Chopin Museum Renovation in Warsaw, Poland



Chopin Year 2010 will signal a number of important cultural events in Poland. One of the key events will be the opening of a new museum dedicated to the life and works of Frederic Chopin in Warsaw.  Work on renovating the old building which houses the museum began in 2005. The institution dedicated to collecting Chopin memorabilia, has been located in the historic Ostrogski Palace at 1, Okólnik Street in Warsaw (originally a castle founded at the end of the 17th century by Duke Janusz Ostrogski) for many years, but its redevelopment has completely changed the nature of the former museum. While particular care has been taken to preserve the long tradition of the institution, the museum has gained a new identity which will enable it to meet the different needs of its visitors.

The collection that was first started in 1899 by the Warsaw Music Society is the world’s largest collection Frederic Chopin related items includes musical manuscripts, printed scores, Chopin’s correspondence, personal items (such as cufflinks and diaries), iconography, as well as biographical works about him and critical commentaries on his compositions and his reception as a composer.

About Ostrogski Palace

In the 1680s, the deputy chancellor of the Crown Treasury, Jan Gniński commissioned the leading Dutch architect Tylman van Gameren to design a magnificent palatial residence.  The present palace, built on the site of an earlier fortification, is located in the part of van Gameren’s design where the kitchen buildings were originally planned. Throughout the centuries the palace has served many different functions and was rebuilt several times in the 18th and 19th centuries.

In 1859 the renovated building became the home of the Institute of Music, and was renamed the Conservatory in 1919. This high-level music school was the successor to the Warsaw Conservatory of Chopin’s youth, then officially known as the Music Section of the Fine Arts Department of the Royal University of Warsaw.

At the beginning of the 20th century, a concert pavilion was added onto the south side of the castle, but it was not restored after the Second World War. After being almost totally demolished during the Warsaw Rising in 1944, the palace was rebuilt in 1949-54 on the basis of a project by Mieczysław Kuzma who used the drawings by Zygmunt Vogel, sketches by Tylmana van Gameren and paintings by Canaletto as a model for his design. The aim of the rebuilding was to restore the palace to its former dimensions from the end of 17th century. This treasure of Warsaw architecture was rebuilt along the lines of baroque-enlightenment features and has been totally renovated in order for it to be opened in time for the bicentennial celebrations of Frederic Chopin’s birth. The aim of the permanent exhibition, established after extensive consultations, is to present the composer in light of period documents on display, while challenging the rules and limits of perception by employing new media. The entire project includes the renovation of the building, as well as development of the space and the design of the permanent exhibition. The idea is to create a space where visitors of different ages and levels of understanding about Chopin’s music can meet under one roof, while the contemporary artistic installations are aimed at members of the public who know little about Chopin’s music, his personality or historical context.

The architectural reconstruction project was prepared by the Grzegory & Partnerzy Architekci Studio. Their new concept of a functional museum was designed following extensive work, with the project seeking to increase the working space of the museum (the actual increase in space is 90 per cent) and to build a new concert hall.

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About Charlotte J

Graduate, journalist, blogger and follower of all things media.