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They will never meet

26 of June '23

A column from A&B issue 05|2023

One of the diseases that is consuming our space is banerosis or advertosis. It infected the country after 1989 and is still a symbol of development today. „Chicken for 9.99” or another „Vulcanization 150 m” invade every part of our environment. And we just don't see it anymore. We don't see what's behind the banners, the buildings or the landscape. In one tourist destination in the mountains, I saw a beautiful wooden house, next to it stood an advertising banner covering it almost entirely, 3 meters by 5 meters in size. Printed on it was a picture of this building, with a price for a room. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.

So much for roadside tarps. However, there is another world of banners, a more „civilized” one. Systemic billboards of professional advertising companies. It is from them that we often learn about that „Chicken for 9.99” or other Teflon pots and pans. Our cities are peppered with them, they are everywhere. And they are the subject of my frequent musings on them. Advertising „Green Ostoja” with micro-apartments or another „Park Hill,” a development of blocks of flats for which a park had to be cut down, are just some of the thousands of finely chosen names by developers for new neighborhoods or apartment buildings. Just by reading the slogans alone, one can conclude that we live in an aesthetically pleasing green space, a land flowing with honey, milk and greenery. But that's not all. The beautiful photorealistic visualizations delight like paintings by Chelmonski or Rembrandt. On them we see the idyllic atmosphere of block housing estates named, let's say, „Quiet Grove.” Families with children on bicycles, who are smilingly navigating safe, traffic-free routes, they can even walk themselves to kindergarten or school along them. All this is drowning in greenery. Because you know, the name „Eco-neighborhood” obliges. Sidewalks for walking, playgrounds for playing, romantic benches for kissing. You can kiss discreetly, of course, in the lush and luscious greenery. Lawns and turf where you lie half a day on a blanket and don't rush off to work to pay off the loan. Sometimes I look at these billboards and can even feel the soft hum of the trees, the treble and pimpling of the birds in their crowns. As I return from this idyll to reality, I have a question for all of us. Do we architects and landscape architects have to take part in this lie and deception aimed at buyers of apartments, condos or investment microcars?

Nigdy się nie spotkają

They will never meet

© Filipowski

After all, we know very well what it actually looks like, dry lawns made on a bed of deadwood, with cheap benches on them and a few bushes next to them. To get to them, you have to squeeze between cars, so there's no way children can go out into the yard on their own, let alone to school. The whole picture is completed by micro playgrounds with a few pieces of equipment and a fence. God forbid that two developers locate their playgrounds opposite each other. The view is tragic. „Prestigious children” from prestigious estates play with each other separated by a „prestigious fence.” The whole of this tragicomedy is complemented by „vines sticking out of the ground”, what are called plantings. Occasionally the wind blows and blows, like a banner of this spatial madness, a black anti-weed rag.

This idyll, which is poured into the minds of customers, only serves to increase the profit of the construction industry. „Concrete eldorado,” "Parking paradise" or „Bledowska Desert” are better names for the prestigious estates rising like mushrooms. I don't know about you, but I'm pained by these visualizations, where old trees fill the space around the buildings, providing residents with ecological services. They hurt because I know that, in fact, these trees are not there, or if they were, it was before the blocks were erected. In the investment process they were unscrupulously cut down. Now, sometimes out of compulsion, the developer is planting something 10 centimeters in diameter, because he has to do it because of compensatory plantings. And this is where my attention to these visualizations comes from. By the time these „veggies” grow up, by the time they reach their full age, it will be some forty years, maybe fifty. The generation that bought these apartments from „visualizations” will have already passed away, moved out. They will never get what was sold to them from billboards, and came out of the hands of architects, landscape architects or sales visualization specialists.

Let me give this with a more illustrative example. Due to the phenomenon of climate change, there are days in the summer when it gets as hot as 40 degrees. The high temperatures make it practically impossible to be outside. Trees are supposed to provide shade, so designers plan them near playgrounds. The caddies, planted on the cheap, will achieve their function when these children have their children, and it is for them that this tree will serve. The problem is that this playground will most likely be gone after forty years, because it will simply fall apart due to the quality of the materials used. In this „Ecoturbo” housing development of ours, nothing in the visuals is real. So, let's stop fooling people with something that isn't there. I feel that this is simply required by professional ethics. And I know you will say: it's not us, it's them! But are the developers really to blame? Or is it more about the desire for profit of all participants in the investment process?

However, if we would like to achieve a satisfactory result, there is a way. It's a properly prepared STWIORB [Technical Specification for the Execution and Acceptance of Construction Works—editor's note]. and development project. One in which the parameters of plants, especially trees, are precisely defined. And then the „Green Enclave” will be a „Green Enclave” and not a "Pum-parking paradise."

It is still worth considering the implementation process itself, isn't it better to leave some of the existing vegetation? I will write about this in future columns.

Wojciech Januszczyk

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