The need to green the city and develop wasteland for this purpose is finding increasing understanding among Krakow decision-makers. Planning is underway for one of the largest green investments - a park under the railroad flyovers in the center of Krakow, stretching about three kilometers. Its part in Podgórze will be the so-called Axis of Culture.
Modernization of the railroad line
In early June 2020, local media presented visualizations of a section of the Railway Park (also on A&B link). The driving force behind the new investment is the modernization of the E30 railroad line on the Kraków Główny Towarowy-Rudzice section, which includes overpasses, new bridges and railroad stations. Investors have focused on transportation, forgetting that the railroad line crisscrossing the city should also fit into the city. The idea of creating a park and developing the unfriendly space under the tracks was proposed by the public side.
The Railway Park (working name) will consist of two parts: one in Grzegórzki and one in Podgórze, and will be connected by a pedestrian and bicyclebridge between two railroad bridges over the Vistula. In Grzegórzki, work is more advanced, because there negotiations with the landowner began earlier and a lease agreement was signed. On the ground of consultations and discussions with residents, a function was worked out for it. In Podgórze, the situation was the opposite - there was no land, but there was an idea. The idea is for a Park under the Liaison, and its driving force is... a museum.
A view of the Podgórze Museum from under the flyover. On the right is where the park is to begin, on the left is the Krakow Podgórze Rapid Urban Rail station.
photo: Katarzyna Jagodzińska
nobody's space behind the museum fence
The thought of creating a park in Pod górze was born in the winter of 2016 during a site visit to the St. Benedict Inn, where construction work was underway for the Podgórze Museum under construction. Melania Tutak, who previously ran the Podgórze History House and whose determination led to the creation of the museum, saw potential in the area under the then under construction railroad connector leading to the new Krakow Podgórze Rapid Urban Rail station. She recalls:
I was curious about what was going on in the neighborhood. I looked behind the fence and saw that there was a gigantic space ripped out of the ground, which, as it turned out later, stretched all the way to Schindler's Factory. I thought at the time that this was a brilliant place for the museum's green surroundings, and that no one would fight for it, because we were the only ones there.
The following months were filled with preparations for the opening of the new museum, but the idea was in the back of my mind all the time.
The area under the railroad connector. In the middle you can see the Podgórze Museum. Behind the museum, the tracks converge on the Krakow Podgórze Rapid Urban Rail station.
photo: Katarzyna Jagodzinska
The informal Pod Łącznica Group is formed
From the very beginning, the Podgórze Museum has been trying to act in a participatory way - inviting neighbors to joint activities - so it's not surprising to meet with foundations and associations present in the district to get to know each other. It turned out that the topic of developing the land under the connector is in everyone's interest. The Podgórze Museum, the PODGORZE.PL Association, the SOS Zabłocie group and the Czas Wolny Foundation then formed an informal "Group under the connector" and the matter gained momentum. The public consultations brought together all interested parties - there were residents, representatives of PKP PLK, the Board of Urban Greenery, the then Board of Communal Infrastructure and Transportation, the city vice-president responsible for urban infrastructure, city and district councilors. All spoke with one voice that this space must be reclaimed for the city.
The area under the railroad connector seen from the entrance to the Podgórze Museum from the side of the courtyard.
Through the efforts of the Under the Connector Group, brick blockades were erected to prevent entry to the wild parking lot, which began to operate here after the construction of the flyover was completed.
Photo: Katarzyna Jagodzińska
Axis of Culture
There was no shortage of arguments to convince the parties. The first: restoring the degraded space to residents. The park is to have various functions: a pedestrian and bicycle path, greenery with rest zones, a playground, a community garden.
The second argument: Cultural Axis. The Railway Park is to connect the cultural institutions located in Podgórze and Zabłocie, starting with the Podgórze Museum, Oskar Schindler's Emalia Factory and the MOCAK Museum of Contemporary Art in Krakow, to the planned Planeta Lem Center for Literature and Language, as well as the nearby Cricoteka Center for the Documentation of the Art of Tadeusz Kantor.
New railroad bridges over the Vistula, with the Krakow Zablocie railroad station visible on the right, and the railroad line continuing to the Krakow Podgórze station. A pedestrian and bicycle bridge is to be suspended between these bridges.
Photo: Katarzyna Jagodzinska
The third argument: to organize transportation in Zabłocie, which is symbolically cut off by the railroad embankment. There is also an additional, forward-looking argument, important for the Museum of Krakow (of which the Podgórze Museum and Schindler's Factory are a part): the possibility of relieving traffic congestion at Schindler's Factory, the most visited museum in Krakow. Because you should know that there is no parking at the museum or in the surrounding area. The idea of the "Group under the connector" is to build a multi-level parking lot in place of the existing, not very active bus terminal, which could serve coaches with visitors. The walking time from here to the Factory is just eight minutes! The Axis of Culture also has the potential for development in the other direction - it could be pulled farther, to Krakus Mound and KL Plaszow.
We are waiting for the PKP signature....
This will be [...] probably the first example in our country of cooperation between the local community and the city and its institutions, the authorities of the giant that is the PKP PLK Board, the Ministry, at the request and initiative of the local museum, Podgórze activists and the community, supported by the approval of the Mayor. Well, that would be something! - you can read on the Facebook fanpage of the Group under the Switchyard[link].
It is close to realization. All that is needed is the signature of the owner of the land - PKP Polskie Linie Kolejowe.
... and for an architectural competition
The railroad's official approval of the proposed concept for the use of the site will allow the design stage to begin. Only then will it be possible to translate the functions discussed by residents into the language of architectural designs. We hope to do so through an open competition procedure. The design of public spaces is at least as important as the design of public buildings, and a competition, which by design is the most democratic, should now be the next logical step.