icc-katowice

Interview with Jems Architects/ Jerzy Szczepanik Dzikowski & Jacek Mroczkowski

Interview by: Nina Praprotnik

“ICC provides users with a range of added values: clarity of the functional structure, but also surprising spatial arrangements where intimate, even cosy, pockets and recesses are embedded in large-scale, large-sized indoor areas, in addition tointegration with the “green valley”.

Q: In your opinion, what worked in your favour in winning the commission to design ICC Katowice? 

The ICC is located in the immediate vicinity of Spodek, an entertainment arena dating back to the 1960s, reminiscent in shape of a UFO. The structure has a powerful spatial impact and it has rightly become an icon and symbol of Katowice. Hence our unequivocal design decision: stand back, build in the background, create a natural context, build “geologically”, using landform “bumps”. What commanded our attention was an architectural relationship between the green, soft, natural valley impressed in the geometrical, hard and angular massing of the building, and a corresponding impression of the main foyer – soft and natural – in the structure of functions arranged around it as if it were a spine.

Q: From an architectural point of view what is the main speciality of the ICC Katowice project?

What seems to be the most prominent feature is the green valley stretching over the ICC roof, which symbolically represents the old route from Katowice to Bogucice, the oldest settlement in the area. The valley has become a public place with a vantage point frequented by hundreds of visitors every day. The essence of the project exists, as it were, outside architecture – in the public life that unfolds in parallel to the operation of the ICC.  But what we find most important and characteristic, from the architectural point of view, is the discipline of form and material, the uniformity that provides a setting for events.

Q: What were the project’s main challenges and obstacles? 

Budget, as usual. For the competition design – the size of the board into which we had to fit a plan to the required scale. Really. But, seriously speaking, the urban context, the neighbourhood of Spodek, the functional requirements to be made, location on a former mine site, foundation issues – all these added up, as is the case with any design project, into a complex set that required a comprehensive approach. Architecture is a holistic discipline.

“The essence of the project exists, as it were, outside architecture – in the public life that unfolds in parallel to the operation of the ICC”.

Q: How important is the design of such an institution as a convention centre? 

Design concept work seems to be of prime importance to the functioning of the facility, apart from other obvious benefits, such as easy access or delivery. How to measure a user’s positive mood arising from the fact that they simply feel good in the environment? How to test how many users remember the facility and want to come back to it with their own event? It seems that in addition to the functional offering, the ICC provides users with a range of added values: clarity of the functional structure, but also surprising spatial arrangements where intimate, even cosy, pockets and recesses are embedded in large-scale, large-sized indoor areas, in addition to integration with the “green valley”.

Q: What is the role of creative design and how can it help in city revitalization? 

Creation is not the only, and perhaps not even the most important, condition for successful revitalization. Revitalization requires a variety of investment measures, stimulation of human activity, and social actions. It requires smart, long-term planning, and money. Good and creative design may enhance it, while poor design may ruin it. In the case of Katowice, it was decided to develop what came to be called Culture Axis, which comprises the existing Spodek arena, the Silesian Museum, the premises of the Polish Radio National Symphony Orchestra, and the ICC. Importantly, the designs for those facilities (including Spodek) have all been selected through architectural competitions. The axis is not completed – a further action programme is needed for life to flourish there for good.

Q: For ICC Katowice you have also received an award for Poland’s best architectural development – how important is this for you?

We have received many awards for the ICC building. It’s a great pleasure to be appreciated. But the best award for any architect is the public acceptance of their work. This is why we have the most fun looking at the tours flocking in, youth groups, pairs of lovers – thousands of people who mark their presence there by taking selfies or carving their names or words of affection in a bench.

“Revitalization requires a variety of investment measures, stimulation of human activity, and social actions. It requires smart, long-term planning, and money. Good and creative design may enhance it, while poor design may ruin it.”

About ICC Katowice:

International Congress Centre Katowice
Design: 2009-2011
Construction: 2012-2015
Architect: JEMS, Poland
Client: The City of Katowice
Total area: 37,902m²

Basic functions of ICC Katowice:
Multifunctional hall – 8,000m², up to 12,000 people.
Banquet hall – 1,200m², up to 1,000 people.
Auditorium – 600m², 600 seats.
Conference rooms – 18 rooms, 1,650m² total, up to 1,200 people.

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