COMPETITION FOR A PROJECT OF THE WARSAW MUSEUM OF THE HISTORY OF THE JEWS IN POLAND. COMMENTS BY A MUSEUM SPECIALIST (Konkurs na projekt Muzeum Historii Zydów Polskich w Warszawie. Uwagi muzealnika)
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The competition held by the Jewish Historical Institute for a project of the Warsaw Museum of the History of the Jews in Poland was an important event in Polish artistic life. The erection of the Museum will be also of relevance for museums all over the world since it proposed an entirely new formula of portraying the history of the Jewish nation living in one of the European states. The Warsaw museum will not limit itself to presenting the tragedy of the Holocaust, in the manner of, e. g. the Holocaust Museum in Washington, or the life and annihilation of Jews-residents of a single city, as in the case of the Jewish Museum in Berlin. Its intention is to enable the public to become acquainted with the history of the Jewish nation and the diversity of its culture, created in Polish lands for almost a thousand years. The project envisages a modern multimedia education and culture centre, whose formula will be distant from a traditional museum based on a display of its collections and exhibits. The public and service-commercial programmes will be linked by means of entrance and inner communication spaces, and include: a permanent exhibition on an area of 4200 sq. metres, changing exhibitions, an educational centre, a library and a mediatheque, a multimedia hall for Jewish communes, a children's playroom, a multi-functional auditorium, and projection rooms. The service-commercial programme will encompass a restaurant, a snack bar, shops intended for museum visitors and local residents, and parking lots. The selection of the best competition projects was determined by the merits of the functional-utilitarian programme as well as the qualities represented by the architectural form, the ability of blending the new building into the surrounding, and the symbolic contents of the building's architecture. The authors focused on the Holocaust tragedy which transpired in this area, the heroism of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, and the ghetto's final levelling to the ground. The point of reference for the projects was the Monument of the Heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto, commemorating the tragedy of the Warsaw Jews and unveiled in 1948 - one of the best recognised worldwide icons associated with Warsaw and the history of the Jews in Poland. The characteristic features of the winning project proposed by the Finnish Lahdelma and Mahlamaki Architects team include a highly meticulous inner modular organisation, flexibly planned spaces surrounding the central part of the building, and a startling design of the public space around the Monument of the Heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto. One of the striking suggestions is a dramatic split along the whole height of the regular cubicoid of the building's solid - a recollection of the parting of the Yam Suph Sea which enabled the Israelites to safely pass to the Promised Land. In this manner, the authors included into the architecture a Biblical event to revive the memory of the centuries-old history of the Polish Jews and to celebrate a ritual of a transition to a new epoch for both our nations.
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