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Green courtyard instead of parking lot. Finally a change in front of Poznan Castle

Kuba Głaz
31 of January '23

Instead of a parking lot—a green place for relaxation and meetings. This is what the courtyard in front of the Zamek Cultural Center in Poznan will look like. The competition design by Aleksander Wadas Studio will finally be implemented this year. The final architects have added even more greenery.

The competition to develop the spacious courtyard between the Castle Culture Center and Swiety Marcin Street was held in 2019. It was won by the Aleksander Wadas Studio office in cooperation with Pracownia Architektury Krajobrazu (Marta Tomasiak). This team best answered the competition task: to create a friendly, year-round common space and, at the same time, a point of contact between the cultural establishment and the city. The realization somewhat dragged on for financial reasons. Now the city has found the money and construction work should begin in the second half of the year.

After reconstruction, the space in front of the neo-Romanesque Castle, the youngest seat of the German Kaiser—built in 1910—will change dramatically. After all, the square, which opens onto the street, has been a paid parking lot for the past decades . Only for a few days a year it changed, serving to organize events such as the finale of the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity, the „birthday” of St. Martin Street on November 11 and the Ethnoport festival. That's when the space revealed its huge city-forming potential.

Dziedziniec przed CK Zamek w Poznaniu - projekt aranżacji

courtyard in front of CK Zamek in Poznan—mockup

© Aleksander Wadas Studio

change after thought

So CK Zamek decided: we are finally eliminating the parking lot. In cooperation with the Open Center initiative, the terms of the competition were carefully prepared , preceded by consultations, workshops, local inspections and interviews with Castle staff. As a result, the cultural institution's intentions changed quite a bit. After all, the original thought was to equip the courtyard quite modestly with greenery and small architecture, so that large events could still be held there. Pre-competition analyses showed, however, that the heavily sunlit stone square requires a different approach. Its space should therefore be arranged not with a few large events in mind, but for daily operation throughout the year (the Castle can hold large concerts next door in Mickiewicz Square, among other places).

The authors of the winning work proposed strongly saturating the square with high and low greenery, dividing the space into several intimate interiors and one larger central part, which in summer can turn into a shallow pond (supplied with water from an underground rainwater tank). A low pavilion is to be built between the street and the courtyard to serve as a café, a point of information about the Castle's offerings, as well as a small covered stage (the audience will then be the pond-square). In the detailed design developed after the competition, the share of greenery has increased even more (the authors say by 51 percent).

Dziedziniec przed CK Zamek w Poznaniu - projekt aranżacji

Courtyard in front of CK Zamek in Poznan—design of the arrangement

© Aleksander Wadas Studio

for all seasons

The latest version of the courtyard will therefore differ significantly from both the original shape and the effects of later changes. Until the 1940s, the square was a fenced space, then—after the Nazi reconstruction of the Castle in the 1940s—it was opened to the street, from which it is separated by a new low wall and stylish lanterns. After the war—without interfering with the substance rebuilt by the Germans, it unfortunately turned into a parking lot.

How will the greenery, small architecture and the pavilion look more precisely? The architects give details:

we envisage [...] the introduction of a relatively large number of tree plantings (20 pieces) and the maintenance of a row of existing trees (9 pieces.) to create a green character of the square and shade—while inscribing the new plantings in the facade of the Castle, and [...] a large share of evergreen species (shrubs, as well as perennials), Tree species are selected taking into account the winter appearance (sculptural habit of larch, ginkgo orrobinia).

The designers also thought about the other seasons. Perennial and shrub species have been selected so that the flowering seasons overlap throughout the growing season, until autumn. Provision has also been made for melliferous and edible plants(currants, raspberries, etc.). New to the original concept is an island of greenery at the entrance to the Poznan June 1956 Museum, as well as climbing plants on the facades planted in the corners of the courtyard. Greenery will also be present in mobile pots.


In addition to the paved areas, the historic pavement of granite slabs and fine cobblestones will be partially preserved. The courtyard will feature terrazzo and steel mesh benches in three colors. The description reads that:

The designed fixed furniture is linked to the functional composition of the square (it separates and closes micro-spaces, frames frames frames, views, emphasizes the course of communication) and, as it were, emerges from the stone floor itself. Thus, they have a massive, „stone”, sculptural character that breaks the lightness of the greenery by which they are placed. The mobile furniture contrasts with the fixed elements in proportion and delicate size.

Dziedziniec przed CK Zamek w Poznaniu - projekt aranżacji

Courtyard in front of CK Zamek in Poznan—arrangement design.

© Aleksander Wadas Studio

The courtyard is to make extensive use of existing street lighting, including, among others, stylish lamps from the occupation era and illumination of the Castle walls. In addition, there will be discreet lighting to highlight the shape of trees and shrubs. The illuminated "greeter" is also to be a glazed one-story pavilion divided into two parts: a café with opening glass facades and a stage in the open clearance.

Despite the objections of some art historians and monument lovers, the pavilion will not be a contemporary clash within the historic massive edifice. In fact, it will resemble it with its stone-faced facades. The architects add that

The translucency of the pavilion makes it possible to preserve the viewing relationship from Święty Marcin Street with the historic facade of the Castle. [...] A sliding steel mesh curtain is envisaged should it be necessary to separate the stage space from Swiety Marcin Street .

Finally, the reconstruction will include a ramp for people with disabilities integrated into the existing stairs of the main entrance.

Dziedziniec przed CK Zamek w Poznaniu - projekt aranżacji

Courtyard in front of CK Zamek in Poznań—design of the arrangement

© Aleksander Wadas Studio

The green common courtyard will complement in a friendly way the space of Swiety Marcin Street currently being transformed as part of the Centrum Project (reconstruction of the main downtown streets according to the competition design by ADS Studio). Its casual character has a chance to "soften" both the rather total form of the Prussian castle and the new form of the street criticized in part for its insufficiently refined forms of greenery and small architecture. It will also probably become a friendly "bridge" between the street and the interior of the Castle, which—despite its very rich cultural offer—sometimes intimidates with its scale and form.

Jakub Głaz

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