World Building of the Year announced

1 December 2016

Where there used to be a hole in the urban fabric of the Polish city Szczecin, there now stands the 2016 World Building of the Year, the Dialogue Centre, part of the Szczecin Museum.

National Museum in Szczecin – Dialogue Centre Przełomy / Robert Konieczny + KWK Promes. Image via World Architecture Festival

The space, on an important street corner, was used as a park before but was never well-maintained. Most of the buildings adjacent to the site are of historical or architectural importance and therefor the intervention had to be very sensitive. This includes the church of St Peter and Paul, the Royal Gate and the Szczecin Philharmonic Hall, which was awarded the Mies van der Rohe prize for contemporary European architecture.

But there also used to be a hole in the history of the city and its people that has now been filled. After WW2, the borders between Germany and Poland were changed and all the Germans who were living in Szczecin (Stettin) at that stage, were moved, while Polish citizens were re-housed in the city. In 1970 the Solidarity movement participated in protest against the communist regime – on the same terrain where the Dialogue Centre now stands. For a long time this history was not officially recognized – something that has been set right with the Dialogue Centre.

The centre, designed by Robert Konieczny + KWK Promes, for the most part is under ground, with only the north-eastern corner visible above ground. The roof becomes a public space where people can sit, use their skateboards in summer or enjoy sleigh rides in winter. An ‘incision’ in the curve forms the entrance, with the exit on the north-eastern (raised) side. Concrete ‘doors’, that can open, are the exits (and windows). When it is closed, the façade is solid, but by opening it, light – and the true facts of history – can freely flow through.

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