Percent for Art: A New Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw

In the option studio, we design a new building for the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw by re-using the structure of a large-scale shopping mall.

We will look at museums that transformed and expanded existing structures as a springboard to investigate the potential of architecture to occupy and repurpose existing space. However, instead of post-industrial structures that house many of today’s leading contemporary art institutions, we inhabit obsolete retail space.

As implied in the ambiguous title, our project asks: what percentage of society is represented and acknowledged by museums? Official museum architecture within the context of urban landscapes represents the ideology of a certain percentage, not only acknowledging but also dividing communities.

Our site is situated in a charged urban context: the shopping mall—a slab 350 meters in length—faces the existing Museum of Modern Art with its white, abstract concrete facade and behind it the towering structure of the Soviet Palace of Culture and Science. This specific place embodies Warsaw’s recent history with the shift from communism to neoliberalism. During our studio trip to Warsaw, we will meet with artists, curators, and activists and explore the site’s artistic, architectural, and political environment.

You will not only work on the building’s design, but as architects you are also responsible for developing its spatial and cultural program. Learning from different strategies that challenge official narratives of urban memory, we aim to shed light on issues and communities which are consistently ignored. What architectural features ensure accessibility to a wider audience and foster the inclusive memory of Warsaw’s urban landscape, its appearance threatened by the onslaught of ongoing real-estate development? What happens when the cultural realm of the museum is confronted with commerce? What kind of activities—exhibitions, events, and collections—should the new museum envision?

The studio begins with a research phase, where you work on an “artist’s book” of your own to define and specify your cultural mission for the “museum of the future” that you are about to design. After visiting the site in Warsaw and discussing your projects with our clients, the curators at the Museum of Modern Art Warsaw, you will work on your individual project brief and scheme for a future program. You will not only design and produce a complete architectural project, but also its display for the exhibition at the museum that will be dedicated to the studio’s investigation (planned for summer, 2024).

Throughout the term we will be joined by numerous guests, artists, curators and scholars, contributing input lectures.