The Polish Roads to Freedom Solidarity Museum project was born in March 1998, based on an idea by Chairman of the Gdańsk City Council Paweł Adamowicz and historian Dr Jerzy Kukliński. Nine months later—on 29 December 1999—on the initiative of Gdańsk Mayor Paweł Adamowicz, with the support of Lech Wałęsa and the Institute that bears his name, Gdańsk Metropolitan Archbishop Tadeusz Gocłowski, the Solidarity Trade Union, Gdańsk Shipyard and the government of the Pomorskie Voivodship, the Solidarity Centre Foundation was established with the mission to create the European Solidarity Centre. Bogdan Lis became the Foundation’s president. On 8 November 2007, the City of Gdańsk, the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, the Local Government of the Pomorskie Voivodship, the Solidarity Trade Union and the Solidarity Centre Foundation established the European Solidarity Centre as a cultural institution.

Throngs of Gdańskers and visitors from throughout the world filled Gdańsk’s Solidarity Square on 31 August 2005. “ . . . So that this living monument—a symbol of the victory of the Solidarity movement’s peaceful revolution—becomes the world’s centre for the ideas of freedom, democracy and solidarity to be fostered,” was the joint proclamation of the 29 signatories, including 22 European prime ministers and presidents. “This way we want to transfer the ideas we had then to the pages of today, with future generations in mind,” emphasised Lech Wałęsa, Solidarity’s legendary leader.
“I have come today to repeat your words loud and clear. You said there is no freedom without solidarity” said President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso. “Without the solidarity movement we would not have had the European Union that we have today. And we know that there is no Europe without freedom and solidarity. Thank you to Solidarity for everything you have done for freedom in Europe.” A leading role was again played that day by an enormous pen, just like the one with which Lech Wałęsa signed the August Agreements in 1980.

The international architectural competition for the conceptual design of the European Solidarity Centre received entries from 58 teams of architects from around the world. The winning design was delivered by the Fort Design Studio of Gdańsk. The designers have intended the building’s shape “to be marked with radical simplicity, just like the goals and methods of the Solidarity movement.”
The walls are lined with COR-TEN (weathering) steel, with its rusty colour is reminiscent of a ship’s hull.
The Monument to the Fallen Shipyard Workers, the former Lenin Shipyard’s Gate No. 2 and the nearby BHP Hall, where on 31 August 1980 the striking workers signed an agreement with the government of the Polish People’s Republic, have been included as parts of the permanent ECS exhibition which is the heart of the building.
The ECS chief designers were architects: Wojciech Targowski, Piotr Mazur, Antoni Taraszkiewicz and Paweł Czarzasty.

European Solidarity Centre, the cultural institution, starts working at the temporary seat, located at the former Lenin Gdańsk Shipyard, in the building.


Mr. Bogdan Zdrojewski, The Ministry of Culture and National Heritage and Mr Paweł Adamowicz, Mayor of Gdańsk co-sign the financing of the ECS building agreement. Construction of the European Solidarity Centre starts.


The cornerstone for the construction of the European Solidarity Centre was laid on May 14, 2011. The first trowel of cement was laid by Polish President Bronisław Komorowski. “We remember our concern that other important events became the icons of Europe’s transformations. We want Polish Solidarity to be the symbol of changes for the better and of the end of the totalitarian system. We need to share our pride here in Gdańsk,” said President Bronisław Komorowski. “The idea of Solidarity should go on and grow regardless of any Polish disputes, likes and dislikes.”

The ceremony took place at high noon on 4 April 2012. “The ECS is being built for our children, our grandchildren and for the generations to come. Because we deeply believe that the story of Solidarity is beautiful and positive, much different from the other ones proffered by Poland’s history. It’s a story with a happy ending, like in a Hollywood picture. Most of all, it’s a story without bloodshed,” said Gdańsk Mayor Paweł Adamowicz, the host of the celebration and one of the founders of the ECS.

The ECS cost PLN 229 million (approx. € 54,165,000) to build, with PLN 113 million (approx. € 26,722,992) provided by the European Union and the remaining funds coming from Gdańsk’s city budget. The municipality carried out the project through the GIK sp. z o.o. company, while Polimex-Mostostal SA was the main contractor, together with 50 subcontractors. Almost 30 people—including historians, archivists and political scientists—were involved in preparing the content of the permanent ECS exhibition. Its setting and layout were designed by Studio 1:1 of Gdańsk. The exhibition was delivered by a consortium of the Qumak SA and Maciej Lubocki Multimedia Art & Education companies, with the support of 10 subcontractors. The concept of the Fun & Games Department, a soon-to-be-opened children’s room, was developed by Grupa Smacznego of Gdańsk.


The new ECS building will be an agora, a space for people and ideas that build and develop a civic society, a meeting place for people who hold the world’s future dear.
The ECS will continue to run projects addressed to various groups in Poland, Europe and the entire world: conferences, debates, children’s and youth projects, theatre productions, film screenings (including 3D) and temporary exhibitions.
Seventeen rooms in the ECS building will be taken up by non-governmental organisations which work towards the common good, freedom and human rights. The Winter Garden will be open year round to provide a venue for artistic activities, meetings and leisure. And from the springtime until the autumn, an observation deck will be available on the roof, with a beautiful panoramic view of the post-Shipyard area, and Gdańsk’s Old and Main Towns.