Arata Isozaki had a tough problem to solve: his task was to devise a form whose exterior would enter in a relationship with the architecture of Wawel while its interior was to become an adequate backdrop for exhibiting Japanese art. Neither could dominate. The solution was found in a form which was relatively neutral, void of direct iconic cultural connotations, and yet showed indirect and distant references to the traditions of both cultures: Japanese and Polish.
Therefore, the very place (topos) became one of the inspirations for the shape of the building. A structure which is so visible from the terrace on Wawel Hill was inscribed into the meanders of the Vistula flowing in the middle, to prevent interference with the genius loci that had been present here from time immemorial. A few wavy lines of the river which flows nearby dictated the geometry of the roof structure lines, as Isozaki wrote in a Manggha Centre catalogue. The broken curves of the waves also formed a distant Japanese reference – to a well-known woodblock print from the series ‘36 Views of Mount Fuji’ by Hokusai, included in Jasieński’s collection, depicting fishermen on a boat carried by a big, dominating wave.
EUROPE–FAR EAST GALLERY
The idea to create the Europe–Far East Gallery had two sources. On the one hand, it was a natural consequence of the nature of the Manggha Museum of Japanese Art and Technology, whose Statutes presuppose, in addition to museum functions, the postulates of educational activity and disseminating the art, culture and technology of the countries of the broadly defined Far East. The Museum was not, however, able to implement them fully. According to the Statutes, the objects of the Museum include ‘gathering artworks, artefacts and documentation materials of the old and modern art, culture and technology of the Far East’; nevertheless, the activities conducted in the existing building concentrated on phenomena relating to the culture of Japan. The need for more space, required to develop other Far Eastern interests, gave an impulse to work on formulating the conceptual framework of the gallery, conceived as a space for dialogue, fostering openness to the multiplicity and diversity of Asian cultures, and the furtherance of the ties between Europe and Asia in all of their complexity. On the other hand, the project is the outcome of Europe’s growing interest in the culture and technology of Far Eastern nations other than Japan, which is also connected with the dynamic economic growth of Asian countries, and the changing geopolitical situation, in which they play a key role.