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especiales > ESC European Solidarity Centre - Gdansk, Polonia / ADOC. Arquitectura Design Ordenamento Consultores [05/06/08]

ESC European Solidarity Centre - Gdansk, Polonia / ADOC. Arquitectura Design Ordenamento Consultores (concurso por invitación)

1. The Idea

The land plot where this building will be erected is strategically located in the northern end of the Solidarity Square, where the Monument to the Fallen Shipyard Workers stands, near Gate N2 and the BHP Hall.

The ESC Building seeks to share the end of the “Promenade Roads to Freedom” with the Square.

Touching the ground with its body and soul, the building takes into its lap all passers by within the city.

Among the pillars of which we are both parents and children, we feel the surroundings of the new plaza that invades us and protects itself below us.

The light directed from the building towards the centre of the internal square defines an invisible mass that qualifies the space and diminishes the weight of the physical space. That matter also builds its inside and defines limits between what the eyes see and what the body feels, penetrating in all its surroundings.

An assumed victim of the chisel, the building is cut and defined by light, letting it flow through its empty spaces and answer functional logics of a more humane reality and more attentive to mortal demands, making this architecture more tangible and inhabitable.

2. Description of Main Areas

2.1. The Square, the exterior spaces and the walking path “Roads to Freedom”

To present the main conceptual basis of the proposal could be a suitable introduction to the methodological approach to the theme of landscape in the context of the cultural centre at Gdansk. The following can also be presented, in a broader statement, as inspirational principles that oriented the proposal and should provide guidance for further development of the project.

One should emphasize, as a fundamental principle, the recognition of the fact that landscape is meant to be constructed and is the expression of a meaningful artificiality, since it is the practical result of each generation’s interpretation of the nature in which it lives. In this particular case this principle assumes a direct and relevant significance in the sense that the need for the present intervention emerges from an urge to adequate the existing reality to new approaches and desires, new interpretations: the space is claiming for being updated towards a present functionality and meaning.

These dynamics of the precarious in urban landscape suggest a second principle: the recognition of reversibility as a quality and a value in itself; in a certain sense, this could be seen as a rare attitude in our present contemporary context in which the world is dominated by an overwhelming need to materialise, is everlasting and eternal manner, ones beliefs and convictions. Trying to contradict this and acting accordingly to the most basic principle of sustainability – transmitting “fertile land” to the next generations – our intervention is meant to incorporate this spirit, through the definition of a transformation that will not impede or compromise the expression of future interpretations, of the materialisation of emerging needs and desires.


Proceeding with this attempt to summarize a gathering of conceptual and propositional principles, it is important to call another basic fundamental of our practice – the perception that our intervention inscribes itself within an historic time, defining the condition of the moment in which it operates, and that this time is integrated into a natural time of an infinitely broader character. Besides this, a seasonal dynamics of annual biological cycle is added, a succession of phases that repeat themselves and organise themselves in an unstable balance. In this context, the proposal is no more then an organiser of a succession of times and states, the integrator of a global process that determines a more or less organised and controlled dynamics, inside which admissible intervals of variation are defined, without a pre-determined rigid evolutionary line.

This proposal leads to the declaration of a landscape intended as a dynamic system in which the transformation of itself presents processual and descriptive qualities that are more meaningful then eventual objective quality that can emerge from what is deigned. The proposal seeks just the positive manipulation of the metabolic factors of the medium, adding a poetical or ideological or artistic sense. The definition of materials and constructive solutions for fulfilling the intended result is fundamental for the
pragmatic success of the work, for the way in which it will achieve a certain mature age. At the present proposal, this definition is a result of the interpretation of the place and its physicality, of the constant ethical compromise with excellence and innovation, of the search for providing the best possible experience in terms of tactfulness ad sensitiveness and finally, of course, through applying criteria of resistance and durability.

The proposal will be developed, at project level, to state of the art performance standards, so that the maintenance and conservation issues are addressed immediately from the initial stages of the process and, consequently integrated into design. The awareness of being in the middle of an evolutionary process prevails as well as the relevance of this project in the construction of a new relationship between the city and its citizens. The new proposed landscape is in grade to respond to every challenge, for is flexibility and adaptability – it will perform the necessary support of informality and freedom that are adequate to the development of a new spirit of conviviality, of a better affirmation of citizenship.

In detail, the proposal corresponds to what just declared. The main idea being that the founding of an urban landscape alphabet helps us to unify and link all the questioned territory. A simple perception of the urban dynamics tells us the site in at an important crossroad between the central historical city and its industrial outskirts. This is why basically our attitude is to concentrate on the linking road which goes from south to north, until the water. This visible connection helps us to define a protected alley along which the visitor is invited, and along which he can find public cultural happenings such as the main centre or the restored existing functions.

The major central space beneath the building is a great inert surface, fractured in many irregular alveoli which freely interpret the geometry of the surrounding pillars. This pattern materializes itself into multiple lines cutting the pavement which generate seating elements, as well as other integrated elements such as drinking fountains, bicycle parking and information booths.

