»I hate vacations. If you can build buildings, why sit on the beach?«

Philip Johnson

Blog Building of the Week

Set Piece

The new Cricoteka in Krakow

  • Cricoteka, the Centre for the Documentation of the Art of Tadeusz Kantor which lies on the right bank of the Vistula river. (All photos: Iñigo Bujedo Aguirre, copyright: Biuro Architektoniczne Wizja sp. z o.o.) 1 / 15  Cricoteka, the Centre for the Documentation of the Art of Tadeusz Kantor which lies on the right bank of the Vistula river. (All photos: Iñigo Bujedo Aguirre, copyright: Biuro Architektoniczne Wizja sp. z o.o.)
  • Its new main structure features a mirrored underbelly which arches over and reflects views of the old power station which is also part of the complex. 2 / 15  Its new main structure features a mirrored underbelly which arches over and reflects views of the old power station which is also part of the complex.
  • The building contrasts with the architecture of Krakow's Old Town‚ which is nearby. 3 / 15  The building contrasts with the architecture of Krakow's Old Town‚ which is nearby.
  • Biuro Architektoniczne Wizja and nsMoonStudio won the competition to adapt and design the riverbank site. (Axonometric courtesy of the architects) 4 / 15  Biuro Architektoniczne Wizja and nsMoonStudio won the competition to adapt and design the riverbank site. (Axonometric courtesy of the architects)
  • The site's location‚ away from the historic Old Town‚ is an example of the local government's push to develop Krakow's post-industrial right bank. 5 / 15  The site's location‚ away from the historic Old Town‚ is an example of the local government's push to develop Krakow's post-industrial right bank.
  • Echoing the idea of “emballage”‚ the building appear to be wrapped up under the rusted grill of its corten steel façade, reminiscent of that of La Caixa in Madrid. 6 / 15  Echoing the idea of “emballage”‚ the building appear to be wrapped up under the rusted grill of its corten steel façade, reminiscent of that of La Caixa in Madrid.
  • Entrance to the theatre is via an underground passageway, with visitors experiencing their distorted reflections in the mirrored underbelly of the building above. 7 / 15  Entrance to the theatre is via an underground passageway, with visitors experiencing their distorted reflections in the mirrored underbelly of the building above.
  • Inside‚ the building houses a number of different performance spaces... 8 / 15  Inside‚ the building houses a number of different performance spaces...
  • ... as well as a the extensive Kantor archive‚ along with a library, bookshop and cafe. 9 / 15  ... as well as a the extensive Kantor archive‚ along with a library, bookshop and cafe.
  • Looking out through buidling’s ornamental corten steel panel façade.  10 / 15  Looking out through buidling’s ornamental corten steel panel façade. 
  • The various design elements of the building are intended to channel Kantor’s appreciation of “impossible architecture”. 11 / 15  The various design elements of the building are intended to channel Kantor’s appreciation of “impossible architecture”.
  • The design was inspired by one of Kantor’s own drawings, with ideas of peformance and spectacle playing an important role. 12 / 15  The design was inspired by one of Kantor’s own drawings, with ideas of peformance and spectacle playing an important role.
  • When viewed from across the river the influence of Kantor’s drawing‚ depicting a bent man carrying a table on his back‚ is apparent. 13 / 15  When viewed from across the river the influence of Kantor’s drawing‚ depicting a bent man carrying a table on his back‚ is apparent.
  • The new table-like building has a space cut into it which allows the old factory’s chimney to protrude through the roof. 14 / 15  The new table-like building has a space cut into it which allows the old factory’s chimney to protrude through the roof.
  • With its mix of materials and theatrical leanings‚ Cricoteka is testament to Krakow’s history of artistic innovation. 15 / 15  With its mix of materials and theatrical leanings‚ Cricoteka is testament to Krakow’s history of artistic innovation.

Looming over the river embankment in Krakow, Cricoteka, a centre created to preserve the work of the radical artist Tadeusz Kantor, looks at first sight like an obvious attempt to just make a new visual icon on the city skyline. But as Agnieszka Rasmus-Zgorzelska reports, its design is inspired by the provocative works and practice of Kantor himself.

Over a thousand years old‚ and packed with Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture‚ Krakow, once the capital of Poland‚ has always been the country’s tourist destination of choice‚ while still remaining a relatively compact‚ pleasant city in which to live. Today‚ however‚ its iconic old town‚ once famously inhabited by academics‚ writers and artists‚ where everyone met everyone‚ has become so unbearably packed with tourists and souvenir shops that locals are gradually moving out. Meanwhile the ambitious local government is trying to counterbalance the city’s historical attractions‚ with bold new architecture, steering visitors away from the tired old town streets to hitherto unvisited and neglected post-industrial neighbourhoods on Krakow’s right bank.

Cricoteka‚ the Centre for the Documentation of the Art of Tadeusz Kantor‚ is one of these recently opened contemporary cultural institutions and a powerful reminder that conservative Krakow once had a spectacular portfolio of innovative artists. Tadeusz Kantor (1915-1990) called himself a “total artist”‚ and he was certainly an all-rounder: painter‚ poet‚ actor‚ “happener”‚ stage designer, theatre reformer‚ he was to Polish art what Joseph Beuys was to German art and Andy Warhol to American art.

