This text was created at least twice; its first version emerged a few years ago when emotions associated with this object were still very intense. Now, with a cooler perspective, I can look back at the object itself, at the way it was created, and what it means to me today.
In 2012, when the concept of Cricoteka was being developed, I was a co-founder and co-owner of nsmoonstudio. Our architectural collaboration began around 2002. By 2012, we were already an established architectural firm with numerous award-winning projects, including the House of the Year by SARP; we represented Poland at the Venice Architecture Biennale in Adam Budak’s curated exhibition.
We were Krakow residents, connected to Tadeusz Kantor through the city and everything it represents. As a young person well-versed in Polish literature, including Witkacy, Gombrowicz, and other challenging works, I felt the atmosphere of Tadeusz Kantor. I personally attended the master’s funeral; that ceremony remained etched in my memory forever—cold, decadent atmosphere, horses, a crowd of people. There was something very special in that atmosphere. It felt like we were participating in another one of his plays, this time with the author in the leading role. I was to encounter Tadeusz Kantor again during the competition for the expansion of the suburban power plant. The subject was paralyzing, not necessarily by its scale, but by Kantor’s authority and energy hovering over the topic. We felt the weight of his creative personality, uniqueness, almost iconicity. It wasn’t just an architectural object, a competition item – it was THE object. Thinking about this space, I was afraid that anything created might simply offend Kantor himself and be banal.
At that time, we were a team called IQ consortium – a collaboration between two firms: NsMoonstudio (mine and Piotr Nawara’s) and Wizja, the late Stanisław Deńko’s architectural firm. Deńko was a prominent Krakow architect, the architect of the city of Krakow, and the author of, among other things, the PRL Embassy in New Delhi (India), a project realized by Witold Cęckiewicz and Stanisław Deńko, 1975-1978. We had jointly completed several large buildings. Cricoteka was a studio topic for us. We were creatively active with over-potential. Staszek loved such challenges, enjoyed working in teams. In this case, we positively motivated each other. His undoubtedly immense professional experience allowed us to push boundaries. Staszek was a bold architect, liked to experiment, and had the knowledge that allowed for such experimentation.
At the beginning, the work was largely focused on a thorough study of Tadeusz Kantor’s works. We searched for hints, signs that would help us choose a direction. All his works: packages, drawings, paintings, gave great significance to objects, which in the company of living people took on a different meaning. Creations emerged, such as a seated man or, if you prefer, a humanized table. And this modest drawing and artistic rebus became our inspiration.
The plot had an old power plant building, which, in March 1900, provided electric street lighting. The power plant supplied electricity to industrial facilities in the suburb. After the merger of Podgórze with Krakow in 1915, the suburban power plant was merged with the Krakow one, resulting in the closure of the suburban power plant. After the decommissioning of electrical equipment in 1926, the buildings were adapted into the Municipal Lodging and Bath House for the Homeless. Later, the buildings served as a clinic with a tuberculosis and dermatovenerological outpatient clinic. During World War II, the Germans used the former bathhouse rooms with a disinfection chamber to prepare transports of prisoners to camps. This traumatic past was palpable; the building exuded a difficult energy, as if it remembered the fates of all beings that passed through it, but in that energy, there was power.
The newly created form, according to the competition guidelines, was not to overshadow or dominate it; the building was under conservation protection. After analyzing the possibilities, we concluded that only creating a kind of frame above it, a bridge spanned only in available places, would solve many issues related to this object and this plot. It would create a large gallery space, an additional space for a covered square; the elevation and the power plant building itself would still be visible. This is how our building was created – a bridge / man table. A new architectural persona, focusing on the duality of the old power plant characteristics framed by the suspended gallery bridge. Neo-packaging.
The underbelly of this bridge was to have a surreal character reflecting the flowing river of water and people, reminding those present that this world is a world of art, where magic and poetry matter. The packaging of our power plant received a skin in the form of rusted corten material, intentionally perforated to reveal the architecture of a robust structure. To not hide how much structural effort it takes to achieve such spans. At night, we can see the structural steel and concrete supports of communication and the gallery body.
The suspension is not just a random suspension; it does not visually touch the old building at any point, as if emphasizing its independence, but its form is cut to the shape of the embankments and the Vistula. Between the spans, allowed to pass freely, the phallic chimney of the power plant dominates, not interfering with the autonomy of the new building. The buildings became inseparable. They forever exchange their own energy.
Communication to the old part is through the underground; this is also one of the reasons why we now have a scenic square, an art space, an influence we enter even by accident. This is intentional.
Cricoteka was created as a tool that was supposed to enable the distribution of art and new ideas, as well as a place, a home for the entire legacy of Tadeusz Kantor.
We know for sure that it changed the district’s image. In this place, Krakow turns towards the Vistula, as Stanisław Deńko often mentioned it should be. Cricoteka faces the Vistula and is largely a generator of movement, which takes place from Kazimierz. It is a place to go to and be at. It exudes art nonetheless. Involuntarily