Some ideas defend themselves


Many independent events occurring in time have their meaning in the future. My memories, even slightly decadent, related to Tadeusz Kantor are embedded in the days of fascination with Witkacy, Beckett and theatre… At that time, for me Tadeusz Kantor was a personification of the essence of sublime art permeated with omnipresent death, a bit incomprehensible but certainly with the blood and bones of Cracow and at the same time devoid of provincialism. He touched upon timeless subjects, such as death and transience and it is probably them, together with their form, that gave him immortality. In 1990, I attended an event which was the last journey of Tadeusz Kantor but for me it was a continuation of the idea of his theatre – the theatre of death.


With all those feelings and meanings I entered the competition with others, knowing that I am about to touch an icon. The feeling that paralysed me at the beginning was eventually the drive of all extreme ideas. The design which was to be developed also had to be timeless and out-of-the-box.


Certainly our inspiration for the architectural concept of Cricoteka was the work of Tadeusz Kantor. After analysing the conditions of the competition and the plot of land, we began to study his works. Machines, paintings, drawings – we were looking for an answer to the question of how to link his art with architecture that was to be the sanctuary for the art, its ultimate “packaging”. The existing power plant building was making the task even harder; initially we were irritated by its mundaneness, it seemed incongruent to any visually reasonable idea. When we tried to place a new mass on the plot next to it, the building seemed to disappear and it seemed unnecessary. The acceptance came later – when we saw Tadeusz Kantor’s drawing of a man carrying a table.


It was very meaningful, we understood the essence of joining things together by Tadeusz Kantor himself.


The man and the table as separate beings meant something quite different than when they were joined with each other forever. The man added human features to the object and the table somehow “tableised” the man.


Then we decided to “pack” the old power plant in a new material, at the same time giving it enough space for independent existence. After the analysis of the properties of the plot, it turned out to be possible. (The impossible turned out to be possible). The new space has been hung like a bridge span, the Kantor’s table, over the old power plant creating a modern frame inextricably linked with the old building.


The power plant building with all its dramatic history embeds the overhanging mass in the historical reality, it becomes its new feature, and the new space of Cricoteka gives the “object of the lowest rank”, which the old power plant building has turned into, a chance to live in the future. Together, they have a great impact which surprised us.


These actions resulted also in the creation of additional city square space beneath the overhanging spans and two formatted spans of the new museum supported only in three places, giving some air to the power plant building whose chimney cuts through them in their central point.

We wanted to emphasise the independence of the two masses with their simultaneous inextricable bond.


As a result, the basement level is crucial because it is the only visible way of communication between the two buildings (of course, there are also service passages but they are not exposed so much).


In my opinion, architecture largely enforces social behaviours; in a way it is an inspiring primal element of these behaviours. The architect is like a playwright who can animate the energy of buildings. Architecture must also give a chance of a personal reception and enable the recipient to identify with that art.

By adding a bit surreal effect of the reflection in the roof of the square, not only did we create a poetic metaphor of a flowing river, which is inseparably linked to the structure and owing to the reflection it is always visible, but also for a brief moment each recipient physically becomes a part of the building.


Cricoteka has all the qualities to become an inspiration structure through which people pass, which is transparent, takes part in people’s lives, and is not just a building which people visit. The square beneath the structure, which can be seen from the embankment, has the features of a stage, therefore it is ideal for exhibitions, expositions and it is perfect for all kinds of projections.


For me the most important thing is that the structure was constructed in almost 100% in accordance with the original idea. This is the kind of satisfaction which gives hope that with a certain sequence of events seemingly unrelated to each other the IDEA is able to defend itself.



Agnieszka Szultk


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