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Krakow Music Center selected in competition. What about the parking lot?

17 of March '21

The yet another competition for the Krakow Music Center, which was settled on December 22, 2020, raised some doubts in the architectural community. They were not so much about the competition itself as about what its regulations did not cover. This is because the regulations omitted a parking lot serving the cultural facility.

The Cracow Music Center, with a concert hall for 1012 spectators, will be built according to the competition-winning design by BE DDJM Architekci studio near Krakow's Blonie Park, in the Cichy Kącik housing estate. The capacity of the facility suggests that many music lovers visiting the KCM will use their own means of transportation, and these, like it or not, need to park somewhere. Since a competition for the best design for a building that has a chance to become an architectural landmark of the city has been organized (more than once), why wasn' t a parking lot serving the facility included in the regulations?

1. nagroda, proj.: BE DDJM Architekci

Cracow Music Center, 1st prize, design: BE DDJM Architekci

© BE DDJM Architects

parking lot outside the competition

One of the appendices to the competition regulations stated:

Up to 20 parking spaces, including spaces for the disabled, should be designed in the area covered by the competition intention. Parking spaces for the KCM will be provided by a separately designed and implemented parking lot with 250 spaces (outside the competition).

Why is parking designed separately for a building in such a prestigious location and with an important function? We asked the organizers of the competition - the Krakow City Development Agency- about this.

The parking structure is a technical object, located deep within the project area with green walls, a green roof, designed to blend in with the surrounding greenery and not to compete in any way with the representative building of the Krakow Music Center, answered Dr. Jan Pamula, President of the Board of the Krakow City Development Agency.

The parking lot, of course, does not have the same representative function as the music center, but it will be built in its immediate vicinity, so its form will certainly affect the perception of the KCM building itself, but also the space that will be created by the two blocks.

To further questions about whether the parking lot will match the concept of the Krakow Music Center selected in the competition, how the parking lot designer will be (or has been) selected and, above all, whether it is known who will be the author of the building, Dr. Jan Pamula answered:

At the moment, the Company has a concept for the parking lot, along with a functional-utility plan. These documents were finalized after the outcome of the Competition for the KCM - so that the architectural form does not deviate from the winning work. At the current stage, talks are underway on entrusting the task of implementing this construction project along with obtaining a building permit, during which we are guided by both economic criteria and the designer's experience in implementing this type of project. We are not in a position to indicate which company will ultimately become the author of this facility, as this has not been resolved to this point.

We addressed similar questions to Marek Kaszynski, president of the Cracow branch of SARP, which co-organized the competition.

A&B: Why is parking designed separately for a building in such a prestigious location and with an important function? Why was it not included in the regulations?

Marek Kaszynski: SARP always works to promote competitions for as many buildings and public spaces as possible, but in the case of the Krakow Music Center, the procedure included only the music facility, because there were concerns that waiting until the competition was resolved to begin formal and legal procedures for the parking lot would prevent the completion of the entire complex on the planned schedule - by 2023.

A&B: The parking lot is to be located on the axis of May 3 Street, is there a danger that it will obscure the view of the KCM building? Will the building be constructed independently of the Music Center project? Will it be consistent with the selected body?

Marek Kaszynski: The competition materials indicated the location of the parking lot "in the depth" of the plot, in such a way that it will not obscure the Krakow Music Center. The building is to be a complementary element of the complex, so I trust that the authors will ensure that the whole is a conscious, coherent and complementary composition - from form to architectural detail.

A coherent concept?

Interestingly, one of the projects awarded in the competition, contrary to the regulations, included a parking lot, integrating it into the proposed body of the KCM. Architects from the KXM team, which submitted the design prepared in cooperation with Finnish office Lahdelma & Mahlamäki, justified their decision in an interview with A&B:

From the available studies and information we obtained at the stage of working on the concept, both plots of land belong to the city, and on both of them the foundation of buildings that are part of the Krakow Music Center is planned. With full knowledge, we decided to break the regulations and go beyond the boundaries of the study with our building, in order to integrate the body of the planned parking lot with the rest of the complex. The intention of the organizer, which was repeatedly emphasized in the regulations, was to achieve a coherent concept. In our opinion, a facility of such stature must be thought out and designed comprehensively. [...] We also analyzed the course of the planned new road. And at the moment, if the multilevel parking lot were a separate block, from the perspective of a visitor it would become the dominant element, and not the Music Center, which further convinced us of the rightness of our decision.

Krakowskie Centrum Muzyki, wyróżnienie honorowe

Krakow Music Center, honorable mention, proj.: KXM + Lahdelma & Mahlamäki


a missed opportunity?

