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Susan Smith
Susan Smith
Susan Smith has worked as an editor and writer in the technology industry for over 16 years. As an editor she has been responsible for the launch of a number of technology trade publications, both in print and online. Currently, Susan is the Editor of GISCafe and AECCafe, as well as those sites’ … More »

Museum of Polish History in Warsaw by Vlado Valkof

February 15th, 2011 by Susan Smith

The proposed hybrid structure of the Museum of Polish History (MPH) located in Warsaw, Poland, is a footbridge, park and building, all three integrated and coherent with the surrounding park environment. Vlado Valkof’s proposal for the MPH facility is a synergy of nature and history and was inspired by the Polish topography of gently rolling fields and plains. Valkof wanted to create a Museum of History dug underground where the local historical values are naturally preserved. The morphology of MPH was influenced by the idea of history as a process of constant transformation. Presented here is only current portion of that continuous process.

Museum of Polish History

Museum of Polish History

Type : culture

Location : Warsaw, Poland

Date : 2009

Status : competition

Client : Museum of Polish History, Warsaw, Poland

Area : 43,365 sq.m.

Budget : € 87,000,000

Credits : Vlado Valkof – project architect, Anne Valkof, Stanislav Christov – designers, Assen Balkanski – rendering

Valkof emphasizes the park’s great significance for the natural and cultural environment of Warsaw by preserving as much of the existing greenery as possible, enriching it with a green roofscape and blocking the intrusion of cars into the park. Access to the new building will be from the existing main road Trasa Lazienkowska instead of from the small park streets of ul. Jazdow and ul. Agrykola.



Anne Valkof and Stanislav Christov’s design restores the integrity of Skarpa Warszawska and improves its slope stability by covering the Trasa Lazienkowska and connecting its two embankments from the foot of the scarp to Plac na Rozdrozu with park terrace and the hybrid structure of the MPH. This hybrid structure is designed to exist independently and still connect the two embankments in case the second stage of extending the park over Trasa Lazienkowska and its complete covering fails or is delayed. The highway underneath the covering shall be mechanically ventilated. In order to cover the Trasa from the foot of the scarp to Plac na Rozdrozu the team modified the current layout of the Pl. Na Rozdrozu junction by a nearly 90-degree rotation of the right-turn out-lane of Trasa Lazienkowska into Al. Ujazdowskie towards the city centre and Pl. Trzech Krzyzy. Their layout of pedestrian passages and biking routes takes into careful consideration the historic layout of passages and provides connections between the Museum and neighboring facilities. Valkof reestablishes ul. Jazdow and ul. Lenona as pedestrian passages and emphasizes the importance of Os Stanislawowska. A new passage starts from the intersection of the Os Stanislawowska with Al. Ujazdowskie, passing by the MHP facility and connecting with the existing passages and biking routes from the northeast part of the park.

site plan

site plan

Instead of removing a new green field from the park the minimized footprint of Valkof’s proposal is positioned over the existing trench and on both sides of the Trasa Lazienkowska highway, which is characterized by low slope stability that needs to be shored up anyway. Valkof utilized the large cubic capacity that was the result of the necessary removal of the landslide and located the volumes of new building in there. Special treatment of was given to the slope and diaphragm walls as indirect foundations of the facility so the proposed structure shall perform both supporting and securing functions for the slope. A double-height lighter exhibition zone is positioned on top of the trench while the four-level zone is embedded in the hillside of Trasa Lazienkowska trench. The covering is devised to significantly reduce the levels of noise and air pollution in the area. The building above shall be designed with sound-insulated extra thick floor slab in combination with sound-insulated exterior walls which will limit the penetration of noise from Trasa into the facility. It seems possible to use pre-stressed hollow-core slabs, 40 cm in height with additional insulation of concrete screed. The position of the building over the trench of Trasa eases its access to existing municipal networks, utilities, and infrastructure.

