The IP Urban Challenge took us to Nowy Kleparz, a quarter located on the Northern outskirt of the city center of Krakow. Conveniently located next to the city center and featuring neat streets and solid buildings, the quarter is nevertheless not put forward, neither to local residents nor to potential tourists (may they be visitors from other parts of the city or international travelers). This is really our first assessment of Nowy Kleparz: the neighbourhood doesn’t seem to be animated by any kind of activity apart maybe if you are looking for a wedding dress, as there are probably more wedding shops than passers-by in Nowy Kleparz (although the fact that we are Sunday might mislead our analysis a bit)! However, by this absence of specifity, the quarter offers a lot of opportunities for urban planning, especially as some “infrastructures” are already there to welcome our ideas! (By infrastructures, we mean public spaces available for transformation)
Our first impression is that Nowy Kleparz is a residential area for a middle aged population with relatively high income, as the housing facilities seem to be in good shape and located in a rather quiet area, with convenient transportation and communication systems. A quick glance at the quarter’s website (please visit http://kleparz.krakow.pl/) and at the first Google research entries also tell us that the quarter is quite shopping-orientated (especially in terms of weddings as already mentioned !). There is a market square that might be used on week days. Nowy Kleparz is not industrial but not educational either, which might be a suggestion for improvement. Regarding religion, there are of course some signs of Catholic faith and among others two churches but it does not seem to be a major distinction here. We also wonder about a building (which seems to be accommodation) at the corner of Dluga and Pedzichow streets and carries a crescent moon: a sign of Muslim or Orthodox faith?
Two main characteristics draw our attention: on the one hand, we notice a great number of neglected walls. Some of them are just completely naked, no window, no poster, no sign. Others are actually the remnants of destroyed buildings. Their renovation does not seem to be on the city’s agenda, as there are no official billboards announcing some construction works, and a lot of grass has grown in the empty spaces. On the other hand, we are very much intrigued by a park that we can see on the map and cannot find in reality: how can such a large green space escapes from our sight? To this very moment, we still don’t know what this park looks like… However, a quick search on the Internet enlightens our incredulity: it seems that there is, as always, some kind of political stake in there! The Park Jalu Kurka, named after a Polish poet, is lost in the middle of various buildings, whose functions are not very clear to us. After having been the location of a palace and the witness of communist authorities, it has apparently become commission property and part of the Catholic Church congregation, and was eventually closed by the municipality. The official reason being the high costs of lighting and care of infrastructures. The idea was recently to make it available to the local community, but the project seems to have been blocked by a local conservative.
Overall, the quarter, because of its apparent non-specificity (apart from shopping, which is limited to the economic area), is not lively and lacks particularly the freshness of youth. The buildings and streets are neat but gloomy. Colors are completely absent, except on shops’ windows and in one particular streets where residents can benefit from some arranged green squares on pavements with orange flowers and small trees. No music, no odor, no color: the basics of life are actually excluded form this quarter, and this will be our leitmotiv for an urban project.
At this point of the challenge, we therefore turn towards the following possibilities:
– A street art project that will not only bring colors to the quarter but also youth, art, and therefore culture. Such a project can be clearly inexpensive and has the main advantage of encouraging participation from local residents but maybe also from residents coming from other parts of the city. Moreover, given the increasing popularity of street art, the quarter could later on become an attractive site for national and international tourists.
– The opening up of the park to the public, for whom it should be a place of encounters, relaxation and regeneration, is one of our major concerns. Although there seems to be some kind of financial burden related to this green space, there should be a way to overcome this burden and reunite the residents with their environment.
– Raising the awareness of local residents on Jewish history and memory might also be an option: we have imagined the setting up of stones engraved with the names of Jewish victims of World War II in this neighborhood , stones that would be inserted into the pavement, in front of the houses where those people used to live.
– Last but not least, given the middle-aged range of the resident population and the importance of youth, we have thought that engaging human reconnection in the quarter through the establishment of a virtual community could also be a nice idea. Therefore, social networks could be used to establish such a community, which would then allow people to meet for various reasons and make the quarter livelier. Such interactions would also later bring about other suggestions for improvement.
Our field investigation on Wednesday will hopefully take us further on our analytical path, and help us come up with the most suitable solution to bring life back to this neat neighborhood!
To be continued… Stay tuned!!!
From Nowy Kleparz, with love…
Hessel, Floor, Manon, Emma, Sabrina, Jamina, Yi-Chun, Miguel