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A draft of the new study of Warsaw has leaked. How will the capital city develop?

12 of May '23

Work on a new Study for Warsaw has been underway for five years. The strategic document was to be put out in the first half of 2023. At the very finish of the work, the hitherto confidential documentation was released by the RDOŚ. Will this affect further work? And what are the assumptions of the capital's new strategic document?

The Study of Conditions and Directions for Spatial Development is the basic document setting the goals of the city's development policy, as Warsaw officials call it—a kind of „spatial constitution.” The existing 2006 Study has become outdated—it does not respond to contemporary challenges related to climate and quality of life, is based on outdated demographic assumptions and does not counteract urban sprawl. All these mistakes are to be fixed by the new document, which was launched in 2018. Since then, there has been analytical, planning, agreement and opinion work. Residents and residents of Warsaw knew the assumptions of the document in a rudimentary way—mainly through materials from analyses conducted by the City Hall. They knew that Warsaw was to be greener, more sustainable, better connected and protecting the natural and cultural landscape. The specific solutions were shrouded in secrecy, and their publication was planned as a formal screening of the Study. Meanwhile, the entire content of the document has leaked now.

debatable leak

kształtowanie struktury przestrzennej

shaping the spatial structure

© UM Warsaw

The Study is currently being reviewed by external institutions. One of them has made the contents of the document available upon a request for access to public information. We are talking about the Regional Directorate for Environmental Protection, which is the last office in line to agree on the „spatial constitution.” The leaked document has been criticized by City Hall:

In our opinion, this is not the best practice, the RDOŚ should have referred the applicant to the City Hall, which is the author of the document—explains Monika Beuth, spokeswoman for the Warsaw City Hall. However, she adds, -I don't have a clear legal opinion on the matter, however, it's probably debatable.

endless story

How will further work on the Study, which was made available accidentally, proceed? As a City Hall spokeswoman admits:

This release has no consequences for further work, we are at the finish line. Of course, there are no secrets here, the discussion of some solutions may start earlier, nevertheless, the draft of the Study of Conditions and Directions for Spatial Development of the City of Warsaw is still at the stage of agreement.

The work will continue until the final agreements with RDOŚ are received, and these have been ongoing for several weeks. Until then, the specific provisions of the study may change. However, it is already worth taking a look at how Warsaw plans to develop.

the great return of small gardens

One of the main assumptions guiding the team developing the Study is the protection of the environment, green spaces, water retention or the promotion of biodiversity. A planning decision motivated by such assumptions is the protection of existing allotment gardens, which were largely earmarked for development in the previous Study. Underestimated for years and often treated as a barrier, an obstacle and a relic of the past, family gardens gained in importance during the pandemic lockdowns, and today are increasingly seen as a space of value also at the urban scale, benefiting both people and animals living in the city.



Adrian Grycuk | © Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0 en

Thus, instead of the previously planned development, greenery will be preserved in the area of RODs on Sobieskiego Street in Mokotow and International Street in Praga Południe, ROD Pratulińska in Targowek, or gardens near Bemowo Airport.

Not all gardens will be protected, however. Those in Czerniakow will disappear. The city plans to extend the M3 subway line from Goclaw to Mokotow and build a station there. So the gardens will give way to residential and commercial development and, in a small part, public greenery. The same will happen in the vicinity of Gdanski Station, where the area of allotments is already heavily reduced, and is to be completely eliminated in the future. New development areas have also been permitted in the area of former gardens near Chopin Airport and on the reclaimed Żerań ash dump in Piekiełko, today completely excluded from development.

truncated skyscrapers

Panorama Warszawy

panorama of Warsaw

photo: Borys Kozielski | © Wikimedia Commons CC BY 4.0

Fans of high-rise buildings, which are slowly filling the capital's skyline,may be unhappy . Planners have defined three levels of high-rise structure. The latter, concerning the tallest dominants, has been limited to 180 meters in height in the left bank part of the city and 120 meters on the Prague side of the Vistula River. For comparison, the Palace of Culture and Science is 231 meters high, and the tallest building in the European Union, Varso Tower with its mast is 310 meters high. In addition, the location of such tall buildings is to be restricted to several zones—including the Praga Port, the vicinity of Jana Pawła II Avenue, Daszyński Roundabout, Zawiszy Square, „Radoslaw” Roundabout and the Praga Port.

Skala zabudowy

scale of development

photo: UM Warszawa

Of course, the changes resulting from the new provisions of the study, in order to be translated into reality, must first be included in the provisions of the updated local zoning plans—but this is a long, long way off. In the meantime, buildings will still be built on the basis of the old plans, allowing for much more intensive indicators and zoning decisions—and this is how Warsaw's tallest skyscraper was built.

