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Hits and kits, or a summary of the year 2022 in architecture (part VIII)

12 of January '23

The end of December - because that's when we finished preparing the January issue - is the best time for all kinds of summaries. And like every year, we ask practitioners and architecture critics to write what they consider a success and what they consider a failure in a given year. We do it in the convention of Kits and Hits. We give our Authors and Authors total freedom of expression and do not moderate this discussion. Rather, we are very curious about it.

Previous episodes of the series featured:

Wojciech Januszczyk in HITS AND KITS 2022 from A&B issue 01|2023

A perennial putty, including last year's, is the placement on sales visualizations of development estates of buildings submerged in greenery. These estates are full of spaces for people that don't really exist. All the PUM-free areas are intended for the "golden calf" of the Poles, the car. Architects and those who create visualizations and advertising agencies put on billboards, without any embarrassment, hypocritical images tempting with dense plantings, tall trees, playgrounds sheltered from the sun, an umbrella of plant compositions. All that's missing is a roe deer to completely bamboozle this theater. "Pretty" pictures are usually laced with names like "Eco estate," "Green refuge" or "Noisy grove." Seeing these billboards, I always ask myself, where are the ethics of the designer, the architect? We all know very well that these housing developments should rather be called "Parking eldorado," "Concrete desert" or "The only thing we cared about was the PUM money." Ever since we gave the residential space to private entities to build, nothing good has come of it. Saving green space and overdevelopment backed by the marketing of an architectural idyll is nothing but the creation of concrete, non-functional ghettos. And of course, in a moment the voices of designers will be heard: it's not us, it's them!

The second putty worth noting is the creation by cities and local governments of "green profiles" on social media. It presses on the lips: "To the Lord God a candle, and to the devil a stub!". Cities that, in the era of climate change, the creation of heat islands, all-encompassing concrete and "revitalization in the Polish way" allow themselves to cut down trees without a second thought, to put gray infrastructure above green, servile role to investors from intensive development, have noticed that "being green" pays off. Because it and activists and residents are less bullied, and at conferences you can boast. So we brag about being green on the Internet, while in the name of "development" wrecking the remnants of the city's ecosystem. It's sad, although you could say it's still a plus, because once upon a time even these green photos weren't there. To illustrate what I am writing about, I have this example. In one photo there is a bus stop with 7 square meters of green roof, and in the background of the same photo there are several hundred meters of low-mowed stubble "lawn" in the road strip, which is dusty, does not retain water and is not a biodiversity hotbed. It's such eye-pleasing greenwashing.

One more, though smaller putty, one could write "putty," is the wave of mini-sculpture collections with large sponsor plaques sweeping through the national public space. Copy paste from the interesting idea of the Wroclaw dwarves. So they are flying, like Poland long and wide, collections of bears, dragons, weasels, goats and other mammals or reptiles. Each of them must be holding or doing something distinctive, while creating an identity for the place. Next to them, as I mentioned before, there must be a plaque of the sponsor, founder, patron. The whole thing is often encircled by a magnificent concrete foundation, so that someone will not seize such a magnificent sculpture. How about some of your own ideas for spatial and tourist attractions?

Frowned upon. Now it's the hits. The architectural world has leaned toward landscape architects. This is another year in which no one has called us "landscape hairdressers," as one important gentleman from the ministry did when asked what our profession should be called, if not landscape architects. More and more I notice this positive phenomenon in professional circles. We learn from each other. We use our knowledge, we form teams, both in construction projects and architectural competitions. Such teams create a new quality of space and give other, previously rare solutions. This acct is a very good signal in the era of climate change. I would like to see the next step of both these professional groups become cooperation on the basis of the assumptions of a closed loop economy, responsible design and moderation in investment processes.

The second hit is to pay attention in design processes to fourth nature, ruderal vegetation, ecosystems that produce themselves, and water retention based on plant communities. "Overgrowth" is a concept that my team and I try to "smuggle" into projects, because it's both economical, ecological and low-impact to operate. Serious engineering, architecture or landscape architecture should make the most of the designs and solutions that nature gives us. She is a better engineer than we are, having been on earth a little longer. In an era of such accelerating climate change, there is no room for pretend "eco" investments and greenwashing.

The third highlight, which also pleases me, is the increasing participation of landscape architects in the world of architectural media, in the pages of professional magazines or at multi-faceted conferences.

Wojciech Januszczyk

landscape architect, employee of the Institute of Landscape Architecture of the Catholic University of Lublin, founder of the Landscapes Foundation

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