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Park over the tracks. An idea for reactivating Katowice's steam locomotive depot

30 of March '23

{tag:studenci}, a recent graduate of the Silesian University of Technology's Faculty of Architecture, has an idea for transforming Katowice 's deteriorating inter-track area and former steam locomotive depot into a new, dynamic city center. His green-filled project calls for an urban park suspended over the tracks, new public squares, as well as art pavilions and an industrial sculpture park.

The inter-track area, located on Raciborska Street, is 15 hectares of excluded and underutilized land in the very center of Katowice. The project presented here is a master's thesis under the direction of Tomasz Bradecki, PhD, which assumes the regeneration and adaptation of this area along with the buildings located on it.

Plan zagospodarowania terenu międzytorza

plan of development of the inter-urban area

© Piotr Szerenda

history of the inter-track area

Over the years, along with the development of rail transport in Katowice, the area of the steam locomotive depot located on Raciborska Street has expanded with more supporting buildings, growing to sixteen structures. Currently, the complex of two fan halls and the water tower are listed in the register of monuments. In addition to them, the steam locomotive depot included such buildings as the administration building along with the „G” building (destroyed in a fire in 2021), the checkroom building with a canteen and training room, warehouses, a carpenter's shop, inspection point rooms with a warehouse, a signal box, two turntables and a clinic building with rooms for training staff. The locomotive depot area was closed in 2011, and since then the technical condition of all the facilities has gradually deteriorated.

In addition to the very problem of lack of maintenance, there has been the issue of devastation of the facilities due to the lack of adequate security of the area. The buildings are now in a poor state of repair and require extensive renovation. Their roofs are damaged and leaky, the metal structure is rusted and the windows are broken. The inter-rail area surrounded by active railroads does not allow easy access, which affects the lack of interest from potential investors. The railroad infrastructure in the area is heavily degraded with numerous weeds, grasses and shrubs growing up from between the tracks. However, the intertrack area, due to its close proximity to the center of Katowice and its historical context, has a lot of potential, and it is this area that I am focusing on in my design work," says the university graduate.

Piotr Szendera ma pomysł na teren dawnej parowozowni w Katowicach

An idea for the area of the former steam locomotive depot in Katowice

© Piotr Szerenda

former steam locomotive depot now a city park

Piotr Szendera proposed creating an urban park with recreational, cultural and artistic functions, accessible to residents of the Upper Silesian agglomeration and tourists interested in Katowice's history related to industry and railroads. An important aspect of the work is also the renaturalization of green areas, assuming the preservation of the wild character of greenery and the implementation of pro-ecological elements using nature. These include rain gardens, small retention reservoirs, and biodiversity enrichment. The author also placed great emphasis on a collision-free connection between pedestrian and vehicular traffic.

As a result of these transformations, residents would gain 8.2 hectares of park space, of which as much as 72 percent would be biologically active. I rehabilitated 1.8 hectares of green space and revalued an area of 5.5 hectares. I also created about 50 display areas and designed more than 700 plantings of tall greenery. Steamworks Park is a new place combining recreational and cultural facilities, as well as a space promoting local art and students of the nearby Academy of Fine Arts faculty, all in a post-industrial park setting, explains Piotr Szendera.

Schemat funkcjonalny parku

functional diagram of the park

© Piotr Szerenda

The author proposes the creation of several functional spaces—public space (entrance plazas, main plaza, restaurant garden zone, art pavilion zone), art space (industrial sculpture park), designed green space (park over the tracks, arboretum, green avenue), technical space (access, parking and utility yard for the steam locomotive depot building and the old checkroom building).

Modularny park nad torami

modular park over the tracks

© Piotr Szerenda

modular park over the tracks

The main newly designed object is an atypical elevated park structure over the tracks, which serves as a footbridge and observation point. It connects the steam locomotive depot area with the city center. The raised park is designed from modular pots arranged on a grid that resembles a wagon tie. Then, on this basis, the author designed a layout of paths, ramps and stairs emphasizing the terraced arrangement of the pots. The greenery was divided into four zones in accordance with the four seasons. Native evergreen low and tall plants were supplemented with ornamental plants that bloom at different times of the year.

Konstrukcja proponowanej struktury zawieszonej nad torami

Construction of the proposed structure suspended over the tracks

© Piotr Szerenda

An entrance plaza, located in the northern part of the study, leads to the footbridge. To maintain a consistent character, the author used the same division as in the park structure. He introduced biologically active areas such as lawns, pots with tall greenery or rain gardens, between which he arranged benches and seats. An important element of the square is a zone of small service and catering facilities located in renovated railroad cars.

Schemat koncepcyjny parku

conceptual scheme of the park

© Piotr Szerenda

Another element of the public space is the main square located between the steam locomotive depot building and the raised park. Here, too, a graduate of the Silesian University of Technology kept the same division of the structure, introducing lawns, tall greenery, flower pots, small retention tanks, elements of openwork surfaces and exhibition zones. The railroad tracks, which have been put out of service, separate the pedestrian routes, while a varied color scheme highlights the entrance zones. There is also a fragrance garden and a seating area that can serve as a small stage.

Parowozownia Park w Katowicach

The project involves revitalizing the area of the intertrack and the old steam locomotive depot

© Piotr Szerenda

art pavilions in old railroad cars

The old railroad pavilions have been given new life and transformed into art pavilions with indoor and outdoor exhibition areas. They are located on the disused rail lines of the depot, and are surrounded by grass and meadow vegetation growing out of the openwork floor. In the area, the designer has introduced elements of small architecture that allow for rest and contemplation of art.

Park rzeźby industrialnej

industrial sculpture park

© Piotr Szerenda

industrial sculpture park

In the southeastern part of the inter-track Piotr proposed an industrial sculpture park. Existing railroad tracks form walking paths, between which places are placed for the display of sculptures. The author proposes giving them to students of the Academy of Fine Arts, who would create sculptures using materials left over from the demolition and reconstruction of the steam locomotive depot.

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