The Fall of the Berlin Wall is recognised worldwide as a symbol of twentieth-century transformations. In Poland, Lech Wałęsa’s jump over the fence of the Gdańsk Shipyard is no less iconic. Captivating and evocative, both images tell us a lot about the social, economic and cultural changes upon which we build the present reality of Central Europe.
Against the backdrop of momentous events happen the lives of ordinary people – initiatives and activities that have never made headlines. This arduous forging of one’s existence and tackling topical issues forms the foundation for palpable changes and growth.
At present, Lublin is a medium-sized city in East-Central Europe. Over centuries, its location – in the trans-border region and on trade routes – has implied the influence of numerous cultures: Polish, Ukrainian, and Jewish. This coexistence was the result of tolerance and intercultural relations in the region located at the crossroads of Poland and at the frontier of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, an area which to this day remains suffused with Eastern spirituality. The culturally rich social fabric of the region found its tragic end in the Holocaust and in the course of post-WWII acts of expulsion and resettlement.
In the 1960s, as part of the policy of planned economy, a new theatre was designed in Lublin, featuring the biggest opera stage in Europe. The next decade saw the initiation of the construction work which, however, was not informed by the analysis whether Lublin required or was ready for such a spectacular investment. The economic crisis of the 1980s and the underestimation of the building costs led to the suspension of the construction work. The gargantuan skeleton of the unfinished theatre started to cast its long shadow over the centre of the city, before long gaining the dubious nickname of “the Theatre Under Construction”. With time, it became a monument to dreams and aspirations on the one hand, and an inadvertent memento of impotence and inefficiency on the other. With this “obelisk” in the background, the residents of Lublin lived on and social and cultural changes duly marched on.
In the ensuing years, Poland became a free country as well as a member state of the European Union. Long-abandoned projects were rejuvenated and private enterprise returned to the fore. Lublin started to vie for the title of the European Capital of Europe, giving rise to the joint creative momentum of artists, cultural organisers and NGOs, all of whom drew on the multicultural traditions of the region and, in doing so, have brought back the values of tolerance and dialogue. In consequence, Lublin has become a “city in dialogue”. These ideas underpin the building of the new identity of “the Theatre Under Construction”. Once financial resources were obtained and the winner of the International Architecture Competition was revealed, the construction work commenced again.
The institution that is being created in front of our very own eyes is called the Centre for the Meeting of Cultures. It is construed as a site of dialogue, as a space of meetings, an expression of the dreams and aspirations of the residents of the region. It is a brand new platform for the promotion and dissemination of culture, offering a toolbox instrumental to the debate about cultural relations whose voice will be heard across the entire world.
The heart of the institution will be the professional opera hall, fully equipped to host a wide range of events. The Centre’s primary artery, known as “the Avenue of Cultures”, is a multi-level glazed passageway that will serve as a meeting space for artists, cultural organisers, audiences and all guests of the Centre – whether frequent visitors or casual passers-by. The Centre for the Meeting of Cultures will also work as a hub of creative life, providing space for NGOs, musicians, theatre practitioners and visual artists as well as accommodating an arthouse cinema. The institution will position itself as an active creator of culture, offering ways of spending free time in its cafes, reading rooms or on its rooftop garden, which will host projects grounded in ecology. Aimed at Lublin’s residents and tourists alike, the Centre’s cultural inventory will include permanent exhibitions dedicated to the cultures of the world or to stage technology as well as unique temporary exhibitions created in partnership with leading Polish and international galleries and museums. At the Centre for the Meeting of Cultures, we intend to create the future making use of our state-of-the-art Laboratory of New Technologies (MediaLab) and running an incubator of creative industries. The institution will remodel the cityscape of Lublin: a new centre of the city will come into being, uniting the nearby universities, campuses and the academe with the historical section of Lublin. All this is proof positive that the Centre for the Meeting of Cultures will indeed become the intellectual axis mundi on the map of East-Central Europe and as such will be wholeheartedly embraced by the residents of Lublin and of the entire Lublin Voivodship.
Managing Director of the Centre for the Meeting of Cultures in Lublin
Name of the Investment
Construction of the Centre for the Meeting of Cultures in Lublin
Key Project of the Regional Operating Programme, financed as part of the Priority Axis VII – Culture, Tourism and Inter-regional Cooperation, 7.1 Activities: Culture and Tourism Infrastructure
4 Spokojna Street
The overall value of the project is 171 939 500.00 PLN, of which the amount of the subsidy granted by the European Regional Development Fund as part of the 2007-2013 Regional Operating Programme of the Lublin Voivodship constitutes 128 892 799.76 PLN.
Lublin, City Centre
The plot of land where the Centre for the Meeting of Cultures is located is bordered by the following streets: Racławickie Avenue (from the north), Marii Skłodowskiej Curie Street (from the south), Grottgera Street (from the east). Overlooking the Racławickie Avenue, there is a high-profile Teatralny Square leading to the main entrance to the Centre.
Stelmach and Partners LLC
28 Ks. J. Popiełuszki Street
40 Stawki Street
The multi-functional building of the Centre for the Meeting of Cultures in Lublin is the seat of the institution of culture whose organiser is the Lublin Voivodship.
Usable floor area: 23 544.97 m2
Footprint: 6 254.48 m2
Gross covered area: 29 778.00 m2
Cubic capacity: 177 618.37 m3
Length 116.93 m
Width 81.77 m
Height 38.35 m
Auditoria and Performance spaces
Located on level +1, the Opera Hall (total area: 636.09 square metres) seats 1000 people and contains a stage (20.61 x 23.5 m) which can be expanded 5 metres (the length of the orchestra pit). The centre stage height of the room is 26.95 m.
