Space of Bunkier Sztuki

An integral part of the Kraków cityscape, the building hosting Bunkier Sztuki is one of few instances of brutalism in Poland. Since the 1990s, the building has been the only modern structure within the Old Town. The historical context of the location was given careful consideration in the project, thus enabling harmonious integration of the Pavilion with the surroundings without neglecting formal requirements of functionalism. Although the specific conditions of the 1960s caused hindrance to complete realisation of the project, the uniqueness of the building has to be recognised bearing in mind the amount of exhibition space that was from the very beginning devoted to modern art, as well as the position it takes among other achievements of postmodernist architecture whose development in Poland was politically conditioned. The form of the Pavilion is a consistent reference to the architecture of the surroundings and urban history of the city, thus clashing with the demands of modernist architecture.

Currently, Bunkier Sztuki has three autonomous exhibition spaces: Galeria Dolna—an ideal place to organise small-scale projects, rooms on the ground and first floor that host group exhibitions and complex projects and, additionally, the project room for individual expositions.

The Pavilion of the Bureau of Art Exhibitions (BWA) was erected by virtue of a decision reached by the Presidium of the People’s Town Council in Kraków. In the 1960s, necessity arose for additional exhibition space for the local branch of the Central Bureau of Art Exhibitions, existing by the Association of Polish Artists located in 3 Łobzowska Street.

The initiator of the erection of a new seat for the Gallery was Member of Parliament Bolesław Drobner. He put forward the proposition that the area between the buildings no. 25 in Szewska Street and no. 3 in Szczepańska Street, bounded on the Planty side by old city walls, should be assigned for cultural purposes. The sector had been taken up by a wooden café Esplanada and a 18th century granary.

The project of the BWA Pavilion designed by Krystyna Różyńska-Tołłoczko designated ca. 1000 sq metres as exhibition space. The building was finished in 1965. [...] A significant element that draws directly upon the structure of an old town gate is the eastern entrance joined to the Planty by a symbolic platform crowned with a concrete band. The façade constructed of concrete casts of wooden framework was designed by Stefan Borzęcki and Antoni Hajdecki.

The gallery interior forms a uniform whole and abides by the modernist rule of open, flowing space, offering unconstrained possibilities of arrangement. The “anonymous” space that creates neutral background for works of art, defined as the “white cube,” takes the form of interpenetrating rooms of various dimensions, the two storeys connected by two staircases located on opposite sides of the building. Some of the rooms have been adapted to serve new purposes according to the Gallery’s needs. Krzysztof Głuchowski proposed enlarging the exhibition space by adding another storey. A contest was organized in 2001, won by Dariusz Kozłowski. However, his project was never carried out due to a withdrawal of funds; today it still remains on paper.

The project focused on the idea of “autonomy” and modernity of the added storey. Consequently, it meant a break with the architectural shape of the existing edifice. As an autonomous form, the suggested addition guaranteed inviolability of the old building that enjoyed the status of a historical monument: it would not interfere with its structure or surroundings, it would only be visible from a distance. Additional space (usable floor area of ca. 750 sq metres) would allow alternations in the functional arrangement of the building. Among the changes included in the innovation project were a separate entrance for employees, modernisation of the lift to meet the needs of the disabled, a new passenger and goods lift as well as replacement of the heating system. The space underneath the roof of old granary building was to be added to the exhibition space. The new storey was to be covered with titanium and zinc sheet and with glass-fibre reinforced glass.

The increase in the activity of the Gallery initiated by its other director Maria Anna Potocka (since 2002) required a new space arrangement within the building as the project of enlarging and modernising Bunkier Sztuki had fallen through. In (2003), a room in the first floor that had served as a storeroom and a carpenter workshop, was renovated and renamed as project room to accommodate small solo exhibitions by young, unknown artists. It is also where artists-in-residence present their work.

The following year witnessed modernisation of a storeroom in the basement, nowadays serving as an audiovisual room and hosting the Bunkier Sztuki Club. In 2005, Bunkier Sztuki regained the rooms of former Galeria Arkady, active in the days of the BWA, which had served as a storeroom for prints for the Association International Print Triennial for over twenty years. Galeria Dolna (the name given to the newly acquired space) has the area of ca. 150 sq metres and strong articulation of space due to four pillars supporting a barrel vault. It offers a very inspiring space for site-specific works; works of young artists or smaller exhibitions featured in the project Transculture (since 2006) are presented here. The nature and aura of the main Gallery space assigned for exhibiting purposes is perfectly complemented by two satellite spaces, the bookshop and the café by Bunkier Sztuki.

The idea of opening a specialist bookshop (exclusively books on art after 1945) emerged in 1994. For that purpose, the space between the first and the second floor—the mezzanine—was appropriated and the new bookshop “Na antresoli” (on the mezzanine) was launched in the same year. It offered numerous interesting titles, frequently rare or even unique, published by and imported from the branches of the National Museum and many other galleries in Poland. As time passed, the offer range was widened to include books on theatre and film. In the same location, “Korporacja Ha!art” (institution for public use by Bunkier Sztuki) gave an impulse to create a new, precedential bookshop, run by people connected with the interdisciplinary magazine “Ha!art.” Their intention was to create a place—a novelty in the Kraków market—that would promote scarcely available, niche books and magazines, art books and literature, as well as niche music. Today, the wide thematic range of titles on offer includes publications in the field of culture and literature (such publishing houses as Phaidon, Thames & Hudson, Rockport or World of Art) as well as the Gallery’s own publications. In the bookshop and reading room, which has developed to serve as an information centre on new phenomena in culture, cheap art created by wellknown artists of the young generation can be purchased.


The café, which takes up the oldest part of Bunkier on the ground floor of the pavilion by the Planty, the historic granary building where the old Esplanada used to be, enriches the cultural life in the Gallery. Since 2001 the Bunkier Café has been managed by the Kraków Klub Alchemia. A surrealist interior, a glass orangery (designed by Mateusz Taranczewski)—heated in winter, a garden in summer—good music as well as excellent coffee and chocolate create a unique atmosphere. They all encourage people to rest and meet friends here not only after opening receptions. Recently, a sandpit for children has been set up next to the orangery, which makes the Bunkier Café a place friendly not to artists alone.

Anna Smolak
compiled by Małgorzata Gadomska

In the preparation of the compilation, Piotr Winskowski and Mikołaj Przewłocki’s article Pawilon Wystawowy BWA—Bunkier Sztuki—w Krakowie w nurcie architektury rzeźbiarskiego modernizmu połowy XX wieku (The BWA Exhibition Pavilion—Bunkier Sztuki—in Kraków in the Architectural Trend of Sculptural Modernism of the mid-20th century), commissioned by Bunkier Sztuki in 2001/2002, was used. The unpublished article remains in Bunkier Sztuki’s archive.