Fernando Menis interview.
1. You’ve been working in Toruń for almost seven years. Do you feel connected to the city? How would you describe that relation? How would you define Toruń?
It is somehow a love relationship. Back in 2008 I fell and I am still in love with the urban landscape of Toruń. Like all love relationships, it sometimes encountered problems. Nothing is easy, but it is an amazing moment of my life.
2. You told that the concert hall will be some sort of love letter to the local community. How is that so?
Yes it is. It is what I can do for a city I love. I put the best of myself, my capacity of design to give the city a new piece of art for the present and future history.
3. How did you come up with this idea? I heard that Menis Arquitectos always spends a great deal of time on cultural and site analysis. What was the outcome of this process in Torun? Did you find something new and genuine about the city?
First I try to discover the essence, the genius loci of a place. So I came to Torun and tried to understand and feel the city, the history, the landscape, the air. After that I tried to continue this history full of respect and create a new way, a new step in the evolution of the city.
4. Do you expect that the building will be a vital part of Torun? What kind of relations will it produce in the center of a city?
I think the new building, the CKK, is a contribution to the XXIst century that connects with the tradition and historically used materials such as brick and brings a new landmark to the city, a new perspective of modernity.
5. The whole area of Jordanki was very demanding. The building must fit to the surrounding - it should be as low as possible. You were talking about „fine integration of the cultural and natural landscape”. Did you manage to achieve that?
I believe so. It was not especially difficult to me because it is something I always do - trying to integrate the new building into the landscape that surrounds it. I love to try to be really a part of the city with harmony, calm and peace, and at the same time, create something new, an evolution.
6. What were the most pressing issues or challenges you faced? What were your objectives and goals?
On one hand, I think the acoustic challenge was the most important one, because the function of the building is to be a concert hall. One of the most impressive aspects of engineering in this project is its variable acoustics system. The ceiling of the performance hall is flexible and can be dropped dramatically changing the volume of the hall affecting its acoustic qualities and allowing the greatest possible flexibility in acoustic design of the space.
On the other hand, it was the multi-functionality, as the building has to be efficient and serve for many things at once: word, music, opera, congress…
7. What does success look like in this project to you? Is it the media coverage? Mass popularity among visitors? Personal satisfaction? Or something else?
For me it is a great chance outside of my own country. Poland has given me the opportunity to feel European and to have an international projection.
8. The concert hall is the dominant building in the area. It will focus all the attention on itself. Why is that so? Was it tempting to make something more subtle or invisible? What sort of feelings will it evoke?
One of the photographs of its surroundings – taken by Roland Halbe, for example, has been included in Arquitectura Viva (one of the most famous architecture magazines, published in both Spanish and English). If you take look at it, you will notice the CKK Jordanki is fully integrated into the environment and the scale of the historic city of Torun.
9. We all had great expectations about this concert hall. The officials told us that the building will resemble La Scala in Milan or Berliner Philharmony…
The CKK Jordanki has the potential to become an international symbol of culture and architecture for the city of Torun. Thanks to its unique location and strategic position, it is not just a new building, but a single object, an emblem and reflection of the pride of its society. Now, all together, the city council, the architects and the citizens have a new challenge: promote it internationally.
10. When you won the competition in Torun, there was an outburst of global financial crisis. Some people were saying that Torun should not finalize this project because of economic reasons. The project was called lavish, expensive, overscaled, a bit eccentric…
We were lucky to have a very brave client. The mayor firmly opted for the project and risked his own career. I have to thank him for that.
11. Many experts say that modern architecture of Torun depicts the complete lack of originality and courage, self-worth, it’s been based on doubt and uncertainty. There will be nothing significant left of us. Is there a hope for Torun?
It is very common for cities where the weight of history is great to have trouble like you said, but I would like to send a message: you must do well, be respectful with the history and, at the same time, always try to be innovative, just put much love in what to do and think with respect to the landscape around you.
12. Do we really have a chance to make a significant change and make a new landmark in the cityscape?
Yes of course, you only have to believe in good quality architecture and use the formula of idea competitions with good juries - choose the best architects possible for every place and you will have a big future.
13. What do we have to do in order to create a concept that could become groundbreaking for the immediate future in Torun?
I do not think there is a magic formula. It is just that on the role each of us plays, we must try to do things we have to do in the best way possible. How? Learning from the best and trying to capture the essence of every place at all times.
14. I feel that Torun can’t really escape the architectural references to the red brick gothic.
Red brick is a marvelous material, why the need to escape? I think with our new building we demonstrate that it is possible to use red brick in an innovative and trendy way, mixing it with modern concrete. You are a marvelous red city, don’t lose it!
15. In one of the interviews you told that your source of inspiration is Common Sense. What does it mean?
Common sense shows me how dealing with raw materials and their true potential make the context where they are inserted; it is the framework in which reason and emotion are combined. For example, using brick in Torun is common sense because it is a material that works well in the city, it becomes the predominant clay itself in Poland. If the clay here is one of a very good quality, why should we use another material?