MOCAK, Contemporary Art Museum
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MOCAK, Contemporary Art Museum

Claudio Nardi

MOCAK, Contemporary Art Museum
By Francesco Pagliari -

The project for the Krakow Contemporary Art Museum (MOCAK), which won the 2007 international competition and reached inauguration in late 2010, shows some basic operative principles at work: to lend distinction to a place of memorial, to knit together past, present and future, to convey points of permanent narrative through architecture. The architects, Claudio Nardi and Leonardo Maria Proli, began by taking some rigorous and well-weighed decisions: what parts of the previous building to preserve as important symbols, and where to enact an architectural transformation. The building is a place steeped in history of the kind that cannot fade, a memento of Nazi occupation in the Second World War. This was Schindler’s factory as hymned by cinema and literature, where Jews glimpsed hope despite the tragic times. The decision to turn it into a museum within the Polish city combining conservation with cultural vision is a major one, calling for like-minded architectural commitment. Symbols to highlight: an industrial building imbued with the memory of historical events, to keep the impact of which the project took shed roofing as its guiding datum – and indeed, a stylized shed outline becomes the new museum logo. A portion of bare brickwork wall from Schindler’s factory has been left encapsulated in the museum perimeter, visible through the continuous glazing of the southern elevation as a direct link with the past. The whole museum is laid out as a cognitive itinerary through representations of contemporary art. The architecture shares in this tension born of concrete experience, and guides the visitor on a densely real route. The museum is heralded symbolically by an external abutment in exposed reinforced concrete, connected by concrete trusses to the building. This wall stands in elegant obliqueness, pointing the way towards the entrance and the open square in front of it. An itinerary is sketched, lines of perception are traced in space, to be picked up by the architecture of the museum: the sidewall of the access building is an eloquent, materially dense presence, sternly and geometrically clad in anthracite-grey fibre cement slabs. A gap to one side gives a glimpse of the underground floor, much of which space is used as a museum artwork depot. Blazoned across the dark grey is the MOCAK logo, two sections of shed roofing in silhouette. This wall seems to slide away until it abuts on the glazed south elevation, where it continues inside the museum forming a sidewall to a walk-through display space visible from outside in which part of the floor is in structural glass resting on steel girders. Rising full height among the shed-roofed portions are five bays of glass supported on a steel mullion and transom frame. A cross between present day and history conveyed by the conjunction of materials. And onto this public square faces another symbol, the former building’s bare brick wall. The glass curtainwall picks this out like a memory panel, a nucleus crystallized in time. The route winds round the museum until one comes to a smaller second piazza leading back into the town. A concatenation of differing shapes and materials: exposed reinforced concrete, grey fibre cement panels and glass walls dominate the outer façades and form a densely compact picture; black titanium-zinc sheeting lines the shed roofing that incorporates old portions, another dominant and figurative motif; while for the new building the structure itself and technical plant are designed without reference to what was there before. Inside, the watchword is exhibition flexibility with indirect lighting from skylights. The plan is a quadrilateral in which the display areas and those set aside for secondary museum activities divide in a double L: the bookshop and restaurant (with another entrance on the north-east side) and the cinema auditorium snugly ensconced at the centre.

Francesco Pagliari

Location: Krakow, Poland
Client: Krakow Municipality
Completion: 2010
Gross Floor Area: 9000 m2
Construction Cost: 20.000.000 Euro
Architects: Claudio Nardi Architects, Leonardo Maria Proli
Main Contractor: Warbud

Czeslaw Hodurek
Electrical Systems: ElektriMont Plumbing
Systems: TW Engineers

Continuous Glass Façade:
Plasterboard: Lafarge Gips, Knauf
Glass: Rigips Saint-Gobain
Glass Floor Frame: Aluminium
Lifts: Kone
Lighting: Xal Sanitary
Ware: Sanitec Kolo


Fibre Panels C: Rieder Smart Elements
Titanium-Zinc Sheeting: VM Zinc

Photo by:
3/5-7-9-10 © Marcin Gierat 2-18-19 © Adam Golec 13 © Mateusz Lapsa-Malawski 8 © Alessandro Moggi 6-11-14/16-21/23 © Claudio Nardi Architects 17 © Jacek Piwowarczyk 1-12-20 © Rafal Sosin

Claudio Nardi
Claudio Nardi has done projects of public and private architecture in Italy and abroad. One major theme is transforming buildings or a town scenario by a dialogue between innovation and keeping what was there, a play on architectural objects and communication. He has received numerous awards and citations in architecture exhibitions and competitions. These are some of his main operations in Italy and elsewhere: the Office Building in Amman (2010), Riva Lofts Hotel (2007), the headquarters of the new Marine and Port Authority at Carrara (2006), the Florence Marble Museum (2005), piazza Matteotti at Tavarnelle val di Pesa (2004), the Multiplex Vis Pathé (2002), the BP Studio premises in Florence (2000), Lofts in via Ghibellina, Florence (2007), as well as private residences in Dubai (2009), Abu Dhabi (2001), Madrid (2006) and on New York’s Shelter Island (1999). Current works are: the Krakow Investments Centre, the headquarters of Mandragora Publishers, the Re Alarico Winery at Carolei, Calabria, a residential complex in Florence’s Nuvoli district, the Vertex Tower in Amman and a private house in Parma.

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