We know who will design the new campus and concert hall for Krakow’s Academy of Music. After a competition that received dozens of proposals, an eight-person jury declared the submission by “Gehry Partners LLP” as the winning design. The firm is led by Frank Gehry, a Canadian-born American architect, winner of the 1989 Pritzker Architecture Prize and one of the most recognized architects in the world.

The project is for the Academy of Music instruction facilities including the main performance hall along with the surrounding landscape located on the land of a former military base on the northeast side of the city along the Wisła at ul. Skrzatow 4 Grzegorzki. The renderings show a campus of windowless silver cubic buildings with slightly skewed angles and curves that extend out from a podium. The architects describe the plan as creating a ‘park of music’ and a distinct zone in the city. In explaining their decision, the judges highlighted the merits of the nontraditional circular concert hall, which from an aerial view is reminiscent of spiral.

Officials from the Academy of Music forecast two years of concept finalization and planning followed by two years of actual construction. The estimated cost is 160 mln PLN of public funds.

The Right Choice?

For those unfamiliar with Gehry’s abstract designs often fused with luster and flair, the complex is undeniably striking and impressive. In Krakow’s cityscape, the structure will be remarkably distinct and represent a forward thinking mentality by a government supporting arts and culture. Yet for an audience more aware of trends in architecture, this style of neo-futuristic buildings have now become, ironically, “classic” Gehry. The designs are quite similar to many of his other previous small scale projects. They do not stray from or innovate from what has now become a predictable “brand.” Undoubtedly, there was disproportionate weight attached to the last name of this architect that may have eclipsed the value of other compelling design submissions, which included local firms.

Most of the other finalists went for a different approach from Gehry’s multi-building campus. Instead, they put all the functions of the school in a single structure and focused on monumentality and striking poses along the Wisła. The grander scale of these individual buildings could likely have exerted their own gravity to pull people from the city center for a visit or just look dramatic on a postcard.