Jewish history museum in Warsaw wins first Finlandia Prize for Architecture

“Familiarisation with the surrounding building stock leads to the idea that we are dealing with more than just a museum: this building is a powerful and significant work of art that will change the look of Warsaw as a whole.”
The Finlandia Prize for Architecture is intended to be the architectural equivalent of the prestigious annual Finlandia Prize for Literature, which was founded in the 1980s. “The mood of the building is solemn and dignified, but at the same time warm and optimistic,” said Korkman. Related story: Museum of the History of Polish Jews by Lahdelma Mahlamäki Architects Lahdelma Mahlamäki’s Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw was the only building outside of Finland on the four-strong shortlist, chosen by a jury of architecture experts including Juulia Kauste, director of the Museum of Finnish Architecture, and Jorma Mukala, editor-in-chief of the Finnish Architectural Review. “The building’s modest and restrained appearance, when experienced on-site, feels like absolutely the right approach to take, considering its use. A large, cavernous entrance hall cuts through the entire building, with bulbous curving walls extending up the full height of the space. It is an approach that respects the history and tragic fate of the Polish Jews.”

The Museum of the History of Polish Jews, designed in collaboration with Polish firm Kuryłowicz Associates, occupies a site on the former Second World War Warsaw Ghetto, adjacent to the memorial commemorating the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943. Sixten Korkman, an economics professor at Aalto University, was asked to act as a “layman” judge and chose the overall winner. The building is used for a combination of research, education, exhibitions and culture relating to the Jewish heritage. Its glass exterior makes the building appear light, and the carefully considered details provide a contrast to the uniformity of the design,” said Korkman. It can be given to any architect for a project located in Finland or a Finnish architect who has completed a building or refurbishment scheme abroad. “To the best of our knowledge it is the biggest uniform, geometrically double-curving surface that has ever been realised,” said architect Rainer Mahlamäki. The three other buildings were Gösta’s Pavilion in Mänttä by MX_SI and Huttunen-Lipasti-Pakkanen Architects, the Seinäjoki Public Library by JKMM Architects, and Kaisa House, the main library for Helsinki University by Anttinen Oiva Architects.

Updated: 09.11.2014 — 07:55