According to Andrzej Bulanda, one of the members of the competition jury, the separate design of the KCM building and the parking lot serving it is a missed opportunity to create an integrated, coherent and functional space. Although, as he points out, it was clear from the regulations that the city's goal was to try to integrate the KCM edifice with the parking lot, the reluctance to truly integrate and the desire to separate the designs of the music center and the parking lot was palpable. Moreover, during the jury's work it became clear that the parking lot was already being designed. The architect also pointed out the problem of adapting and evaluating competition projects of this stature through the prism of the rigid provisions of the Local Development Plan.

If the brilliance of the idea conflicts with the provisions, it may be worth rethinking them [...] The plan by its nature is general and whether it is worth changing should be up for discussion. In this case, the provision for a maximum building height of 13 meters was absurd - it unnecessarily increased the cost of the project. If some provisions had been slightly exceeded, the project would have had a chance to be better, cheaper and more functional.

According to Andrzej Bulanda, the separation of the KCM building project from the parking structure will result in the fact that these objects, which are built independently, will not harmonize with each other, and something accidental will be created. What was missing, he adds, was an understanding of what the city is and what role Błonia and its surroundings should play in Cracow.

As a person from outside Krakow, I expected a discussion about the role of Błonia in the concept of Krakow's development, and we did not learn whether the planned building is to be an opening to the landscape, the only building in the area, and thus requiring a different approach to design, or a prelude to a quasi-compact frontage development. Such a decision by planners is followed by a design decision.

Andrzej Bulanda also appreciated the originality and functional connection proposed in the awarded project of the Polish-Finnish team of Lahdelma & Mahlamäki and KXM studios, which, taking into account parking lots and a viewing tower, was treated as going beyond the regulations, although it actually solved a real problem.

Krakowskie Centrum Muzyki, wyróżnienie honorowe

Krakow Music Center, honorable mention, Krakow Music Center, honorable mention, proj.: KXM + Lahdelma & Mahlamäki


We also asked Marcin Brataniec, the referee of the competition, for a statement:

The regulations of the competition included the design of the parking lot in the form of general information, with its design and purpose being prepared in parallel. The designed parking lot, on the other hand, was not included in the competition study, as this was the explicit directive of the Employer. As a referee and one of a wide range of judges in the competition, I was obliged to ensure that the solutions of the work to be directed to execution were in accordance with the Employer's guidelines contained in the regulations, and to participate in the selection of the work that best solves the competition task. I am of the opinion that the parking lot should be functionally and formally linked to the planned Music Center and that such a solution is possible as long as the design stage is ongoing. Given that at the stage before the competition was decided, the shape of the future KCM was not known, so it is necessary - after the decision - to make appropriate decisions to bring coherence to this new urban composition. As an architect, I am impressed by the work awarded an honorable mention by Lahdelma&Mahlamaki + KXM, which violated the assumptions of the competition and as such could not be awarded, but proposed - in my opinion - the best solution for this place.

A parking lot is also a part of the city

Fortunately, architectural competitions are not announced only for objects like the music center. It is worth recalling at this point last year's competition for the design of a multilevel parking lot in the Culture Zone in Katowice. In an important location for the city, in the vicinity of the buildings of the National Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Silesian Museum, the International Congress Center and Spodek, the form of the competition sought, as we read in the regulations:

an urban planning and architectural concept that is the best in terms of functionality, use and composition - taking into account the context of the existing development of the area and its surroundings - in the material, aesthetic, cultural and social sense.

The award-winning design by the team of ARPA Architektoniczna Pracownia Autorska Jerzy Gurawski and SKI Studio Błażej Szurkowski was appreciated by the jury for its site-appropriate form, unobtrusive mass, taking into account the existing cultural and social context:

It fits harmoniously into the Cultural Zone as an object that is not dominant. The creation of a walking area in the form of a "floral meadow" meets social expectations for the site and is a continuation of the green valley of the International Conference Center.

1. nagroda, proj.: zespół pracowni ARPA Architektoniczna Pracownia Autorska Jerzego Gurawskiego i SKI Studio Błażej Szurkowski

1st prize in the competition for the design of a parking lot in Katowice's Culture Zone

© ARPA Architektoniczna Pracownia Autorska Jerzy Gurawskiego, SKI Studio Błażej Szurkowski

How will the parking lot fit into the context of the surroundings and body of the new Krakow Music Center? This we do not know. However, we invariably ask for care in creating valuable, thoughtful, resident-friendly space, care for architecture - regardless of its function, and that such important design decisions for cities be decided as often as possible by a professional jury of architectural competitions.

Ola Kloc

The vote has already been cast