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Julia Szafranska - "Museum of Japanese Art and Culture in Warsaw".

Ola Kloc
07 of February '23
Technical data
Type: master's thesis
Year of defense: 2022

Julia Szafranska

Wydział Architektury Politechniki Warszawskiej

Dr. Rafal Mazur

Work submitted for the competition
"Best Diploma Architecture".

The aim of the work was to define the universal qualities of traditional Japanese architecture, which constitute its beauty and uniqueness, and to present ways of implementing these values during contemporary design processes. The example of the conceptual design of the Museum of Japanese Art and Culture in Warsaw served this purpose.



© Julia Szafrańska

Due to the site's location, the design part did not seek to recreate historical elements, which would have resulted in a „Japanese building.” Instead, the essence of the design task was to understand the characteristics found in traditional Japanese construction and their interpretation responding to the conditions of the selected part of the Warsaw landscape. The contemporary global design standard emphasizing context is consistent with the age-old principles of shaping Japanese architecture, which naturally are still highly relevant to architects there. Therefore, one of the overriding aspects of the design part was to analyze and adapt to the context by combining the Japanese philosophy of shaping space with Polish environmental and cultural realities.

schematy kształtowania bryły

solid shaping schemes

© Julia Szafranska

The analysis of the history of Japanese architecture and the accompanying philosophical currents made it possible to identify the following values and physical characteristics that constitute the universal beauty of the spatial arrangements of the Land of the Cherry Blossom: striving for the least possible interference with the natural environment through the means described, for example, asymmetry or the use of local materials and keeping them honest, striving to preserve the coherence of space, lightness of form achieved through the use of a delicate skeletal structure and the detachment of the floor of the building or part of it from the ground level, modularity.

przekroje całościowe

overall sections

© Julia Szafranska

The goal of the project was to make the museum building meet as many of the above points as possible, with particular emphasis on modularity. This feature was highlighted by developing the basic unit of the building, hereafter referred to as a „module,” and separating it spatially, making it clearly legible. The module's floor plan follows the tatami mat layout of the „4.5” chashitsu pavilion, and its dimensions are multiples of a ken unit. Each module is a separate functional block, it can be one spacious room or a set of smaller rooms belonging to the same category, such as a cafe block or a block of technical rooms.



© Julia Szafranska

Depending on the space requirements of the given functional categories, each of them was assigned an appropriate number of modules and then arranged in groups. Courtyards, the dimensions of which duplicate the established module, introduce elements of the external landscape into the interior, so that the coherence of the space is maintained. The separated modules are unified by a ceiling with protruding eaves and a floor whose longer edges have been extended into the shape of an engawa—a veranda.

plansza techniczna

technical board

© Julia Szafranska

Both the layout of the building and its volume have been shaped in close relation to the local landscape. First, the location of the museum on the plot depends on the Vistula River in such a way that the longer edges of the rectangular projection of the building are parallel to the shoreline. The topography of the plot was also a very important factor. Its terrain slopes gently toward the Łazienkowski Bridge, although the slope appears slight, the difference in elevation between the southern and northern borders of the plot being almost 2 meters. Topography played a key role in determining the entrance area and the connected exhibition area.

wizualizacja wnętrza

interior visualization

© Julia Szafranska

The main entrance and the representative area were located in the zone of the plot with the highest elevation, so that visitors could freely access the building from ground level. At the entrance zone, in the place with the best view of the Vistula River, a café has been located—it can be the culmination of the tour, or, thanks to the connection with the ground and additional entrances, an independent dining point. With the slope of the land, the pile foundation structure of the building is exposed, and the floor is detached from the ground level, which adds lightness to the mass.

wizualizacja wnętrza

interior visualization

© Julia Szafranska


Illustrations: © Author

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