Further into the building a winter garden is conceived on level 0. The main structure of the garden is a double path which connects the inner entrances to a main glass opening giving into an open-air court. The bigger areas containing soil and plants are disposed along the blind exterior walls, on different levels connected by an elevated path. This interior space works as a temperate greenhouse where heating is provided and ventilation is made through the glass ceiling. Plants in this environment are semi-tropical and their visual impact is allowed through the glass at the square level and through multiple openings at level 0. Next to the winter garden is a cold courtyard which is conceived with the same fragmental logic as the garden and all outdoor surfaces, with the only difference that plants here will be native and local plants. This fragmentation principle is also extended to other outdoor areas, south up to the memorial wall, along the new pedestrian street which goes from one end to the other of the site, around the housing building and the BHP building. The logic being that the scale of each surface ranges from a bigger scale along the central walkways and access points, to a smaller scale where furniture equipment is provided for people, and single isolated trees are planted. In such a way the scale variation is applied to the major green areas where the surface is landscaped with a polygonal logic reaching up to 1.5m of height. Constituting more than narrow urban gardens, these green areas represent at the same time a pause and a limit in the landscape.

Below is a proposed list of possible plants, lined along the major inert surfaces: Betula pendula; Aesculus parviflora; Acer pseudoplatanus; Cedrus atlantica; Daphne mezerium; Viburnum opulus

The next list refers to plants which are disposed in the main green areas, with different density and a different seasonal effect: Cedrus altantica; Daphne mezerium; Viburnum opulus; Acer tegmentasum; Eunonymus europaeus; Cornus alba.

2.2. The Entrance Hall

The entrance to the building takes place in two different spots: from the Solidarity Square and from the Promenade Roads To Freedom. Diving under the exterior space that is covered by the building, the user of the ESC Building reaches the main entrance hall, through two intentionally over-sized stairs, and is lead to use it as a public space. The ESC entrance hall is understood as an essential space of arrival and distribution centre, and therefore is characterized not only as meeting point and flux origin but also as a gathering element of a series of uses. In this case the entrance hall is a space that involves the heart of the building and that always relates to it. The hall involves the exhibition rooms, allowing visual crossings and a clear vision of the greatness of the space and of the present light without competing with the exhibition space. In the empty spaces between pillars there are entrances and exits of the exhibitions and the information counter, while within the pillars there are satellite uses of the hall and exhibitions like security, cloakroom or multimedia presentation rooms.

2.3. Permanent Exhibition Devoted to Solidarity

The exhibition space was held as the key element of the building, because of its importance in the cultural characterization of the ESC through the values that support the exhibition.

This way, with the direct access from the entrance, through stairs that lead to level -1 (or through the lift to visitors with conditioned mobility), the permanent exhibition assumes all the preponderance as arriving to the ESC. Through the visual alignments from the reduced height entrance, the “Solidarity” theme becomes absolutely central and assumes the main role in the substance of this building along with the relation with the Monument to Fallen Shipyard Workers made possible through the transparent south entrance.

The permanent exhibition develops through two levels, with double height by the entrance level and triple height in part of the level -1, representing a big emptiness, filled with potential that will gain scale from its occupation. This space is mainly lightened by a big skylight crossable at the square level.

2.4. Temporary Exhibition Halls

The temporary exhibitions visually close the main hall of the permanent exhibition working as an upper level belt with an autonomous satellite path. This advantage comes real in a corridor that gathers the essence of the building. This closed circuit begins by the stairs that lead from the entrance hall and is exclusively lightened by the empties of the interior of the pillars that bring the light from the top of the Centre. The corridor is strongly broken by great well of vertical light that attribute different scales along the visit that ends in a mezzanine over the Winter Garden.

2.5. Multi-functional Halls

The program asks for two spaces destined to conferences, seminars, performances, etc, capable of accommodate 200 and 400 people respectively and possible of working as one. This proposal includes two auditoriums, with the intended capabilities that could work as complement to the ESC building or optional and occasionally in a completely independent way, Though they have direct access from the main hall, so that these spaces can be an even greater income to Gdansk, was considered a possible independent entrance, from the square, that gives direct access to the Foyer which serves both these auditoriums allowing its functioning out of the regular schedule of the remaining Centre. The Foyer, because is intended to be a pleasant waiting space at the scale of the remaining building, extends itself visually to the exterior, looking over the Solidarity Square and the Workers Monument. The two auditoriums, together as one, work as a flat ceiling big room with windows at its extremes looking over the river and the old city.

2.6. The Winter Garden

The Winter Garden, though located away from the arrival to the building, works as an end to the entrance hall. With a wide entrance into the hall from the opposite side to the building entrance and with a less exuberant access by the John Paul II Hall, this space works as a magnet for rest and relax and as a hygrometric controller. In the continuity of the space develops an exterior gardened space that filters the south entrance of the Ecumenical Centre “John Paul II Hall”.

2.7. John Paul II Hall

“The Ancestors could not receive the light coming from above, what I call the Vertical Light, in order to achieve this, they would have to open there roof, allowing the water, wind, cold and the snow to enter. And so, they wouldn’t risk there life to do this. Only the gods or the immortals have the boldness of doing so in the Pantheon. Adriano, in their honor and with his own hands, built that sublime Architecture. A premonition of the results of the Vertical Light”

In La Idea Construida, Alberto Campo Baeza


The John Paul II Hall is entirely inside a pillar. This space has its privileged access through the Winter Garden in the interior of the building to an exterior area. The vegetation that grows beyond to the exterior of the Winter Garden works as a privacy shield to this room’s entrance.


Imágenes gentileza > ADOC / Video presentación del proyecto > YouTube

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