Guallart Architects


Wrocław, Poland.2007

International competition

The Universal and International Expositions, like the Olympics, are events that tend to be staged either in emerging countries that are consolidating a position in the international panorama primarily in political or economic terms, or in central locations engaged in reasserting their international leadership. Wrocław, in the south of Poland, near the German border, belongs to the first category, as a place that is undergoing major political and economic transformation and hopes to attract the world’s attention with a great event. In this endeavour it is competing with Tangiers in Morocco and Yeosu in Korea to host the forthcoming Expo 2012. In order to choose the master plan for the laying out of its Expo and a scheme for an emblematic building, the city organized an international competition, in which our proposal was selected for the design of the building.

An Expo is an event that has no real identity in its own right. This being so, the ones that have gone down in history are those that have been very clearly symbolized by a landmark building that has come to constitute an icon of the city, such as Paxton’s Crystal Palace in London, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Atomium in Brussels or Buckminster Fuller’s Dome in Montreal.

Wrocław stands at a crossroads, a territory occupied throughout the course of history by different cultures and empires, in which the rivers Oder and Olawa meet. In the light of this we saw crossing and cross-fertilization as fundamental attributes of the icon of this Expo, the key theme of which will be ‘the culture of leisure in the world’s economies.’ Two of Poland’s outstanding buildings of the 20th century are the Hala Ludowe or Centennial Hall by Max Berg in Wrocław (completed in 1914, and in its day the largest concrete dome in the world) and the Tower of Culture and Science in Warsaw, a potent symbol of a foreign power in the centre of Warsaw that nevertheless represents a surprising typology of high-rise, containing cinemas, exhibition spaces and events venues, offices and other culture-related services. The Centennial Hall was built under German dominance, and the Warsaw Tower under de facto Soviet occupation.

Poland is starting on a new phase with its full integration into the European Union, and is due to receive a massive amount of funds with which to construct infrastructures and amenities. In view of this, this Expo, its urban setting and its principal buildings are an important opportunity to define the identity of a new turn, political, economic and social, just as previously occurred in countries such as Spain.

Our building is located, volumetrically speaking, between the Centennial Hall and the Tower of Culture and Science in Warsaw. In its initial phase it was conceived as an accumulation of generic and as yet imprecise programmes that could include offices, an auditorium, a leisure centre and exhibition spaces that generated its identity on the basis of its mountain-like form. The building’s activities would be allowed to expand onto exterior terraces, created directly by the topography of the building, and onto its roof, directly accessible by way of a cable car from the park in which the building stands.

The topography of the mountain is such that its south face forms an angle to accommodate a bank of photovoltaic panels on the façade which will generate part of the energy consumed by the building.


Competition Date: 2007
Client: Wrocław City Council
Site: Wrocław, Polonia
Architecture: Guallart Architects
Main architects: Vicente Guallart, María Díaz
Collaborators: Enrico Crobu, Asaduzzaman Rassel, Marian Albarrán, Fernando Meneses, Daniela Frogheri, Andrea Imaz, Rainer Goldstein, Ana Cabellos.
3D images: Lucas Cappelli, Gaëtan Kohler, Néstor David Palma.
Work models: Christine Bleicher, Laure-Hélène Pélissot, Filipa Barraquero
Methacrylate model: Fabián Asunción, Diego Gutiérrez, Ángel Gaspar, Juan Robledo, Rafael DeMontard
Lights: Toño Saeinz
Photography of model: Nuria Díaz (construction), Adrià Goula (final images)