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Pysall Architekten | Muzeum Lotnictwa Polskiego

Architecture Pysall Architekten | Muzeum Lotnictwa Polskiego

Pysall Architekten | Muzeum Lotnictwa PolskiegoThe Muzeum Lotnictwa is one of the largest museums of aviation in the world. It is located in historically preserved buildings and hangars of the former historic airfield of Rakowice-Cyzyny in Cracow, the first air-field on polish terrain, build in 1912 for the air fleet no. 7 of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. In 2005 a competition was launched for the new main building – the first pan-European competition for architects, after the accession of Poland to the EU, to be won and realised by a German architect.

© Pysall Architekten

© Pysall Architekten

© Jens Willebrand

The idea of flying, the spirit of the place, the structure of the historic airfield – the new building for the Museum of Aviation takes up these references intellectually and synthesises them into an expressive and emblematic structure.  The old hangars set the modular scale for the footprint (60×60 m) and the height (12m) for the new building.

Developed from this modular scale – cut out and folded, as if made like a paper airplane, a large structure has arisen – triangular wings made of concrete and yet as light as a wind-vane or propeller. Size and orien-tation of the wings got developed out of three different functions. 4500 sqm usable area on three floors is for disposition now. Intertwining spaces provide good orientation for the visitor.

© Jens Willebrand

© Jens Willebrand

Entering the building one has the choice to go into the education wing with a voluminous 3D-cinema or directly into the exhibition area with the planes. The wings are generously glazed, opening in all directions. The exhibition thus links visually with the landscape around it and offers a view to the apron and the planes on display outdoors.

© Jens Willebrand

The airplanes in the North wing seem by no means enclosed, but rather having been placed in shelter, ready to roll out onto the runway at any time. The first floor is occupied with the conference room seating 150 people, a bibliotheca, a multimedia section and a restaurant with bar over viewing the exhibition. The offices for administration are in the second floor offering views towards the park, into the exhibition or through bull’s eye windows onto the former airfield. The new museum for aviation appears not as a “house” – it yields a subtle functionally expressive architectural sculpture.

© Jens Willebrand

Energy Concept

Sustainability through simplicity and reduction

Different temperature zones, natural ventilation and intensive use of daylight minimize the need of energy at its source- the use of natural and well patinating and ageing materials reduces the impact of the environment and future maintenance costs. The concept is based on natural ventilation in all three wings.

© Jens Willebrand

© Jens Willebrand

Only the cinema and the auditorium will get supply air and exhaust air by means of a heat exchanger with air supply from an earth channel. This allows for warm supply air in winter and cool air in summer. The wings are heated differently, depending on their use: 20° C the offices, 18° C the Education Wing and 15° C the Main Exhibition Wing. Compared to an all-around 20° C room temperature, 40 % of the energy is conserved for heating these 10 m in high and up to 10,250 m³ volumns. The big storage capacity of the concrete walls and natural ventilation provide, cooling during the night in the summer.

© Jens Willebrand

Directed to the north and with a 200 m² big door, the exhibition is always throughout naturally ventilated during the summer and of no need for air conditioning.
Besides the generous use of daylight through the facade and big skylights; an energy-efficient light system is realized throughout the building. This includes light directing commutator sections and the use of energy saving lamps in combination with motion detectors.  Arup International in Cracow planned the M&E and as well the structural services for the project.

© Pysall Architekten

Aviation Park

Airplanes are presented side by side on the outside along the former taxiway up to the runway. The authenticity nearly makes one forget that those are ‘just’ exhibits. Beside the airfield are eight historical buildings and hangars in which the exhibition of precious objects takes place. Episodes and themes of aviation are summed up in each building. Their exhibition is expanded to the outside with big concrete patches, giving space for additional open-air presentation. The landscape architects from ST raum a, Berlin, planned this six hectares large aviation exhibition park. The design connects the new buildings with the existing buildings through the completion of old alleys and the creation of new park paths. A tour through the history of aviation is developed. The path between houses through the park gives the visitors time to process the accumulated impressions and then resume to take in new ones.

© Jens Willebrand


The collection encompasses over 200 planes, aviatic artefacts, technical documents, historical photos, one of a kinds planes, air planes from the last century in their original condition and a lot of Russian planes from the Cold War. Furthermore, the museum has with 80 exhibits of the pioneerage, one of the biggest, and from a technical standpoint most interesting, collections of motors, worldwide.