The stage area, including the orchestra pit area, is 490.40 square metres. The stage is equipped with four two-level trapdoors and two arc trapdoors situated in the orchestra pit area.
Located on level -1, the Screening Room (total area: 179.38 square metres; measurements: 13.0 x 14.7 m; height: 7.55 m) seats 170 people and is equipped with a mobile auditorium that enables diversification of its spatial potential.
Located on level +2, the Chamber Room (total area: 435.09 square metres; measurements: 23.82 x 17.84 m; height: 7.55 m) seats 200 people. It is a multi-functional room equipped with lighting rigs and acoustic panels, running the whole length of the room.
The Ballet Room (total area: 231.35 square metres) is dedicated to ballet practice and dance theatre rehearsals. The room is equipped with a mobile dance floor, and the flooring is made of planked pinewood rested on joists.
BAR level 0: 86,48 mkw.
BISTRO level 0: 212,24 mkw.
RESTAURANT level 0: 170,77 mkw.
BAR level +1: 137,98 mkw.
CAFE level +4: 115,53 mkw.
The idea of erecting a new theatre in Lublin dates back to the early 1960s. At the beginning of the 1970s, Kazimierz Braun, the then director of the Juliusz Osterwa Theatre in Lublin, proposed the concept of building a modern theatre accommodating a 500-strong audience.
On 30 May 1972, Voivodship National Council and Voivodship Planning Committee decided to build an Opera Theatre containing a 1000-seat auditorium. Soon, under the auspices of the Association of Polish Architects, an architectural competition was launched, and Professor Stanisław Bieńkuński from Warsaw was selected as the winner. The mock-up of this project was created by BPBBO Miastoprojekt Lublin in 1972, with the participation of the architect himself. The edifice was supposed to become the administrative and cultural hub of the region and provide the fulcrum of the arts in what was becoming the “second largest coal-mining area” in the country. It was also projected to be one of the largest performance venues and entertainment spaces in Poland and Europe.
On 25 July 1947, the cornerstone was laid by Deputy Prime Minister Mieczysław Jagielski. Wojciech Tuchalski was appointed Construction Manager. The site of the prospective Theatre was by no means accidental as it faced the building of the then Voivodship Committee of the Communist Party (at present, the building belongs to the Medical University of Lublin); it was also here that the Arch of Liberation, conceptualised as a means of celebrating the tenth anniversary of the People’s Republic of Poland, was to be erected. Finally, the edifice was conceived of as a way of dwarfing the main building of the Catholic University of Lublin located in the vicinity.
However, the economic decline of the 1980s brought the construction work to a standstill. The unfinished edifice was duly nicknamed “The Theatre Under Construction” as insufficient state budget funds only covered the costs of maintenance and preservation of the walls. The late 1990s (1995-98) brought a marked change: increased funding enabled the acceleration of the construction work. Only a fragment of the building was completed at that stage, though. In order to swiftly provide the Lublin Philharmonic with essential space, only several sections of the building were finished so as to meet the growing requirements of the classical musicians. In 1995, the Henryk Wieniawski Philharmonic was granted the use of the newly built 600-seat concert hall. In 1996, due to the withdrawal of the Drama Theatre from the participation in the project and the decision on the part of the Lublin Philharmonic not to use the chamber room and its related infrastructure, the site development plan was yet again altered. Appointed by the Voivod of the Lublin Region, the Programming Board prepared a new functional-utility plan that included spaces to be used by the Music Theatre as well as by the Lublin Philharmonic, such as a multi-functional performance space and related infrastructure. November 2000 saw the official opening of the 400-seat Music Theatre, located at 5 Marie Curie Skłodowskiej Street.
On 6 October 2001 the European College of Polish and Ukrainian Universities, located on the premises of the Theatre Under Construction, was inaugurated by the President of Poland Aleksander Kwaśniewski and the President of Ukraine Leonid Kuchma.
In January 2007 the authorities of the Lublin Region decided to create the Centre for the Meeting of Cultures in Lublin. Soon, the International Architecture Competition, the aim of which was to select the best architectural concept of the Centre, was launched. The competition attracted numerous domestic and international entrants, including architects from Germany, France, Spain, the USA, Lithuania and Holland. In 2009, the Competition Jury, chaired by architect Stanisław Fiszer, unveiled the winner: Lublin-based Stelmach and Partners LLC. The Competition Prizes were funded by the Janusz Palikot Foundation. In 2011, at the behest of the Marshal Office of the Lublin Region, Tomasz Pietrasiewicz, Head of the “Grodzka Gate – NN Theatre” Centre, prepared a curatorial programme for the Centre.
On 16 May 2014 the topping-out ceremony took place.
In July 2014 Piotr Franaszek was appointed Managing Director of the Centre for the Meeting of Cultures in Lublin. The Competition Committee, comprised of representatives of the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, the Marshal Office of the Lublin Region, institutions of culture and artists, unanimously selected Franaszek out of six candidates.
The Centre for the Meeting of Cultures in Lublin was built by Budimex and was completed in late 2015. The total cost of the whole investment exceeded 200 million zloty. The construction of the main edifice cost over 134 million zloty, of which 85% was covered by the Regional Operational Programme of the Lublin Voivodship.