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Museum of Fire in Żory
Zory is a town located in the South of Poland. Zory in old polish means “fire” or “burnt”. The town got its name after an event in 1702 where it was almost completely burnt. The people of Zory gather every year to pray and seek safety by the Lord. This annual gathering has been turned into a big summer event, the “Festival of Fire.” The Community of Żory has commissioned the polish architects, OVO Grabczewscy Architekci in order to design a building that would promote the town and its heritage through exhibiting historical and other local collections to visitors, tourists, investors and the young population.
The building and its concept was shaped around the history of the city, the challenges of the topology and the fire itself. The function of the building was not known from the beginning. The architects were given a piece of white paper and they were told that they could do anything. This is not particularly easy as there are numerous variables to be considered. The function and activities changed several times during the design and construction process.
Furthermore, the presence of heavy underground infrastructure on the site of this edifice, has left little land available for construction. This piece of land was shaped around the infrastructure and it resulted in an irregular geometric shape, that in turn resembled a dancing flame made out of geometric shapes. The architects were inspired by the history of Zory and decided to make the building look like dancing flames. “It became obvious to us, that the building should look like a fire. The strange shape of the plot suddenly started to resemble dancing flames. The idea started to crystallise,” the architects explained.
On the exterior, the “Garden of Fire” is located within the surrounding landscape, and it offers the services of an exhibition space which will mostly be used during the Festival of Fire. Pedestrian and green pathways are running through and around the pavilion, in an effort to blend the building with its surrounding landscape.
The structure is made out of three independent walls that flow over each other. These are covered in large copper plates that create a colour sensation similar to an open flame. The museum has three entrances that provide access to the interior spaces. These are glazed and clearly visible from afar in order to stand as a visual reference and guide the visitors. The interior is comprised with a reception lobby that offers visitor information and a multifunctional space on the ground floor while a large public exhibition hall is located underground. Restrooms, services and technical rooms complete the typology. The interior floors are paved with small black stones that continue to the exterior and surround the building.
This type of flooring gives the feeling that you are located outside while you are walking on the between the interior spaces. This is a decision that the architects have made which I do not particularly like. Exposed concrete walls, cobbled floors, copper plated walls, glazing and white triangular ceiling panels are maybe too many different categories of materials that create confusion. What this building needs is a conversation between the brave exterior facade and the interior spaces. This is lost through the overuse of materials that do not fit in this context. Cobbled flooring? Why? What purpose does it serve here?
Moreover, I can see the dancing flames on the exterior, only if I try hard enough. Actually, to be honest, I can only see them because I know that the building is shaped to resemble flames. I am pretty sure that if I did not know this I wouldn’t be able to form the image of flames in my head. It is easier to picture Libeskind’s buildings than dancing flames. At the beginning, i asked myself, “what about patina?”-the oxidation process of copper that turns it green over time. But it seems like the architects have managed to find a way to avoid it by installing copper panels covered with high resistant varnish, similar to cars, which keeps it from oxidising and turning green. I hope that varnish lasts as long as the building. I really like the colour that the copper panels are creating though. Especially when artificial light strikes them. It is really majestic. A real eye-catcher and something that the Community of Żory has been asking from the beginning.
By: Andreas Leonidou
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