Ruzcaj area, in need of change.

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Our Urban Challenge location is Ruzcaj area of Krakow, a suburban residential district. Based on our first impressions on the spot and a follow-up brainstorming session we drew up several bulletpoints to be worked on and we split into groups in order to present Ruzcaj from different constructive perspectives.

A PARADOXAL AREA (William, Denis)

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As we walked through the Ruczaj residential neighbourhood, we were struck by a number of contrasts that were a possible reflection of the socio-economic realities that characterize the area.

The first contrast we noted was that between renovated (or new?) buildings and

the typical Soviet design that appears frequently in Poland’s urban landscape.

The latter is often deteriorated and run down, while its modern equivalents

closely resemble those found in most western European states. This perhaps reflects country’s aspirations to modernise and improve its housing schemes.

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PRESENCE OF DISCRIMINATION (Nicolien, Raquel)

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At first glance, Ruczaj looks quite organized as a residential neighborhood, with little to no apparent signs of vandalism. When we went exploring deeper into the residential area however, we did find some lines of graffiti consisting of anti-semitic slogans. These slogans are painted in public spaces such as supermarket walls, but also they are targeted in the private sphere, such as one specific apartments. However, upon further research, we have found out that these slogans should be interpreted in the light of opposing soccer teams, instead as perceived intolerance against the Jewish population. One should remember that due to the European football championships of 2012, emotions rang high concerning these football games. At a news post on Krakowpost.com, it was stated that: “.. the only thing on the mind of that red-faced fan screaming ‘anti-semitic’ obscenities from the terraces, is hatred of his catholic compatriot waving a different coloured scarf on the other side of the ground.”  Therefore, this is a good example how one can interpret certain signs completely different without specific information on the social background of a certain area.
USAGE OF SPACE, QUESTION OF COMMUNAL SERVICES (Anastasia, Viktoria). 

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A quite obvious issue in the area is the usage of common spaces and communal services. In order to improve upon this aspect, we made several observations.
Firstly, the neighbourhood is in need of communal spaces. It is true, that there’s a playground for children in between the block of flats, however no other communal space can be found that can also be used by adults or senior citizens (e.g.: parks or promenades around or between the blocks). Many green areas we passed by were abandoned, or not properly used, and these spaces could be turned into more welcoming and opened ones (e.g: parks, adult playgrounds, benches with tables). In order to increase the surface of these communal spaces, street parking could be more controlled, and parking lots could be set up in walking sitance for the residents.

Secondly, during our visit we bumped into overflowing garbage cans, many abandoned green areas and run-down buldings. The lack of regular upkeep e.g.: cleaning of garbage cans, lawn mowing etc. is a basic, yet quite ignored issue that needs to be worked on. Bypassing these primary environmental requierments of cohabitation can quietly undermine the sense of a community living together.

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Thirdly, upgrading the façade of the buildings (painting them, and especially: renovation of balconies) could add much to the scenery that is showing strong contrast with newly built residences. This could be done in many steps, but it is definitely a part of the rehabilitation of the area.

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Lastly and most importantly, the above mentioned suggestions would contribute to the inclusion of the residents in their neighbourhood, and creating a more lively community through simple and cost-effective steps.

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Below is a map of Ruczaj. The actual road Ruczaj is where the pin is, however, the neighbourhood is below the sign “Ruczaj”. In order to better visualize the issues mentioned above, check out our map of the district:
https://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msid=202489265243625336339.0004dfd47621cea372e0b&msa=0&ll=50.029964,19.917977&spn=0.008064,0.01929
All photo credit goes to: Leonie

Blogging/editing credit goes to: Nina,Viktoria

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