Polish History Museum among the most beautiful in the world

The building has been recognised by the jury of the Prix Versailles architectural award. The Museum of Polish History in Warsaw was among several others that can boast the title of Most Beautiful Museums in the World. The Warsaw building was designed by architects from the WXCA studio.

The winners of the Versailles Prize (Prix Versailles) were announced on 13 June at a ceremony in Paris. The Polish History Museum was shortlisted for The World’s Most Beautiful Museums 2024, the first time in the history of the competition that a special category was prepared for museum architecture.

The list of The World’s Most Beautiful Museums 2024 includes seven newly opened (or reopened) museums from around the world. In addition to the Museum of Polish History in Warsaw, these are: A4 Art Museum (Chengdu, China), Great Egyptian Museum (Giza, Egypt), Smritivan Earthquake Museum (Bhuj, India), Simose Art Museum (Hiroshima, Japan), Paleis Het Loo (Apeldoorn, Netherlands) and Oman Through the Ages Museum (Manah, Oman).

The museum’s mission was subtly engraved on the walls of the stone monolith of the Museum of Polish History. Theconcept of the WXCA studio was to cover the façade with marble slabs arranged in horizontal bands, which emphasise the layered structure of the stone and the differentiation of the individual compositions through changes in tonality and texture ,” write the Prix Versailles jury in their justification. Thanks to the reliefs that symbolically refer to motifs from the architectural tradition, visitors can – they add – read the museum’s mission on its façade.

The stone monolith as a metaphor for history

The architecture of the Polish History Museum was designed as a philosophical story about the process of history, with stone as the narrative language for discovering traces of the past. Its minimalist, monolithic body can resemble a hewn stone block. The museum’s façade is lined with stone slabs of various designs. They are arranged in horizontal bands, emphasising the layered, stratigraphic structure of the stone. It is a structure inherent in geological matter, but also in archaeology – natural, social and cultural processes occurring in succession. The architects opted for marble because of its distinctive grain. As the authors from WXCA explain, each marble slab is different, unique, just as all history consists of unique, individual events.

All the slabs have been arranged in a thoughtful composition, some as repetitions of successive slabs from the block, others as mirror images. To emphasise this differentiation, the architects used as many as six methods of stone processing. The architectural detailing is symbolically complemented by ornaments that are quotations from the architectural tradition. They can be interpreted as artefacts from different periods in the archaeological section. They are not, however, literal quotations, but spatial graphics subjected to geometric transformations, which are a reference to such patterns as the relief from the Gniezno Doors, the crystal vault known from the Gothic period (e.g. St. Mary’s Basilica, Gdańsk), the decorations from Krakow’s Sigismund Chapel or the motif from the modernist Spodek Hall in Katowice.

Restoring the Warsaw Citadel to the city

The competition jury also appreciated the identity and community-forming significance of the new headquarters of the Museum of Polish History and the museum complex created with it:

Thanks to the location of the Museum of Polish History at the Warsaw Citadel, in the immediate vicinity of the Museum of the Polish Army and the Katyn Museum, the institution is even more strongly intertwined with the history of the country, being one of the largest and most modern museum complexes in Europe,’ the jury emphasised.

Along with the opening of the Polish History Museum, the revitalised, green area of the historic Warsaw Citadel was also opened to the city, which now serves as a ‘culture park’ – a space dedicated to culture, remembrance and everyday recreation. The Polish History Museum itself, which is its central element, was in fact designed by WXCA as a multifunctional public building: in addition to the exhibition area and rooms for the storage and conservation of artefacts, the 45,000 square metre site includes numerous spaces with a cultural function: a concert hall for 600 people, a cinema and theatre hall, a library, conference and education rooms, catering facilities, and a terrace with a panorama of Warsaw.

Over the coming months, the Prix Versailles organisers will announce the World Selections lists for the other categories. As every year, the official award ceremony will take place at UNESCO headquarters in Paris.

WXCA author team: Szczepan Wroński, Paweł Grodzicki, Krzysztof Budzisz, Marta Sękulska-Wrońska, Katarzyna Billik, Rafał Boguszewski, Kamil Cedzyński, Anna Dobek, Małgorzata Gilarska, Beata Głaz, Marcin Jurusik, Michał Kasprzyk, Ludwik Kaizerbrecht, Marcin Kruk, Paulina Kucharska, Michał Lipiec, Anna Majewska, Krzysztof Marciszewski, Adam Mierzwa, Mariusz Niemiec, Magdalena Nowak, Magdalena Julianna Nowak, Barbara Płonczyńska, Zuzanna Rosińska, Michał Staniszewski, Łukasz Szczepanowicz, Kajetan Szostok, Krystian Tomczyk, Paweł Wolanin, Michał Żurek, Paweł Słupski, Michał Kalinowski

design: WXCA

photography: Daniel Ciesielski

Read also: Museum | Culture| Art| Facade| Warsaw| Architecture in Poland| WXCA| whiteMAD on Instagram

Latest content on the site

Beauty is all around you