The European Solidarity Centre Gdansk, Poland
with Anupama Kundoo

A soft and steadily rising landscape emerges from the edge of the site touching the ‘road to freedom’ and progressively increases in height towards the northwest edge of the site. This sloping green space replaces the virgin land of the building’s footprint on its roof, suggesting that most functions are accommodated with low impact and in a low key manner without being externally ‘seen’. The green surface of the roof that meets the site edge is further continued outside the site limits, spilling over on to the ‘road to freedom’ in the landscape design concept. Pedestrians can ‘step onto’ the Solidarity Center and be aware of it each time the ‘road to freedom’ is taken to get to the city center or the waterfront.

The rising landscape is contained precisely within the edge of the old city wall, going further back into Poland’s history and revealing yet another layer. Thus the Solidarity Movement and its significance, is placed in the context of the whole of Poland’s history, to remind the visitors of its various eras and suggest the broader historical picture upon which solidarnoski was yet another stage in the collective evolution of the nation. The rising green landscape makes a clear slit cut along the line of the old city wall forming on one side the green roof and on the other a sunken plaza.

Suspended high above this green rising landscape, is a ‘container’ a shining marble box that is supported by light steel frame net structures which recall the skyline of the cranes in the ship building areas associated with the harbour city of Gdansk, a view that until now could not be accessed but will be enabled with the new environmental masterplan upon which this design proposal is based. This box containing the exhibition of the solidarity movement is hoisted high up and can be seen from afar, as the main symbol of the new ‘young city’.

So the design concept can be summarised thus: a topography is introduced to an otherwise flat landscape, consisting of upward movement of the earth set in a basin of downward sloping terrain, creating a deliberate shift of the level datum line of the given site and its surrounding. Sitting on such a horizontally extending rising and lowering topography, are high vertical crane like structures that lift a ‘container’ so high that it introduces a strong vertically lifting movement. The design thus strikes a balance between the horizontal earthy and grounded mass, and a high and vertical floating box.

The functions of the Solidarity Center are broadly grouped into one of two categories: functions that attract a steady flow of visitors and functions that serve as daily working spaces that require protection from visitors’ traffic for their proper functioning.

The project has been inspired by two films about the solidarity movement from the Polish director Andrzej Wajda entitled ‘Man of Marble’ and ‘Man of Iron’

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