The World Architecture Festival was held in Berlin for the first time this year, and ended on November 18 with a gala evening at which the winners of the special prizes selected by a panel of judges chaired by David Chipperfield were announced. The project that won the most important prize at the festival, World Building of the Year 2016, is Przelomy National Museum and Dialogue Centre in Szczecin, Poland, designed by architect Robert Konieczny + KWK Promes, which had already been shortlisted in the "Culture" category at the WAF Awards.
Robert Konieczny’s project also won the European Prize for Urban Public Space 2016 in July, in a tie with the project for reclamation and irrigation of Caldes de Montbui spa gardens in Spain. What is unusual about Konieczny’s project is the fact that it is a public urban space even more than a museum.
The architect worked in an important area for Poland’s collective memory and decided to preserve this character of open public space which the place had acquired over the years, following World War II bombing and the tragic events of December 1970, and built the museum underground.
There are two reasons for this solution: an underground place suggests immersion in the city’s history and archaeology while an open public space can be used in a variety of different ways and host the commemorative events held on the site every year. The decision turned out to be right, also because it made it unnecessary to build a structure in contrast with the nearby Philharmonic Hall designed by Studio Barozzi Veiga, an icon of Polish architecture.