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What will be created in the Uprising Museum? Interesting challenge before the participants of the competition

27 of April '23

First the walls, now the content. For two more weeks you can enter the competition for the concept of the permanent exhibition of the Wielkopolska Uprising Museum. The challenge is interesting and not easy. Designers must attractively tell the story of the victorious uprising and the not-so-obvious history of the city and region, and integrate the narrative into the competition design by the WXCA studio. The slogan: Everyday work, in moments of trial victory.

There is no denying that Poznań and the entire region are affected by a slight and justified complex of the Warsaw Uprising and the museum dedicated to it. After all, the Greater Warsaw Uprising was a success, not a spectacular defeat, but the story of it is still much less known in the country. And this is true even though December 27 (the anniversary of the outbreak of the uprising) has been established as a state holiday, and anniversary celebrations are publicized more strongly than they were a dozen years ago. The success of Greater Poland has also not yet lived to see a permanent exhibition dedicated to it.

An exhibition instead of skates

In 2019, therefore, the City of Poznań arranged a long-awaited architectural competition to redesign the building of the Wielkopolska Uprising Museum (MPW). The site has been allocated for it after the Bogdanka artificial ice rink on Północna Street, between the Old Town and the Citadel, at the foot of St. Adalbert's Hill, next to the historic Old Slaughterhouse (we wrote about the plans for it here).

teren pod Muzeum Powstania Wielkopolskiego w Poznaniu widok od południa na przyszły park obok muzeum

The area under the Museum of Wielkopolska Uprising in Poznań;
the area after the liquidated ice rink, view from North Street from the north-west, in the background: the silhouette of St. Adalbert's Hill with the church; in the next photo: view from the south of the future park next to the museum (it will stand in the background, on the right), on the left: St. Adalbert's Church, on the right, out of frame: Old Slaughterhouse

photo: Jakub Głaz

The competition took place even though there was no approved concept for the exhibition at the time. It is only now that the Wielkopolska Museum of Independence has announced another competition: for the development of an artistic and spatial concept for the permanent exhibition of the Museum of the Wielkopolska Uprising 1918-1919 in Poznań (regulations, schedule, prizes and other details are available on the competition website, as well as here). Applications for participation can be submitted until May 12.

Muzeum Powstania Wielkopolskiego, zwycięski projekt pracowni WXCA (2019)

Museum of Wielkopolska Uprising, winning design by WXCA studio (2019); view from Północna Street.

© WXCA / vision. Dot Design

Within what framework will the designers move? In the competition for the building four years ago, the winning design was that of the WXCA studio, which proposed four freely composed volumes. They allow the courtyard to pass through in all directions, while opening up to the surroundings and the planned park next door, the form of which was also the subject of the competition. Over the past few years, however, the City has lacked money for construction, and costs have been rising. In January of this year, the task was taken over by the Wielkopolska Marshal's Office and , if all goes according to plan , construction will begin at the end of this year.

Creating an exhibition that will interestingly show the victorious uprising and the society of Greater Poland behind it is a difficult and at the same time attractive challenge. The exhibition is to occupy about 3,000 square meters. Far from the jaws of arms and worshipful martyrdom, the watchword is:

Everyday work, in moments of trial victory.

short spurt, longer history

What will the exhibition tell about? In general: about the unique victory, but also its subsequent aftermath. The detailed scenario of the exhibition divides it into six parts. The first will be a story about life in Poznan after the city was absorbed by Prussia in 1793, up to the First World War. The big picture here will have to be the difficult, time-varying and not always obvious Polish-German relations, the development of the modern city and region, Polish entrepreneurship (the theme of organic labor), as well as the growing dissimilarity of Wielkopolska over time in relation to the other two partitions. Stefan Ogorzałek, deputy director for investment and development of the Wielkopolska Museum of Independence, reports:

We are keen to show Wielkopolska's unique path to independence; for example, how Poles used the Prussian and then German administrative and legal order not only to pursue personal interests, but also to build what today we would call social capital.We also want to show what daily life was like in Poznan, or the region—the functioning of Poles next to other cultures and nationalities: German or Jewish. Both in the part of the script relating to the times of the Partitions, as well as the period of the Uprising, we decided to pay attention to the threads concerning Germans. After one of the reviewers of our work asked "actually, who were you fighting?" it was necessary to emphasize that the Germans considered Greater Poland to be part of their state and to show that from the beginning they did a lot to perpetuate such an order.

There is a chance, therefore, that the gap in the story of the city's non-Polish citizens will finally be filled in Poznan's museology, giving a better idea of the peculiar relations that prevailed in Poznan throughout the nineteenth century.

