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Adam Miziołek - "Murder on the Orient Express".

06 of June '20


One more serious candidate remains in the circle of suspects. He is the Project. He is a precise figure, although very flexible. A true citizen of the world - from his first ideas he has been in contact with the biggest names in culture and architecture. However, he is no stranger to the history and spirit of his own city. Modern and at the same time respectful of tradition. He enjoys spending time both at outdoor events and at home. A man of culture and business. It seems that just such a hero is needed by every neglected area of cities, examples of which you can cite yourself at length. A miraculous therapy, a quick and virtually painless treatment, the results of which will give you reasons to be proud. Nevertheless, the Project had reason and opportunity to finish the Quarter.

A longer interrogation makes it possible to sense that the impression of the suspect's versatility is due more to schizophrenic changing of minds than to a comprehensive approach to problem solving. From the first master plan, not much of the overall concept remained. Individual compositional measures were replaced by financially more effective ones. Changes spared not only some of the planned axes or view openings, but also the transportation system. Inconsistency motivated by economic and transportation requirements brought the Quarter to a dead end. Misunderstood flexibility has frayed the backbone of the entire establishment. The question is whether good intentions, which are the easiest to explain away, will be a credible and exculpatory alibi.

An additional aggravating circumstance is the results of the "open city operation" that the suspect was supposed to have carried out. The problem turned out to be the successive removal of key bodies from the Quarter's redevelopment plan. For various reasons, but effectively, the Project got rid of the "dynamically responsive art center".3 The "killer project "4 of Frank Gehry 's festivaland convention center and Daniel Libeskind's gateway concept for the city turned out to be unnecessary. The revitalized CHP plant did not house all the enthusiastically heralded institutions. Did the quarter have a chance to survive without "development gas pedals "5 for this piece of the city?

Znak – zakaz ruchu

Sign - no pedestrian traffic

Photo: Adam Miziołek

More or less professional autopsies leave no illusions that too many mistakes were made during the procedure. Your attention will certainly still be drawn to how the whole thing was planned. It is characteristic of revolutionary transformations that a clear end is set, a clear goal to be "realized", the achievement of which will solve the problems arising from the analyses. However, unlike the investment process of an office building or train station, a city is a living organism in which every change affects the functioning of the other systems. A never-ending process sensitive to the voice of citizens, different from producing a machine that works flawlessly from the moment it rolls off the assembly line. Residents change, habits come and go, new needs replace old ones. Unfortunately, the Project did not take into account during operations not only the effects that were suggested to occur, but went against the original assumptions at all. Perhaps the modern plan in general was already outdated when the surgery began? Whatever the reasons, the thoroughly stitched-up patient was doomed to a long therapy to remove complications from the barely completed operation. A laborious rehabilitation, the start date of which may not be known for a long time yet. We can now only look for the perpetrator of all the confusion.

The station, the Vision or the Project? Which of these suspects committed the crime? The solution to such an elaborate puzzle in an extremely complicated urban matter cannot be obvious. The New Center has been as much influenced by an overgrown transportation hub as by the introduction of a generally unprecedented scale in the neighborhood. The prevailing disillusionment of residents with unfulfilled expectations cannot be underestimated. Finally, after all, the most dangerous may have been faulty design assumptions and deviation from the established revitalization program. So who is to blame? Everyone. However, none of the suspects is a murderer. As the detective story paraphrased in the title suggested, this puzzle could not have a simple ending.

Znak – rozjazd

A sign - a turnout

Photo credit: Adam Miziołek

The quarter is dead by the unintentional cooperation of the aforementioned, but also of the better-hidden little murderers. Significant mistakes, risky moves and inconsistent changes certainly helped lead to the current state of affairs. This, however, should not be the most important conclusion of the investigation. The new Center is not a living piece of the city. That's a fact, but before the operation it wasn't either. There are corpses, there are culprits, but no murder was committed. "The Center of Europe" will not be built here, but the area still has a chance to be a vibrant part of downtown. Some originally planned cultural institutions are already in operation. More office buildings are being built, and the sight of a modern train station usually makes those who remember the quarter before the renewal program began proud. Patience must save the changing city from the sad end of urban emptiness in reality and in the minds of residents.

The most important thing is to learn from the whole operation, the mistakes and negligence committed, even if they have long been known. There is never enough repetition, especially if the learning, as is evident, has not been completed. Do not be afraid to use the proven tools that citizens have in their hands. Great projects accompany the citizens of great cities and today. It is worth citing, for example, the recently announced project for the New Center of Warsaw, which features almost identical slogans of space attractive to residents and visitors, cultural and art institutions are planned and city life is to be centered on the new Central Square. These noble assumptions must be guarded by residents to avoid wasting time, money, commitment and opportunities that could change the fate of the city.

Citizen involvement and control are invaluable. Strongly voiced opposition or approval can lead to salutary decisions. An informed public will respond to lofty plans with a resounding "check!" - in the form of comments, public consultations, protests or ballots. Residents, seeing that they have a say in their neighborhoods, will be connected to the city and get involved in initiatives that improve living conditions, cultural offerings, attractiveness of space, etc. They will finally be happier, feeling that the city belongs to them. These well-known prescriptions need to be constantly reminded. And one should wish the many cities where projects to revitalize quarters or neighborhoods are taking place or are just beginning, that their residents follow in the footsteps of the detective from the detective story ineptly evoked here. That once in a while they should sit back and think about the city.


1 Quoted from the informational brochure "The New Center of Lodz. Open City Operation 2006-2016".
2 A. Walczak, "This will be the center of Europe," Łódź. EC1. Gazeta na Weekend, November 6, 2009, p. 3.
3 M. Poprzęcka, "Special Art Zone as an Accelerator," Lodz . EC1. Newspaper for the Weekend, November 6, 2009, p. 3.
4 M. Jachimek, Interview with Marek Żydowicz, Lodz. EC1. Gazeta na Weekend, November 6, 2009, p. 2.
5 M. Poprzęcka, "Special Art Zone as a gas pedal," Lodz. EC1. Gazeta na Weekend, November 6, 2009, p. 3.

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