Thanks to the funds from private investors and the support of the Municipality of Kraków, a unique city-space project called Superścieżka [Eng. Superpath] will be developed between the Mogilskie and Grzegórzeckie Roundabouts. Its final shape will be decided by Kraków’s inhabitants themselves. First, however, they will participate in a series of workshops with architects.
For the first time in Poland, on such a large scale, an agreement has been successfully reached and joint initiatives have been undertaken by NGOs, inhabitants, the municipality and developers. Trams passing by, heavy car traffic in al. Powstania Warszawskiego, lack of greenery, sound screens – all of these factors have made the area between the Mogilskie and Grzegórzeckie Roundabouts less people-friendly than it should be. Superścieżka, the project which is planned to be developed along the heavy-traffic road called al. Powstania Warszawskiego is to change it. Not only the city authorities have become involved in the initiative, but also architects, urban planners, non-government organizations, private companies present in this area, and, most importantly perhaps: Kraków’s inhabitants. In May and June, in several locations, including a coffe bar club called Pauza in Garden, the building of the Małopolska Garden of Arts, as well as on one of the plots situated in the area of the project, four different workshops will be organized. During these meetings, chaired by Kraków’s Fundacja Aktywnych Obywateli im. Józefa Dietla, inhabitants divided into groups will develop their own proposals for developing the area along al. Powstania Warszawskiego. The result of those initiatives will be presented during the special outdoor exhibition, which will be set up in the area of Mogilskie Roundabout over the holiday period. The resulting works will go through the consultation process with Jan Gehl’s Architecture Office – a globally recognized Danish architect and urban planner. The culminating moment for the project will be the debate dedicated to the area-development concepts resulting thereof, with the architect’s participation. After the debate, a vote will be held. Inhabitants will choose spatial arrangements which will later be implemented.
Superścieżka, a participatory project, is the first placemaking initiative in Poland on this scale. The total cost of developing the concept, the media campaign and conducting the social workshops, is estimated at 300 000 PLN. It will be covered by private investors as well as persons involved with the project, within the social participation framework. Developing the concept and presenting it to the city authorities is planned for November this year. Implementation, divided into stages, will start in April 2016. The completion of works on the first stage of the project, which includes developing area of the Marian Eile Square has been schceduled for October 2016.
A participatory project – Superścieżka – is the first such a big placemaking venture in our country. The initiative was supported by the city authorities, architects, urban planners, NGOs, private companies operating in the region, and most of all – the inhabitants of Cracow.
Great ambitions and even greater hopes in this social venture are supposed to introduce a new quality of creating public spaces, close to the needs of their users. The success of the broad participation model, implemented for the first time on such a vast scale in the Superścieżka project, is supposed to add a new dimension to land management in Poland. Knowledge and experience of external observers is crucial in terms of a fresh, unbiased view as well as in terms of the reference to other successfully carried out participatory projects in different parts of the world.
The first steps on the way to Superścieżka have been made – we have just finished a series of workshops. The result of this common Cracow initiative includes 200 engaged inhabitants, divided into 8 groups, who used dozens of metres of tracing paper and kilograms of plasticine over 16 hours of workshops, which resulted in 70 ideas for transforming the space between the roundabouts: Mogilskie and Grzegórzeckie.
This key area (in terms of everyday functions and development of Cracow) is now divided by trams, heavy traffic on Powstania Warszawskiego avenue, lack of green places and by noise barriers – all of it makes the area unfriendly to people. Superścieżka, planned along the busy thoroughfare, is supposed to tame the area and make it more human. The final project will be chosen by the inhabitants themselves during a public debate in Variete theatre in September.
Nearly 150 inhabitants of Kraków turned up at Kraków’s Variètè Theatre to take the final decision on the future shape of Superścieżka. The winning proposal was entitled “Słowo” [ang. Word] and it will be implemented by the partners of the initiative. The participation of the inhabitants, however, does not end on the day of the vote. Soon, Cracovians will be able to join the implementation phase.
The leading thought, around which the character of Superścieżka will be developed centres on the “Word”, which will be translated to greenery, art, water and small architecture, as well as its more fleeting incarnations such as temporary scenography, projections, light and sound. As the authors of the winning concept explain in the description, memories of individual group members linked to this area were among the inspirations for the solutions proposed in the concept. The area of Krakowski Szkolny Ośrodek Sportowy, KSOS [Eng. Kraków School Sports Centre], where there used to be a fountain, gave rise to the idea or introducing water, as an element that could accompany users along the entire length of Superścieżka. This proposal, in turn, set in motion the need to design consistent lighting, benches and small architecture for the entire area.
The authors of the winning idea have put greenery and diversity in the way it is to be developed as a very important element of the area’s development. Such scenography, leading through structured communication routes in an interesting way – in some places facing width restrictions, in others poetically spreading to squares and green urban interiors, could finally become an interesting background for artistic activities centred around the “Word”.
