Gdansk Museum of WW2

Competition entry, 2011. Honorable mention

The Message of the project – conflict, warning sign and hope.

The main message that the museum conveys is that there is an ever-existing conflict between the evil forces of war on the one hand, and the human spirit’s resistance on the other.

It is of utmost importance to watch out for evil forces trying to rise again and again all around our planet. This message is emphasized by two opposing tectonic elements entwined in the DNA of the design: the oppressive huge metal body as a war machine that threatens to run over the existing world – as opposed to the grid of wooden construction.

This construction of wooden columns, growing out of the foundation – grid of the pre-war city of Gdansk – carry the memory, both in scale and material, of the old world trying to resist the war machine. The wooden columns are designed to freeze while collapsing. The moment of collapse is symbolically stopped to emphasize that in the eternal conflict between good and evil, between life and death, in the end the human spirit prevails.

The conflict between these elements is incorporated in the structure of the building and is present both outside and inside the building. The thematic WW2 exhibition is enclosed in the metal body, while heroic stories of people like Cavalry Captain Witold Pilecki, Father Maksymilian, Maria Kolbe and other heroes, are narrated in other parts of the building – those parts where the symbolic wooden structure is present.

At its peak, the metal war machine rises to the accent – the highest point of the building, designed as a warning sign light-house to remind the world that the danger of wars is always there, threatening to rise if we are not watchful. This message is important especially coming from Gdansk, the city where WW2 started, but also where Lech Walesa founded the Solidarity Movement and led Poland to freedom and democracy.

At the last part of the exhibition visitors emerge from the metal boxes into that part of the building which is full of light and optimism, where the wooden structure is fully present, metaphorically symbolizing hope. Here the stories of heroic people whose human spirit resisted the evils of war will be exhibited. These are the most important moral lessons for coming generations, giving hope for a better future.