Pysall Architekten | Muzeum Lotnictwa PolskiegoAmong them there are –some even in their original condition:

Levavasseneur Autoinette, 1909 – It was one of the most famous airplanes during the French pioneer Age. This was the first monoplane of the world, which made it possible to fly a closed loop and to carry a passenger.

Geest Möwe 4, 1913 – One of the first motorized aircrafts in Germany. Its inventor Waldemar Geest was inspired by the sheer absurdity of a black-headed gull losing its tail feathers after the breeding season.

Heinkel He 5e, 1928 – A maritime patrol aircraft of the 20s, which reached the record high of 5,731 meters. This vehicle was also involved in the search for the crashed Italian arctic explorers of the airship “Italia”.

Messerschmitt Me 209, 1938 – Which established a speed record of 755 km/h in 1939 – not until 30 years later the record was finally broken.

Grigorowitsch M -15, 1917 – A boat seaplane of the czaristic sea aviation, used in the Baltic Sea and part of the Black Sea armada.

Planes as witnesses to history

Cuckoo – A self-made construction by Eugeniusz Pieniazek with which he fled from the People’s Republic of Poland to the former Yugoslavia in a dramatic bad weather flight in 1971. The parts were mostly manufac-tured in his apartment, which were carefully lowered from the third floor and finally assembled on Leszno airfield. (see TV-documentary  „The great escape“).

The MIG 29 – the so-called “Star of the sky of the Eastern Bloc”. They were employed by the National Peo-ple’s Army of the GDR (East Germany). The German reunion (1990) brought 24 MIG 29s to the NATO (West German air force).

When Poland joined the NATO in 1999, they received 20 of those MIGs for the token sum of one Euro apiece.
One of them has the Polish National marking painted on the left hand side, while the other sports the Na-tional People’s Army marking. It symbolizes the German reunion and the NATO eastern enlargement. This specific plane can be seen in the museum of Lotnictwa.

Exhibits from Berlin, Germany

An especialness are the exhibits of the former “Deutsche Luftfahrtsammlung Berlin”. Like many cultural as-sets and museum collections, the German collection of Aviation from Berlin was brought into safety from the bombings of World War II.

The objects were transported by rail to Poznan, which became part of Poland after the Potsdam agreement defining the new frontiers after World War II. They were temporarily stored in engine sheds and warehouses in Poznan, Pilawa and Wroclaw until they were finally stored in Krakow in 1963.

Until 1982 the collection was believed to have been lost. In January 1, 1986 the “Spiegel” proclaimed: “For air plane nerds the discovery in Krakow is the equivalent to the discovery of a pharaoh’s tomb”.

The motor collection

The motor collection encompasses exquisite pieces of the early history of aviation; it is considered as unique worldwide. In-line engines like the 1908 French Antoinette V8, the 1914 Maybach Mb IV and the 1915 Mercedes D IV b as well as radial engines such as the 1919 Le Rhone C or the 1917 Siemens Halske SH-III from Berlin are part of the collection.

Location: Krakow, Poland
Architect | General planner: Pysall Architekten / Design Author: Pysall . Ruge Architekten with Bartlomiej Kisielewski
Project team: Justus Pysall, Peter Ruge, Bartlomiej Kisielewski,Katarzyna Ratajczak, Mateusz Rataj, Alicja Kepka-Guerrero    
Client:  Muzeum Lotnictwa Polskiego
Investor: Urzad Marszalkowski Wojewodztwa Malopolskiego
Structural Engineering:  Arup International, Krakow
Mechanical & Electrical: Arup International, Krakow
Landscape architects: ST raum a, Berlin
Brief: Museum of Aviation with exhibition area | cinema | conference area | library | museum shop | cafeteria | restoration area | administration
 Aviation park transformation of the airport into an aviation park | exterior exhibition recreation area
Scope of Services: General planner, International Competition 1st prize 2005, establishing the basis of the project, preliminary design, final design, building permit application and approval documents, execution documents, tendering, site supervision, contract award and artistic site supervision, HOAI phase 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 as well as artistic site supervision HOAI phase 8
Size: Museum of Aviation: 4.504 m2
Aviation Exhibition Park:   6,19 hectares
Building cost: 13 000 000 
Duration of contract: 2005 to 2010
Construction time: 03/2008 – 09/2010
Photographer: Jens Willebrand, Jakub Pierzchala & Marcin Przybylko
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