Postmodernism to be protected

The list of modern cultural assets indicated in the draft study includes 58 architecturally outstanding buildings completed in recent decades. Some of them are quite contemporary realizations such as the Agora Seat designed by JEMS Architekci or the Służewski Cultural Center by 137kilo and WWAA. The most controversial are buildings from the 1990s. Among them are the Jan III Sobieski Hotel, which is undergoing modernization (designed by Wolfgang Triessing, Maciej Nowicki), the Curtis Plaza office building (designed by Miroslaw Kartowicz, Romuald Welder) or the Panorama Shopping Center (designed by APAR-WADECO). Also to be legally protected are the Kaskada office center (designed by Jerzy Skrzypczak), the Sheraton Hotel (designed by Tadeusz Spychała) and one of the capital's favorite buildings—the University Library (designed by Marek Budzyński, Zbigniew Badowski).

Curtis Plaza

Curtis Plaza

Photo: Emptywords |© Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0

As Aleksandra Stępień-Dąbrowska, a researcher of postmodernism architecture, notes:

The list shows a full cross-section of the various ways of building, characteristic of the 1980s and 1990s. Including them in the DKW list is intended to allow them to be objectively evaluated by future generations. It's important for it to become an effective tool to save buildings from the fate of the demolished section of the Atrium or the repainted Sobieski Hotel.

transport tangle

Changes can also be seen in the city's transportation system. Of the road investments, the largest is the S7 route on the section from the Marynarska junction in the north, through Chomiczówka, Jerozolimskie Avenues to the vicinity of Służewiec. This will relieve congestion and, as a result, narrow Towarowa and Okopowa streets.

Sieć dróg publicznych

planned road network

© UM Warszawa

Several new bridges are planned—including the construction of the Krasinski Bridge, which has been put off for years, connecting Żoliborz with Targówek, and a crossing that will fill the gap between the Siekierkowski and Anna Jagiellonka (south) bridges. These are not the only changes to the landscape of the Vistula Valley. Planners are proposing that the Wislostrada tunnel today, which is a short section of this route in Powisle, be extended from Trasa Łazienkowska to the Citadel. Such a move would be extremely costly, but would bring the city closer to the river. What is debatable, however, is the retention of another tunnel in the study—the route near the Powazki Cemetery connecting Radoslaw Roundabout with Prymas Tysiaclecia Avenue. According to analyses conducted in 2016, the tunnel would not serve its purpose because it would not be connected to the S8 route, and the gain in terms of relieving congestion on the road network in the area would be small. Roads that had been planned for decades—the Nadwislańska Route, Nowo-Jagiellońska Street and the Olszynka Grochowska Route—were deleted from the new study.

Most Krasińskiego

Krasinski Bridge

© UM Warszawa

A new streetcar line is to run across the Krasinski Bridge from Wilson Square to St. Vincent's, the streetcar will also connect Żoliborz with Młynowo and further to Western Station, and will cut through Odolany with a new street parallel to Jana Kazimierza.

Planowana sieć tramwajowa

planned streetcar network

© UM Warszawa

The development of the subway network coincides with plans already published by City Hall. A total of five lines are planned, including the two existing ones with the M2 extension, the construction of the M3 to Goclawek and its extension to Mokotow, the M4 from Białołęka through Wola to Wilanów, and the M5 from Goclawek, through Saska Kępa and Ochota to Ursus.

Sieć metra

metro line network

© UM Warsaw

The directions of the bicycle infrastructure network are also interesting. Five new bridges over the Vistula will be built, intended only for pedestrians and bicycles. These will be crossings in the area of Dewajtis-Laurowa (Młociny-Tarchomin), Podzamcze-Ratuszowa (Stare Miasto-Praga), Karowa-Okrzei (footbridge under construction), Port Czerniakowski-Zwycięzców (Śródmieście-Saska Kępa) and Rodzynkowa-Afrykańska (Lower Mokotów-Saska Kępa) streets. The only question is whether it will be implemented in a well-thought-out way—today investments are being undertaken in a rather chaotic manner. Enormous funds are directed to such purposes as the construction of a footbridge to the Praga Port, which will not be part of any major bicycle route, while key fragments for the network remain unfinished, such as the crossing over the Łazienkowski Bridge that today breaks off at the boulevards.

Kładka na Pragę

The footbridge to Praga under construction

© UM Warsaw

When is the official opening?

When will the document go out for public consultation?

The date of the opening is changing not because of the „leak”, but precisely because of the agreements with the RDOŚ, which is already the last office, with the other institutions required to agree, this stage has already ended," explains Monika Beuth.—We will provide the schedule of consultations once the document is published.

Kacper Kępiński

The vote has already been cast

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