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What kind of new Cracovia can we expect?

21 of April '23

The long-awaited competition to develop a concept for the redevelopment of the former "Cracovia" hotel has started. The icon of Krakow's modernism is to be transformed into the Museum of Design and Architecture and the Model Center for Supporting Creative Industries. What will happen to the building? What projects and how much interference with the historic building can we expect?

The Cracovia Hotel and Kijów Cinema complex is one of the leading works of post-war modernism in Krakow and one of the few so well preserved in all of Poland. The origins of the project date back to the 1956 thaw, when the decision was made to develop the plot opposite the National Museum building. The competition held by SARP was won by the team of Witold Cęckiewicz.

Construction lasted from 1959 to 1966, and some of the most prominent artists of the time had a hand in the creation of Cracovia and Kiev—the golden mosaic in the reception hall and the monumental decoration of the cinema were done by Krystyna Strachocka-Zgud. Along the first floor facade was a monumental mosaic of "The City" by Roman and Helena Husarsky.

the beginning of the end

In 2011, Hotel Cracovia passed into the hands of a private investor, who shortly thereafter announced plans to build a shopping mall at the site. Numerous public protests and appeals from specialists in the history of architecture and art caused the project to undergo numerous modifications, the function of the planned building changed. However, the intention to demolish a valuable monument of post-war modernism remained unchanged. The Hotel Cracovia Pany campaign, initiated by the Institute of Architecture Foundation, later gained a visual setting prepared by artist Cecilia Malik.

new beginning

In 2016, the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage bought the building of the former Cracovia Hotel from Echo Investment for use as a new branch of the National Museum in Krakow. Since then, preparations were underway to convert the hotel for new purposes. A new branch of the National Museum in Cracow—the Museum of Design and Architecture—is to find its home there, heralded by two exhibitions currently on display at the Szołayski House—"Cross Sections" devoted to architecture (more about the exhibition) and "Objects" presenting the history of design.

Adaptation to such a demanding function as a museum will involve very strong interference in the historic fabric of the former hotel. The answer to the question of how much will be left of the original substance is provided by the competition guidelines and the "Program and Spatial Study for the Reconstruction of the Former Cracovia Hotel Building," prepared on behalf of the Museum by Tomasz Folwarski and his team.

museum at the hotel

Wizualizacja - studium

Program and spatial study for the reconstruction of the former Cracovia Hotel building—visualization of the superstructure part

© MNK / SARP Krakow / HSA

So what are the National Museum's plans for the historic building? It will not be a conservation renovation—except for a small part of the representative lobby, the Cracovia is planned to be almost completely demolished and replaced with a new structure. A part of the main body in the first floor, mezzanine and basement areas, limited to the entrance hall and the adjacent hall of the former "Orbis" office, is to be preserved. The decorative ceiling and preserved mosaics are also to survive the reconstruction—it is these elements that are listed in the register of monuments. The rest of the first floor is to be reconstructed in accordance with the original Cęckiewicz design and with detailing referring to it.

Wizualizacja - kolumny

Program and spatial study for the reconstruction of the former Cracovia Hotel building—visualization of the removal of the first floor columns

© MNK / SARP Krakow / HSA

Improvements may be made—for example, the pillars on which the hotel part is supported may disappear, In the 1950s they were necessary for structural reasons, today you can already do without them.

The object of protection is therefore not primarily the individual historic value of the hotel building, but the entire urban complex, consisting of the hotel building, its connector with the Kijów Cinema building and the Kijów Cinema, and the recognized greatest value subject to protection—the spatial relationship between the above-mentioned elements, along with the relationship with the space. elements along with the connection to the urban space , as well as individual components of the architectural composition of the above-mentioned objects ," writes Pawel Filipowicz in his opinion defining the scope of possible transformations at the former CRACOVIA hotel.

superstructure and expansion

Wizualizacja nadbudowy - studium

Program and spatial study for the reconstruction of the former Hotel Cracovia building—visualization of the superstructure part

© MNK / SARP Krakow / HSA

The investor also allows for the superstructure of the former restaurant and banquet part of the building from the side of the "Kijów" cinema and its extension to the building line allowed by the local plan. Decorative elements are to be faithfully recreated, such as the openwork composition of concrete shapes on the southern elevation of the restaurant.

It is possible to introduce such formulated provisions, which, while protecting the basic architectural values, allow the possibility of adapting the interiors of the above-mentioned objects to new tasks and functions through appropriate modernization activities, which also do not exclude partial transformations and necessary demolitions in the former hotel part, while retaining the characteristic features of the object's architecture reconstructed with modern means," wrote Prof. Witlod Cęckiewicz in his opinion on the program and spatial study related to the reconstruction of the hotel.

total demolition

Przekrój - studium

Przekrój - studium

Program and spatial study for the reconstruction of the former Cracovia Hotel building—cross-sections with a new division into floors

© MNK / SARP Krakow / HSA

The biggest changes, however, await the hotel floors. Demolished in their entirety, they are to be rebuilt in a completely new structure. Under the curtain façade planned to be faithfully reconstructed, there will be not five, but three floors. Exhibition spaces will be arranged on two, and offices on the upper floor. The structure is to be supported by pillars and allow for large, open exhibition spaces. The general guideline is to faithfully reproduce the architectural detail, especially window divisions and profiles, proportions, articulation and decoration of the facade, first floor display windows, and color scheme, according to the original design.

In the process of the proposed and recommended replacement of the substance, it is recommended to leave the inner part of the central part of the building with a representative staircase. In this zone, it is recommended to limit the scale of work to conservation renovation. This means preserving the original building substance and design elements to the maximum extent," reads the structural and construction expertise prepared by KB Projekty.

Who will choose the project?

Rzut parteru

Program and spatial study for the reconstruction of the former Cracovia Hotel building—first floor plan with the part to be preserved marked

© MNK / SARP Kraków / HSA

The jury includes representatives from the world of architecture and the investor. Among them Bolesław Stelmach, Zbigniew Maćków, Marcin Brataniec or Przemo Łukasik. Missing from this group are specialists in historic preservation or environmental issues, but also women. The only one is Benita Strzałka-Paleczny, acting as organizational secretary of the competition on behalf of the Cracow branch of SARP. Submitted works will be evaluated in terms of attractiveness of the proposed architectural solutions, functional-utility aspects, application of energy-saving solutions, economic feasibility and anticipated costs of use and maintenance. In the first stage, participants will submit study papers, from among which the jury will select three to five proposals to be qualified for the second stage. We are expected to find out what the design of the new Cracovia will look like on November 17, 2023—as the results of the competition are scheduled to be announced on that day.

Wizualizacja od strony kina

Program and spatial study for the reconstruction of the former Cracovia Hotel building—visualization from the side of the "Kijów" cinema

© MNK / SARP Kraków / HSA

The article uses competition materials made available on the organizer's website: LINK


Kacper Kępiński

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