POLISH INSTITUTE IN COPENHAGEN

Polish Institute of Culture in Copenhagen. The principle of functioning of the institute as a process of space creation.

Team: Mateusz Mastalski.
Type: diploma, finalist of BDA-SARP award.
Year : 2011.
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Polish Cultural Institutes (PI) are institutions designated to spread and promote polish culture. The model of PI itself is takes various forms and depends on the place where it is located. The aim of the project is to create a new formula for PI which is based on the idea of the society as a natural partner and which stimulates its members to new ideas. In my project I would also like to show that aesthetic issues are not the only factor in creating space according to Gordon Cullen’s concept of a “sense of place.” Building proper relationships in a new location is a lengthy process, so the project should evolve along with the people, until it becomes a social space and a “real place” for them. To achieve that, the new PI will focus on the maximum diversity of activities and physical production of the proper tools.

Once I became familiar with the concept of PI I asked myself how our culture could effectively “communicate” with the recipient and also be promoted through PI. Having analysed the issue I concluded that the language of the new Institute should not play performative stereotypes that are created and assigned by the society and culture.  It is not, however, about total elimination of the socio-cultural identity, but just bearing in mind not to simplify it. Deeper reflection on this problem also leads to questions about an entirely new model for the PI, as well as about the existence of cultural institutions not only on the map, but also in the public consciousness. How can we create a context which is needed to create that space – a space not only physical, but social – “the place” where these social processes will occur? How to develop the existing formula and combine the best of the activities as impresario and the advantages of having a physical office?

Creating a “place” is the relationship between the distribution of the Institute’s program, the location of the plot and the urban culture of Copenhagen. In short it is a process. The key is to examine changes over time and the corresponding stages of the project.

The new IP is located in Islands Brygge, a former harbour area of Copenhagen. The site lies between modern and historical residential developments and a former arsenal filled with creative industry offices. One of the most popular public spaces in Copenhagen, Havneparken, is also located nearby. On the plot there are three buildings which, according to local plans, should be removed. In the first stage, the supermarket building facing the street will be demolished. As a result, the currently “inner” courtyard will be “opened up” towards the street. In this phase the landscape of the new square will also be completed according to the topography of Poland. It has been transformed in a few places in order to adapt it to the location and function.  Nowadays culture has acquired certain new shapes and properties; one can speak about culture of radical interdisciplinarity. Therefore, when so many diverse cultural activities are involved we need new tools for appropriate promotion of culture. To achieve this I decided to use a formula of temporary pavilions that provide the PI’s activities programme. Hence, in the second phase, the already functioning square is filled with pavilions, each of them carrying a function activating the public space. They can function in a simple manner, without any advanced technologies. Pavilions have been divided into four groups – activators, attractors, educators and promoters. Educator pavilions are directly related to the educational activities of the institute. Promoters are associated with the cultural promotion program. Activators carry a bridging role – on one hand they serve to implement the Institute’s programme, but on the other hand can be used by the local community. Attractors’ are not in any way related to the activities of the Institute, but serve as points of merely attracting people. Further, since not all of the program can be realized either outdoors, on the square, or in the pavilions, in the third phase the brick office building will be demolished and replaced. The new building’s ground floor is a continuation of the topography of the square, with the strip of auxiliary functions. Volume with PI offices and multifunctional spaces – the ‘magic box’ – was placed on top. ‘Magic box’ consists of two levels, where flexible spaces with variable configurations are located. New PI building coincides with a line proposed by the local plan. At this point, the Institute has been working for some time and has a chance to appear in the consciousness of the people. The next step is to replace the last buildings on the plot by offices for co-workers and a bicycle garage. In the final phase, a few pavilions can be placed in Islands Brygge’s public spaces, creating a new cultural “heart”. In this stage a complex of buildings will also be expanded to include additional office space for the creative industry. During the process, the number of pavilions and their location may change, depending on funding, business partners, and the PI itself.

The individual design of the elements of the project together gives shape to the Polish Cultural Institute. Users associate a certain meaning to each building, which then becomes a backrground scene and provides the framework for the events that take place. According to my idea, the functions are limited only by the imagination of its users. Hence, dynamics and flexibility are the key concepts here. New pavilions, appearing not only in the square, but also in the surrounding public places, are to surprise the people. Together with the flexibility of organizing various types of events in the Polish Institute spaces, it reflects the expectations of the users in that fast changing the world.

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