Cricoteka – conceived originally by Kantor himself in 1980 to be both a growing archive of his work and a living centre for his experimental Cricot 2 Theatre – functioned over decades as an institution fragmented and scattered all over the city. Now this new building‚ designed by Biuro Architektoniczne Wizja and nsMoonStudio‚ brings all its functions together. It houses Kantor’s archive‚ which includes hundreds of props and costumes used in the Cricot 2 Theatre‚ books‚ drawings‚ video records and texts‚ as well as hosting permanent and temporary exhibitions. It also offers theatre and education spaces‚ a library‚ bookshop and top floor café with a view over the river.

Situated on the banks of the Vistula‚ just above the embankment wall‚ Cricoteka does not try to blend in with its neighbourhood nor gently catch the eye of passers-by. Indeed‚ it stands out like a strange theatrical prop that’s landed on the riverbank as part of a performance. One prerequisite of the original architectural competition was that an existing power station on the site should be adapted and integrated with the new structure. So the architects designed their new building to stretch over the old‚ like a table on two legs‚ with a hole cut through it for the latter’s chimney to poke through. This design was inspired both by Kantor’s drawing of a bent man carrying a table on his back and his idea of an object or work of art integrated with a human body – a so-called “bio-object”. As such it reflects the architects’ ambitions to draw on the artist’s oeuvre in the design of the building, rather than it just being a reflection of formal or fashionable architectural gymnastics dictated by the confines of a narrow plot. They wanted the building to be an interpretation of Kantor’s artistic programme‚ in which novelty‚ bold image‚ experiment‚ risk‚ and the invitation to take part in a spectacle‚ all play a prominent role.

So whilst at first sight‚ the spectacular extension of Cricoteka – its concrete structure and ornamental corten steel panel façade reminiscent of La Caixa in Madrid – might look like it’s designed just to be an easy eye-catcher‚ a visit to the permanent exhibition helps to show how deeply the building is designed to be consistent with its patron’s artistic theory and practice.

Outside‚ the 600 square metre public square with its mirror-clad ceiling becomes a stage where the performance of everyday life is reflected in a distorted way. The whole building appears to be an object of “impossible architecture” as advocated by Kantor himself‚ who designed both a bridge in the form of a coat hanger and created‚ for a Symposium of Spatial Forms in the 1970s, a ten-metre-tall chair – itself a parody of a “spatial form”. And last but not least, the corrugated steel “wrapping” creates the scenographic effect of emballage, Kantor’s favourite artistic practice: the wrapping up or covering of objects in order to reveal their true nature.

Rust‚ raw exposed concrete‚ theatrical affectation, even the very fact that in order to just enter the building one has to negotiate a complicated underground passage – it’s all very Kantor: giving the ordinary and “degraded” the status of “art”‚ making everyday‚ worn-out objects into works of art‚ and treating his life‚ as well as life in general‚ as a stage.

– Agnieszka Rasmus-Zgorzelska – is an independent, Poland-based architectural author, editor and curator. She is co-founder of the Centrum Architektury foundation in Warsaw.

wizja.krakow.pl

moonstudio.com.pl

  • Facebook
  • Tumblr
  • Twitter

Advertisement

RECENT POSTS

more

Recent Magazines

25 Apr 2016

Magazine No. 43
Athens

  • essay

    From the Bottom and the Top

    Powering Athens through collectivity and informal initiatives by Cristina Ampatzidou

  • photo essay

    Nowhere Now Here

    A photo essay by Yiorgis Yerolymbos

  • Essay

    Back to the Garden

    Athens and opportunities for new urban strategies by Aristide Antonas

  • Interview

    Point Supreme

    An interview by Ellie Stathaki

>

03 Mar 2016

Magazine No. 42
Walk the Line

  • Essay

    The Line Connects

    An essay on drawing and architectural education by Wes Jones

  • Essay

    Drawing Attention

    Phineas Harper sketches out new narrative paths with pencil power

  • Essay

    Gotham

    Elvia Wilk on a city of shadows as architectural fiction

  • Interview

    The (Not So) Fine Line

    A conversation thread between Sophie Lovell and architecture cartoonist Klaus

>

28 Jan 2016

Magazine No. 41
Zvi Hecker

  • essay

    Space Packers

    Zvi Hecker’s career-defining partnership with Eldar Sharon and Alfred Neumann by Rafi Segal

  • Interview

    Essentially I am a Medieval Architect

    An interview with Zvi Hecker by Vladimir Belogolovsky

  • viewpoint

    The Technion Affair

    Breaking and entering in the name of architectural integrity by Zvi Hecker

  • Photo Essay

    Revisiting Yesterday’s Future

    A photo essay by Gili Merin

>

17 Dec 2015

Magazine No. 40
Iceland

  • Viewpoint

    Wish You Were Here

    Arna Mathiesen asks: Refinancing Iceland with tourism – but at what cost?

  • Photo Essay

    Spaces Create Bodies, Bodies Create Space

    An essay by Ólafur Elíasson

  • Focus

    Icelandic Domestic

    Focus on post-independence houses by George Kafka

  • Essay

    The Harp That Sang

    The saga of Reykjavík's Concert Hall by Sophie Lovell & Fiona Shipwright

>

more

SUBSCRIBE TO OUR MAILING LIST Close

Uncube is brandnew and wants to look good.
For best performance please update your browser.
Mozilla Firefox, Internet Explorer 10 (or higher), Safari, Chrome, Opera

×