Among the proposed functions for the key spaces in the area of Superścieżka, its authors have proposed, among others, performative functions such as cinema, theatre, lectures, art, in the part of the fort situated in front of Hotel Chopin, with a glass stage, covered with light, temporary roofing in the shape of “linen sails”; and in the area of the Eile Square, greenery, land art, a water course, some space for second-hand book sellers, a reference to the legacy of the “Przekrój” milieu, as well as the “waiting room” space in front of the courts of law; sitting areas, protected from rain and sun, an outdoor gym, hammocks, tables for chess and water fountains for people and pets, a small food outlet, toilets. Within the KSOS premises, a sports part has been proposed, including, among others, tennis courts, a football pitch, mini-golf, tennis and boules. Additionally, further proposals include a small catering outlet, toilets, an open-access playground for children, taking into account attractions for senior-age users and maintaining the greenery with an objective to create a “błonia”, i.e. an open space for outdoor picnics.
Elżbieta Koterba, deputy mayor in charge of city development, who participated in the final vote, made a commitment to support the efficient execution of administrative procedures, which will bring the winning project closer to the implementation phase. – I am full of admiration for the involvement of the city’s inhabitants in this project. At this level it is already a tremendous success. This valuable experience, one without precedent, will serve us as reference for future project initiatives in other parts of Kraków. Under the same formula, the new Reduta Park will be implemented, said Elżbieta Koterba.
The special guest of the debate held at Kraków’s Variètè Theatre, Ewa Westermark, an architect from Gehl Architects from Copenhagen, emphasized that Superścieżka is not only the beginning of the transformation in this small but very important area for Kraków but, most importantly perhaps, is the beginning of the new way of thinking about the city in its entirety, as a place where many users co-exist at the same level. Ewa Westermark, representing the architecture office of the globally recognized urban planner, Jan Gehl, pointed to the fact that, it is only possible to change people’s habits when the city contributes relevant opportunities, or indeed, supplies precise solutions adjusted to their needs, for people to change their habits. For over a decade now, Ewa Westermark has participated in creating people-friendly spaces in cities around the world. Her recent, famous projects include Broadway Boulevard in New York. Her lecture at Kraków’s Variètè Theatre also made references to designing “cities for the people”. While providing examples of European and global solutions, Ewa Westermark pointed to issues and needs relevant for Kraków, not only with reference to its Superścieżka section but also some more general issues: ensuring the continuity of the network of bike routes across the city, reducing traffic in the city centre as well as creating inhabitant-friendly spaces, where it once was or seemed impossible.
- I find many similarities between Kraków and the capital of Denmark. The character of both cities is very similar. Forty years back, Copenahagen was not as friendly a city to the people as it is today. Its inhabitants had to compete for space with cars, while yards and squares did not have such an attractive form. Kraków has some nice squares but in terms of functionality it needs to give more emphasis to people – stressed the representative of Gehl Architects and partner of the Superścieżka project, during her visit in Kraków.
Superścieżka is a unique project for Małopolska, possibly for Poland too. The project’s partners emphasize the fact that this type of a initiative is a tremendous challenge but also an opportunity. – For the first time on such a large scale, all interested parties: private investors, city authorities, with the full participation of inhabitants and users, jointly undertake the initiative to transform municipal spaces. It is our opportunity to demonstrate that it is worth to engage in dialogue, and that jointly things can be done, contributing to a win-for-all situation. We all know that issues related to public spaces are important for the city’s inhabitants and they want to have influence on what kind of city they live in on a daily basis – emphasizes Veronika Themerson from Skanska.
The new standards in public debate over how important areas should be developed, as set in motion in Kraków have encouraged both the city authorities and its social partners to continue this model of public debate in other parts of Kraków.
- We are very happy to see that the initiative we have been coordinating has found its followers. We hope that social consultations in the form of project workshops, implemented in a professional way, will become standard in Kraków, and a source of inspiration for other Polish cities, says Dawid Hajok from Fundacja Aktywnych Obywateli im. Józefa Dietla, the curator of the project. Superścieżka, a participatory project, will be the first placemaking project of this size in our country. The total cost of developing the concept, the media campaign and conducting the social workshops, is estimated at over 300 000 PLN. It will be covered by private investors as well as companies offering their services free of charge, and persons involved with the project within the social participation framework.
Developing the concept and presenting it to the city authorities is planned for November this year. Implementation, divided into stages, will start in April 2016. The successive parts of Superścieżka will be developed as private investments but also at the initiative of the municipality in the areas belonging to the city. The completion of works on the first part of the project, which includes developing area of the Marian Eile Square has been scheduled for October 2016. Cracovians will once again be invited to contribute to the implementation of this phase of the project. The successive sections of Superścieżka, in line with the construction design developed for the projects, will be developed in line with the schedule approved by the city authorities, taking into account other investments planned by private investors.