The article is from A&B issue 03|23
Regulated rivers were for a long time only a dumping ground for pollutants, with occasional concrete and asphalt promenades with pansies or other geraniums. For these and several other reasons, their ecosystems suffered. The fullness of the tragedy of this inland blood system was further compounded by the fun of land reclamation, draining peatlands, floodplains and meanders. Powerful carbon accumulation sites we just destroyed like so many other places on the planet. Now we are slowly starting to unwind this by adding more and more carbon dioxide in investment processes. And, interestingly, we call it renaturalization, restoration, revitalization or other "re."
A view of the Warta River boulevards in Częstochowa
While erecting monuments to ourselves, we can't seem to get the idea that maybe we could do with less, that every line we put on paper is more concrete, asphalt, polluted water, cables and pipes. I know that this can easily be hidden under the word „ECO,” but what's the point? But maybe choose moderation and smile at your kid, with the thought that daddy or mommy architects haven't contributed too much to the fact that when the kid grows up, he or she will be fried by climate change, and looking geopolitically, no one will use the 1.8 billion wandering climate refugees for another hybrid war. Am I scaring you? Yes, I'm scaring, that's my goal! Because I don't like turning my head away from problems and saying „it doesn't concern me” and "I have to live from something." But let's get back to the project.
View of the descents and bridges in the naturalistic part
Recent years have brought a significant improvement in the cleanliness of the country's water. This has given a drive to the mechanisms of nature. Nature has very quickly introduced its regenerative processes. And although our rivers are still far from perfect due to the over-regulated course of the riverbeds, man has also begun to turn back to their beauty. We fear that this return of ours, however, may be another attack on this delicate tissue. Renaturalization on the basis that nature tells us is currently very difficult to accept by local government officials, decision-makers or designers (architects or landscape architects). Because it's so non-designerly. Because we won't erect by design another monument showing the public our craftsmanship and design thought. Plus, we'd all rather read what „celebrities” have to say on various topics than scientists sounding the alarm on climate change. That's why, as I mentioned, our design lacks moderation in the first place.
Meanders of the Warta River, the boulevard section
Living in close proximity to the river cannot be at its expense, consist in adapting to our every whim. What should guide the idea of tying us to its life is respect for it, the least possible interference with its still shaky balance, and moderation in the creation of human infrastructure. Proximity, the opportunity to commune on equal terms, accessibility and an attempt at responsible design guided the team of designers, scientists and local government officials who engaged in the „Meanders of the Warta” project. This is what I will talk about today.
view of the beach in the boulevard section
The proposed concept assumes the realization of an undertaking related to the „healthy management” of this space, based on the assumptions of closed-loop economy in the process of its creation and exploitation. Respect for nature and communities especially the so-called fourth nature with the use of its potential and the least possible introduction of new plantings, the current way of production of which also generates high CO2 emissions. The basic premise of this concept is to slow the escape of water from these areas. In an era of climate change, constantly rising temperatures and prolonged periods of drought, in an effort to preserve biodiversity, we want our solutions to promote water retention.
The project involves the implementation of two spaces. The first, closer to the city, is the boulevard zone by the river. Here we have proposed several solutions to promote walking and passive recreation. Placed both on the embankments and right next to the river itself, they are to create a unified tissue, seamlessly connecting with the city. A naturalistic playground, a pumptrak are infrastructure for more active recreation for children and young people. It is hoped that the boulevard area will be frequently visited by families during Sunday strolls.
Meanders of the Warta River, naturalistic part
The second, much larger part, is devoid of as much interference as the boulevards. Here we follow the premise: „As little interference as possible, as little investment”. For example, we propose alleys made of permeable materials of natural origin.
The diverse landscape of the area gave us directions. We adapted the traffic layout to the area so that we could emphasize its qualities for walkers or cyclists, with minimal interference with earthworks. Rest areas, wetland footbridges, piers or canoe shelters should be made of native wood. We have also prepared an individual visual identity for the entire area. We don't want to create such popular nature education paths here. This area is one big nature trail, just take a look around.
A view of the footbridges on the Meadows in Wyczerpachy
In our design thinking, „Meanders of the Warta” is also a place to locate art. Creating galleries in the space, specifically works of land art—art of the land—reinforces the message of the area's values. Residents of the city and surrounding areas will be able to view artists' works thanks to vantage points. These points are also places through which the seasonal and color variation of plant communities will be admired.
A project team of landscape architects, local government officials from Częstochowa, scientists and artists, and visual identity specialists worked on the concept for almost twelve months. This joint work made it possible to introduce many restrictions and reduce the investment assumptions made at the outset, and thus also save money, which is of great importance in these times of economic crisis.