With its scaffolding removed, and the building now assuming its final form, the future seat of the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw has faced a wave of criticism after its exterior was revealed after months under wraps.
“I never thought I would miss the sight of the Palace of Culture,” wrote one person; others, meanwhile, have likened its blockish form to an overground bunker. “No, it’s not a cargo container,” quipped another Twitter user, “it’s a new museum.”
At a time when Poland’s public spaces have increasingly come under scrutiny for their dehumanizing concrete excesses, the museum has been heralded in some quarters as setting a new benchmark in catastrophic ugliness.
Designed by American architect Thomas Phifer, the white cube-like building was intended to slot seamlessly into its surroundings whilst also referencing the capital’s modernist architectural heritage.
Simple but monumental in its dimensions, the building has now sparked heated debate; according to its defenders, the striking structure will reabsorb this previously empty plot back into the city’s fabric.
The museum’s management, meanwhile, have also remained defiant.
“In the design of the new headquarters of the Museum, we adopted elements of modernist architecture such as simplicity of materials and ergonomics whilst also looking to build a framework in which social life could thrive,” they say.
Continuing, they add: “the building will create conditions suited to individual contemplation while remaining open to the needs of a large number of visitors. It will also be entirely filled with art – aside from the exhibition galleries, the public areas, foyer and staircase will be decorated with artistic works.”
Not everyone, however, is convinced, and the building has already spawned a heap of mocking memes.
Others, in the meantime, have urged patience, noting that this would not be the first time that Warsaw has been scandalized by architects or artists; a decade or so ago, Daniel Liebeskind’s Złota 44 tower was met with similar disdain after it failed to match up to the architect’s renderings.
Over time, people have noted, it has become an iconic part of Warsaw’s skyline.
Likewise, Joanna Rajkowska’s palm tree installation on Rondo De Gaulle’a initially shocked the Warsaw public before finding its way into local hearts.
After the underwhelming debut of Plac Pięciu Rogów last summer (which itself is only now gradually finding appreciation), all eyes are now on the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw.
With City Hall making significant noise over their ambitious plans to transform the city center, now more than ever their vision faces a stern test where it comes to public acceptance.
Yet for all the existing negativity, already the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw has almost subliminally fulfilled its duty to get the people talking. Set to welcome visitors later in the year, already what is sure to become an A-class attraction has underlined this city’s extraordinary capacity to shock and awe.