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Philharmonic at the Fair - a revolutionary change in Poznań

03 of January '22

Changes at the Poznań Fairgrounds promise to be increasingly interesting. The long-awaited headquarters of the Poznan Philharmonic, part of the new Music Center, will be built within the MTP grounds. The seemingly surprising location makes sense: it will allow even stronger integration of the isolated Fair grounds into the city. Acompetition is to be announced this year.

Unlike many Polish cities, Poznań has pretty much muddled through with hard investments in culture. When other centers were funding themselves philharmonic halls, theaters and museums with EU money, the Greater Poland capital equipped itself with few significant new large-scale facilities. We are talking primarily about the Gate of Poznań, an interactive heritage interpretation center in the immediate vicinity of the cathedral(designed by Ad Artis Emerla Wojda Jagiełłowicz, competition: 2010, implementation 2013). One should also note less capacious strictly cultural realizations: the building Aula Nova, which is part of the Academy of Music(designed by ARPA Jerzy Gurawski, 1989-2005, realization: 2006), and Aula Artis, a concert and conference hall in the complex of the private school Collegium da Vinci (formerly WSNHiD, designed by Mariusz Wrzeszcz, realization: 2010).

The city has only been making up for its infrastructural shortcomings in the field of culture for several years. A building permit has already been issued for the new headquarters of the Musical Theater, the first theatrical investment erected from scratch in postwar Poznan (designed by Atelier Loegler Architects, first prize in the 2019 competition, projected completion: 2025). Last year also saw the openingof the first (!) permanent home of the esteemed Polish Dance Theater, founded in 1973. After decades of effort, the dancers finally settled in an adapted and expanded building on downtown's Taczaka Street (designed by MOM Architects, ARPA Jerzy Gurawski, Architecture Award of the Wielkopolska Voivodeship [for ARPA] in the interior category for 2020).

homeless philharmonics

Until last December, however, the construction of the headquarters of the Poznań Philharmonic remained in the realm of vague plans . Its musicians have been giving concerts in the auditorium of the university's Collegium Minus for all of the post-war years, and holding rehearsals in the buildings of the University of Economics. The first non-committal attempts to locate the Philharmonic involved the historic complex of the former municipal gasworks on Grobla Street in the Old Town. The idea was abandoned because the buildings still belong to gas companies owned by the central government. More concrete announcements were made in 2019, when the city authorities, together with the Marshal's Office, pointed to the site occupied by the remains of the ruined Szyc Stadium on the southern outskirts of downtown. However, the location was controversial. Objections were raised over the arbitrary manner in which the location was chosen on the edge of the city's green wedge, which - in a 2012 deliberative poll - residents had clearly identified as a recreational and sports area.

The unexpected twist came in December of this year. Poznan's mayor, Jacek Jaskowiak, announced that the Philharmonic will locate on the grounds of the Poznan International Fair in a new building, the so-called Music Center:

In the very center of the city, there will be a new space open to all who live or visit Poznań

A few years ago, the decision to build a cultural building on the closed area of MTP would have aroused surprise and reservations. Today things are different. The fair is finally opening up to the city, and part of the area it occupies will be made available to Poznań residents on a daily basisas early as this summer(as the Cultural Zone described by A&B in spring 2021) after the underground parking lot and the plaza above it (designed by Śniadek+Śniadek Architekci) are built in. This investment will be part of a walkway connecting the parts of the Lazarus district cut by the Fair. It is along this passage stretching between the train station and Wilson Park that the location of the Music Center has been indicated, which, in addition to the Philharmonic, is to house the Amadeus radio orchestra, musical ensembles and choirs (see visualization at the beginning of the text). The edifice is also to be used to organize music festivals. According to preliminary assumptions, the Music Center will accommodate two halls: a main hall with 1400 seats and a chamber hall for 300 listeners.

filharmonia_poznan 1

Situation plan of the Poznań Fair. The Music Center is to be built in the place of pavilions 14 and 13 (to the right of number 14, unnumbered). A public walkway and Cultural Zone will be opened this year between entrances numbered 1 and 9. A new city square is being built between pavilions 2 and 12.

Source: MTP Group

The new building, located picturesquely on a slope sloping down toward downtown, right next to a terraced green square and opposite the convention center with the so-called Earth Hall (which is currently undergoing replacement of degraded facade cladding with multimedia panels), has a chance to become a significant architectural and cultural accent in a neighborhood that - so far - has been devoid of such attractions.

The building is to replace the still existing small pavilions No. 14 and 13. Next to it is the former Market Palace (pavilion No. 12) - a pre-war representative edifice (designed by Stefan Cybichowski, 1923) - now relegated to the function of a workshop serving exhibitions. So far, there is no word on whether it, too, will be included in the Music Center program, although it is worth considering such an option as well. Firstly, the former palace forms the western frontage of the plaza under construction over the parking lot, and secondly, the current plans to convert it into a hotel (announced in the fall of 2021 by Tomasz Kobierski, president of the MTP Group, during the New Plan festival) do not seem to be the best solution.

expand the program!

Finally, it is also worth considering expanding the Music Center formula. The undersigned has been trying for six years to persuade the city authorities to create the first facility in Poland to educate about the role of music and sound in everyday life, culture, politics, religion, etc. - from antiquity to today. Combined with the rich and still poorly exhibited collections of Poznan's Museum of Musical Instruments, it could be a valuable and attractive complement to the new concert halls.

However, we will probably learn exactly what the program of the new edifice is to be, only during the announcement of the international competition, which is expected to take place this year ( 450 thousand zlotys from the provincial budget have been allocated for this purpose). It is not yet known exactly in what mode the competition will be organized, although it can be assumed that the two-stage Flemish formula, which - successfully - the city has been using since 2016 (thanks to the initiative of architects from Atelier Starzak Strebicki), will once again be used. The completion date remains even more vague, depending on the financing of this much-needed investment for the city. Its cost is currently estimated at 350 million zlotys, a figure that will probably change in the face of rising construction costs, materials and general inflation.

Jakub Głaz

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