Warsaw’s modern art museum debacle

Row over who is to blame for the delay


The construction of the Museum of Modern Art Warsaw, which was meant to start in the summer, has been postponed, raising fears that the £60m museum may never be built. While client and architect argue over who is to blame, the museum will instead move into the 4,300 sq. m, modernist Emilia Pavilion, something the institution’s director welcomes.

A spokesman for Warsaw City Hall blames the museum’s architect, Zurich-based Christian Kerez, for not submitting final construction plans. The city has given the architect an ultimatum to submit the plans by the end of February otherwise it will withdraw the commission. A spokesman for Kerez says the plans depend on a building permit, which has not yet been issued. Some conditions of the permit, such as the certificate of property ownership, are out of the architect’s hands. “[The] drawings can only be done if the city of Warsaw owns the entire plot of land,” he says. There are different claims, which date back to before the second world war, to the land. If the city were to buy the plots from any claimants, the cost of the museum would increase significantly.

Joanna Mytkowska, the museum’s director, believes the delays are, in fact, due to the economy: “Because of the crisis, the money that was earmarked for the museum went to another project. We fell off the list of priorities, which is understandable, because there’s a hospital that needs building, a subway, and so on.” Delays to a metro extension beneath the site mean construction on the museum cannot begin before 2013.

While these issues are ironed out, the city of Warsaw has offered the Emilia Pavilion for a five-year period. Mytkowska hopes to have moved in and be ready to open by the end of 2012.