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Swiss to build Warsaw modern art museum

The new museum is part of efforts to regenerate Warsaw city centre (City of Warsaw)

Swiss rising star architect Christian Kerez has been commissioned to design the new Warsaw Museum of Modern Art.

This content was published on February 19, 2007 - 18:00

The museum, which will cost $91 million (SFr112.3 million) to build and will open in 2010, is part of a master plan to revitalise the centre of Warsaw, one of the fastest growing cities in Europe.

The L-shaped museum will be located next to the 230-metre-high Palace of Science and Culture, Warsaw's best-known landmark, and will house Poland's largest contemporary art collection.

The Zurich-based architect's light, elegant modern design was chosen on Sunday ahead of 109 other projects.

"It was a big surprise; I almost didn't believe it," Kerez told swissinfo. "We were really happy with the concept...which is very generous to art and gives a lot of opportunities for exhibitions. It's also totally flexible."

Kerez's design also relates to Warsaw's powerful but modest buildings from the fifties and sixties.

"It's a magnificent work. Avant-garde architecture which is still in harmony with the surroundings - the square, the streets and [Świętokrzyski] park," said Polish-born architect Daniel Libeskind, who was a member of the jury.

Symbol

The museum will be part of symbolic changes to the city centre, dominated by the Soviet-style palace, a "gift" from Russia marking Poland's accession to the Soviet block.

"The new centre is a sign of political change in Poland," said Katarzyna Redzisz, the museum's communication officer.

Buildings next to the palace will be demolished to make way for the museum, and Plac Defilad (Parade Square), the site of pro-Soviet rallies and demonstrations, will be transformed into a huge city square.

"It's a powerful statement from the city that right in the heart of Warsaw they plan a museum and not another office block or hotel building," said Kerez.

The long-overdue museum is due to showcase work from Poland's "very dynamic" contemporary scene and is expected to attract 800,000 to one million visitors annually.

"The Polish public don't have the occasion to see their work as there is currently no contemporary museum here," explained Redzisz.

After his work on the Vaduz art museum in Liechtenstein, Kerez gained considerable critical acclaim for his design of family houses in Zurich.

He follows in the footsteps of Swiss architects such as Herzog & de Meuron, Mario Botta, Peter Zumthor, Roger Diener and Gigon & Guyer who have gained considerable international recognition over the past three decades for their reinterpretation of modernist architecture.

Swiss architects' work is characterised by practical minimalist designs, the careful selection of materials, precision, durability and attention to detail.

swissinfo, Simon Bradley

In brief

Christian Kerez was born in 1962 in Maracaibo, Venezuela, and studied architecture at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich, where he received a Masters in Architecture in 1988.

He worked as a design architect for Rudolf Fontana from 1991 to 1993. After extensive published work in the field of architectural photography, he opened his own architect's office in Zurich in 1993.

Christian Kerez has been a visiting professor at the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich since 2001 and is an assistant professor of design and architecture.

Some of his best-known projects include the Vaduz Art Museum in Liechtenstein (1998-2000), Zurich apartment buildings (2002-2003) and St. Gallen schoolhouse (2007).

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