Muzeum Powstania Wielkopolskiego, zwycięski projekt pracowni WXCA (2019)

Museum of the Wielkopolska Uprising, winning design by WXCA studio (2019).

© WXCA / vision. Dot Design

The next three unveilings will be fairly self-explanatory. The first will tell the story of the struggles of Greater Poland on the fronts of the First World War. The next—the climactic one—will be devoted to the Uprising, its immediate aftermath and the establishment of borders. The last of the „battle” threads is titled „Wielkopolanie w walkach o granicach II Rzeczypospolitej” (Greater Poland in fights for the border of the Second Republic ), with the focus not only on the armed uprising, but also on the supply of grain to the fighters (Greater Poland as the „granary” of the Republic).

The fifth installment of the exhibition is to show how Poles managed their won freedom in the interwar period. Three accents, important for the city and the region, stand out here: the creation from scratch of the University of Poznan (today's Adam Mickiewicz University ), the organization of the 1929 General National Exhibition—the largest Polish exhibition event in history, and the general economic and social development of the then western borderlands of the Republic. The last part will tell the story of the fate of the insurgents and the cultivation of the memory of the independence uprising in the interwar period, during the occupation (insurgents as the first victims of KL Posen), in the People's Republic of Poland and after 1989.

Muzeum Powstania Wielkopolskiego, zwycięski projekt pracowni WXCA (2019)

Museum of the Wielkopolska Uprising, winning design by WXCA studio (2019), view from the east, from above the Old Slaughterhouse; in front: St. Adalbert's Hill and the planned park, on the left, out of frame: Bóźnicza Street and the Old Town, on the right, out of frame: Citadel

© WXCA / vision. Dot Design

viewer on a sine wave

What kind of experience is to be provided by this story spread over two centuries? The scenario emphasizes that:

Thetension of the exhibition should be sinusoidal in nature. In addition to „high”, serious and dramatic themes and areas, "leisure", lighter topics are also envisaged. The ordering party anticipates that some of the narrative elements described below will be presented using "large-format display elements," such as a train station platform, an airplane fragment, a building facade, an armored train, a period car, an airship basket. These display elements should be appropriately correlated with the museum exhibits on display.

Thus, the designers are to present a general idea and several detailed solutions covering the themes defined by the regulations: among others, the uprising fights, interwar Poznań and events such as Paderewski's entry into the city initiating the outbreak of the uprising and the capture of the Poznań airport. In evaluating the works, the jury is supposed to give importance to "innovative approach." This capacious term, however, often raises problems, as it is difficult for designers to determine what this "novelty" is supposed to be. Ogorzalek clarifies:

We are primarily concerned with the use of such solutions or ideas that do not simply imitate other museums with narrative and stage design. We want the viewer, who has already visited several other national institutions of this type, not to focus his attention on finding similarities between our museum and other exhibitions. We want the viewer to particularly remember the content we present through unique solutions and surprise.

Muzeum Powstania Wielkopolskiego, zwycięski projekt pracowni WXCA (2019)

Museum of the Wielkopolska Uprising, winning design by WXCA studio (2019).

© WXCA / vision. Dot Design

multimedia with reason

What about the original exhibits? The museum's organizers are keen that the creators of the arrangements reach for them often and treat them with great care (the full list of artifacts can be downloaded on the competition website). Ogorzalek informs that these are primarily documents, iconography, militaria, and other memorabilia, which should be strongly emphasized against the other elements of the exhibition.

The museum is also aware of the dangers of excessive and too rapid technical obsolescence of multimedia. Ogorzalek therefore announces that in Poznań they are to be primarily an extension of the story of individual towns and local heroes.

We realize that the residents of Wielkopolska and the descendants of the insurgents will look to us for information about their loved ones and localities. This is what the multimedia is supposed to make possible, while relieving the mainstream of the exhibition, which must be communicative and attractive to all.

While telling the story of won independence, will the museum also include the history of the development of Poznan and the region from 1945 to today? Unfortunately, there are no such plans, so Poznań will still not have an exhibition showing the last 80 years of the city's history (there is no room for it in the renovated Museum of Poznań in the City Hall ).

Muzeum Powstania Wielkopolskiego, zwycięski projekt pracowni WXCA (2019)

Museum of Wielkopolska Uprising, winning design by WXCA studio (2019); view from the west, from above St. Adalbert's Hill; in the foreground, from the right: St. Adalbert's Church, rectory, kindergarten

© WXCA / model: Michal Sokolowski

The previously announced desire to include a model of the modern city in the MPW has also been abandoned. One can only hope that the omitted topic of recent history will appear in temporary exhibitions, as will another important theme: general reflections on freedom, independence and independence—how they are managed and perceived not only in the country, but also in the world.

Jakub Głaz

The vote has already been cast