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New Pomeranian conservationist will have his hands full

08 of January '24

He will have to streamline the work of the paralyzed office and agree on key investments that have been stalled for years. Decisions on how to renovate streets in the historic heart of Gdańsk will also depend on the new conservator, in order to combine the protection of historical monuments with—there is no escaping it today—the convenience of residents and tourists.

Igor Strzok lost his position as Pomeranian Regional Monument Conservator in December. Among the candidates for his successor on the name exchange, according to local portal Tró, are: Barbara Brzuskiewicz, a respected art conservator who runs her own studio; Dariusz Chmielewski, Pomeranian Voivodeship Historic Preservation Officer from 2012-2016; and Małgorzata Chmiel, an architect, former Gdańsk councilor and Civic Platform deputy in the previous term.

Regardless of who becomes the new conservator, streamlining the office's work will be quite a challenge. In recent years, petitioners have complained about the paralysis of the office's work, with some unable to ask for a decision.

The change in the work style of the WUOZ in Gdańsk to one that requires not two or three times, but almost ten times the workload of some inspectors, is that they check projects muchmuch more thoroughly, and the mere fact that something is requested by a large developer or the city does not mean that they „stampede right away,” without looking at the documentation and regardless of its merits. What the effects of decisions „signed as they fly” used to be, Danzigers can see with their own eyes," Igor Strzok commented on the allegations.

But the troubles were shown as plain as day by an inspection conducted in 2021 on behalf of the governor. The list of allegations is long. Among the 59 irregularities, the office headed by Igor Strzok was singled out for: unequal treatment of applicants, failure to make decisions on time, unreliability in handling cases, a mess of documentation, failure to respond to requests for contact in some cases, or failure to record incoming applications. It has been calculated that half of the cases are handled after the deadline. Solving the problem is one of the most urgent tasks of whoever sits in the conservator's chair.

With the post filled—perhaps—the topic of transferring some of the competencies to the Municipal Conservator of Monuments in Gdańsk will return. Such a solution was ordered on October 1, 2015 by the governor at the request of the Pomeranian conservator, who was then Dariusz Chmielewski. The goal? To simplify and speed up procedures. At that time, Gdańsk monuments came under the city's care, excluding: The Main Town and the post-Cistercian complex in Oliwa (that is, primarily Oliwa Cathedral and Oliwa Park).

Will there be changes in the division of competencies?

The agreement did not survive the takeover of the government by the Law and Justice party, and after three years Agnieszka Kowalska, then Pomeranian conservator, asked the governor to dissolve the agreement, criticizing the fact that "the mayor of the city acts simultaneously as investor-applicant and as decision-maker." Such a decision was also supposed to be influenced by the controversy over, among other things, the reconstruction of the Radunia Canal as part of Forum Gdańsk. In turn, the city responded: "Unfortunately, political motivations are probably behind such a decision. This is another attempt to take competencies away from local governments, as happened in Warsaw, where such an agreement was also dissolved two years ago."

It cannot be ruled out that in an effort to streamline the work of the office, the new conservator will be tempted to reassign more competencies to the Municipal Conservator of Monuments.

Some things are easier to destroy than to rebuild them later,"Piotr Grzelak, deputy mayor of Gdańsk, comments for A&B.—The critical assessment of the previous PWKZ includes not only the personal competence of the office's director, but also the fact that he has carried out personal and organizational destruction of the unit. The office of the Pomeranian Regional Monument Conservator must be built from scratch today. We are open to talking with the new conservator in terms of supporting him in this process. If he recognizes that an element of this reconstruction can be the delegation of authority to the city, we will be open to such a solution.

Grzelak adds that this would require rebuilding the structure at the city level as well, since it was de facto dissolved once the competencies were taken away.

Frozen investments

But the tardy issuance of decisions is not the only issue. Investors see in the change in the conservator's position the hope of unblocking investments that had stalled under Igor Strzok. There has been a lack of agreement between the parties on how to shape new development in the Young City, especially on the Imperial Shipyard grounds along the bank of the Dead Vistula.

Po lewej: budynek LOT-u, obok Brama Wyżynna

On the left: the LOT building, next to the Wyżynna Gate

Dominik Paszlinski/Gdań

For more than six years (that's how long it's been since the architectural competition was decided) a new building, to be erected in place of the ugly LOT building,has been awaiting approval . The former conservator dreamed of reconstructing the Danziger Hof hotel (which in 1945 was wiped out from the city landscape by the war), which infuriated many Gdańsk architects. He also refused to give permission for the demolition of the LOT, which was built in the 1960s as a light nice modernist pavilion for the Furniture House, but is now a caricature of itself from years ago.

The person who is appointed to the post will face the challenge of agreeing on important investments. The question is how to do this without going from one extreme to another and losing sight of what is most important from the perspective of this office—the protection of historic buildings.

a city for the people

The new head, or head, of the Regional Office for Historic Preservation will also have to take a position on how to renovate streets in the Main City. This topic has been a bone of contention between the city and the Historic Preservation Office, which wanted to preserve the „historic appearance of the street” and did not agree to planting rows of trees or widening sidewalks. It is enough to recall the discussions around the reconstruction of Dluga and Dlugi Targ, Ogarna, Szeroka Streets.

And yet there is no inclusive city today without greenery and solutions that favor pedestrians and cyclists (comfortable pavement, wide sidewalks, greenery).

Kontrowersyjny remont ulicy Ogarnej w Gdańsku

Controversial renovation of Ogarna Street in Gdańsk

Piotr Wittman/Gdań

When will we know the name of Igor Strzok's successor? The Pomeranian governor's press office laconically assures that a decision will be made "in the near future."

We are waiting for Warsaw's decision," we heard from the governor's office.

The provincial monument conservator is appointed by the governor at the request of the General Conservator of Monuments.


Ewa Karendys

The vote has already been cast