Section 03

Section 03

MPH access is possible from two points of entry – one for park pedestrians and bikers directly from the representative castle plaza and another one – for “motorized” visitors, the majority of visitors who will arrive with coach buses and public transportation from Trasa Lazienkowska. Both access entries merge into one service center/hub/ lobby/check point on the main floor, for such common uses as cloak room, reception desk, children’s zone, bookstore and other supporting services.

Section 04

Section 04

Design of an access to the MPH facility with all accompanied new incoming traffic of supply and service trucks, coach buses, visitors and employee cars from small, internal park streets (D class) like ul. Jazdow and ul. Agrykola will interrupt the quiet park environment. Valkof proposes an access to the Museum of Polish History from the existing main road — Trasa Lazienkowska. They will maintain the current number of lanes and design two additional lanes that will predominantly serve the Museum facility, with a side clearance width of 4.70 m. One of the two entry points, the one for “motorized” visitors, is located on the slab of Trasa, “hidden” in the highway trench. -6.0 story includes drop off area/bus stop, secondary lobby, archives, storerooms, loading dock for supply trucks and garage for supply vehicles, and has a 5m clear height. In order to accommodate the new columns on piles located between the traffic lanes of Trasa, they moved up and widened only one of the lanes slightly, by 1.2m.

Floor plan

Floor plan

Because of the inconvenience of remote parking, visitor and employee parking is ramped down beneath the secondary lobby /drop off story. The development of underground parking is optional but strongly recommended. Car parks under the flyover of the Trasa Lazienkowska shall be only secondary, subordinate parking for busy days like weekends and holidays and general service of the park. The parking lot for bus coaches is also located under the flyover of the Trasa, still in the vicinity of the Museum.

The main story is located 6 meters above the Trasa trench on the level of Zamek Ujazdowski entry. It contains the main entrance, forum, multimedia info zone, cloak room, double-height exhibition galleries, children’s zone, audience halls, and media library. The entire floor podium of the exhibition galleries is ramped with a gentle slope of 1.5% to follow the natural slope of Trasa Lazienkowska. The interconnected galleries of interwoven epochs deliver visitors into a complex non-linear loop/labyrinth in reverse chronological order. The maze scheme facilitates the separation of exhibition galleries for maintenance and updates. The intermediate level of Restaurant/Café is two meters below the main lobby level at the bottom of the ramp; through structural glazing, it offers spectacular views down from Wisla area.

Because of the proximity to Zamek Ujazdowski and other cultural institutions in the park, Valkof brings together such amenities as the children’s zone, lecture halls and media library into a common hub on the castle/park level which can be shared and utilized not only by MPH but also by the Museum of Contemporary art in Zamek Ujazdowski and other neighboring facilities which may have outdated or insufficient infrastructure. After museum hours, when the exhibition galleries are closed, the design allows for the common amenities to operate independently and serve an outside crowd. It is also possible for the children’s zone to serve not only visitors but also employees.

Towards the northern embassies area of the park the MPH structure is a continuation of the park landscape, while towards the castle it has the transparent look of main entry with the oblique and “unstable” planes of structural glass curtain wall that assures views from its surroundings and the Zamek in particular. The shared representative plaza in front of both facilities better connects the new Museum with the castle. The new museum is lower than the castle, rising from earth like an artificial hill to avoid overshadowing, disturbing or blocking the castle and other historic monuments in the area. MPH orientation allows visitors to approach the Museum on the side of the central Os Stanislawowska.

The multiple duty Green Roof is in the same time a panorama deck, and compelling classroom for extended education and debate, and an additional outdoor exhibition gallery which life exposition is the present-day city of Warsaw. The lawn of the green roof serves as an attractive spot for leisure and relaxation . People can individualize the experience and observe the exhibition galleries downstairs from the roof deck through green roof skylights/hatches, thus igniting their interest to go inside and look at the collection more closely. The design allows visitors to look at, learn from and perceive historical facts from different points of view. The proposed MPH building does not block the air-flow regulating system in Warsaw and will allow for fauna migrations from forest complexes. Its green roof will limit rain water flow into the sewer system.

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