in visiting other areas of the Museum. A main part of the building is a so called central hall. Our intention was, that the hall would connect all the existing coal-mine buildings, grand foyer and the car park. It will be an underground connection route. The three-level car park was designed as a separated underground block borders on the Museum on the north. There will be a place for 232 vehicles.

&copy Riegler Riewe Architekten; building's longitudinal section
© Riegler Riewe Architekten; building's longitudinal section

The major part of the Museum will be located under the ground. How will it affect the visitors?

We wanted, that the guests entering the underground got a sense of direction at a glance. They will be able to see all the levels and glass boxes from the grand foyer. A space, light and bright colours will dominate the underground. If we are under the ground, the bright colours are more friendly for us. Another important thing was to implement good materials and architectural solutions, costs were not the most important issue. For example, we used glass walls in the conference part where an auditorium, library, chamber rooms and workshops are situated. Together with bright colours, it will help to “open” the space and make it friendly for users.

Did the future owner desire any special conveniences?

From the very beginning we tried to design the building making it as most functional as possible. The interior enables to arrange the zones flexibly, what seems very important for the Museum. The chambers can be parted using special walls or be arranged in cabins. Also, there will be sliding walls in the temporary exposition area. A functional quality, flexibility in arranging the interiors is a real asset of the new Museum. Not only the shape, architecture, but mostly many possibilities of the space arrangement for the future user was very important. Thereby, the lowest level of the building will give an unlimited opportunity to adapt the space by excluding a chosen part or integrating the entire space. Additionally, storage rooms will be located on the same level as the expositions, what will make the expositions’ changing more efficient. A total area of the complex is estimated at 25 000 sq. meters – it will allow for an easy operation of the Museum.

Let’s go back outside. What will the Museum’s surroundings look like?

An access road will directly connect the complex with Roździeńskiego Av. A foot-bridge will be built over the road linking the existing “Bogucki” Park with a park planned on the roof of the new Museum. Footpaths made of macadam will be traced on the roof’s surface. Small squares in the park will be made of a brushed concrete. Decorated plants and grasses will also cover the roof. The foot-bridge and the roof’s footpaths are going to be a recreation path towards other planned buildings in the area – the International Convention Center and the new seat of Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra. We are also responsible for a revitalization of two post-industrial facilities of the coal mine. The first one is designed for a restaurant, the second building will be a seat of the Polish Scenography Center. Moreover, the former “Warszawa II” mineshaft will be restored and adapted for visitors – a sightseeing platform is going to be situated on the top.

© Riegler Riewe Architekten; Silesian Museum
© Riegler Riewe Architekten; Silesian Museum