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Partial, spotty, slow that is the New Center of Warsaw

05 of January '24

TheNew Center of Warsaw, a project that consists of many changes in the urban space of the capital's downtown, is being born in pain. More investments are catching delays, and those already completed are not being implemented to their full extent. It's still islands of normalcy in a sea of concreteness, not a wide-ranging action. There is a lack of both spatial, physical connections and action happening "in between" the point-to-point elements of the project being implemented.

Warsaw City Hall has summed up another year of implementation of the New Center - changes such as the reconstruction of Marszałkowska Street, Chmielna Street and the construction of the Central Square are undeniably needed and will transform these parts of Poland's largest city. Still, it's hard to talk about a seamless sequence of interconnected public spaces, what is being implemented is rather spotty. In anticipation of big changes, there is a lack of temporary changes, experimentation, animation of spaces that are yet to undergo reconstruction.

Also read: pedestrianized and green New Center of Warsaw

We want the New Center of Warsaw to be elegant, coherent, and at the same time friendly, safe, green and full of life, responding to the needs and lifestyles of Varsovians. The New Warsaw Center is to be lively, full of services located in the first floors of buildings, stores, cafes or restaurants with gardens. Better quality of the center is also about the health of all of us: clean air, shade in summer, lots of greenery," says Warsaw Mayor Rafał Trzaskowski.

As part of this project, the modernization of Marszałkowska Street (from Królewska Street to Bankowy Square) was completed in 2023. Work has also begun on Chmielna Street and the so-called Central Square, where the Museum of Modern Art already stands. Already, in the Downtown area, Jana Pawła II Avenue has been rebuilt - from the Forty-year-old traffic circle to the UN traffic circle. Pedestrian crossings and bicycle crossings at the Dmowskiego traffic circle and Marszałkowska Street were also delineated. And in 2021, Five Corners Square was created.

Central Square

Plac Centralny

Central Square

A-A Collective / UM Warszawa

In June 2023, construction of the so-called Central Square in the central part of Parade Squarebegan. The project prepared by A-A Collective is based on the 2018 competition concept. When completed, there will be less concrete and asphalt in front of the Palace of Culture and Science, more than 100 new trees, thousands of shrubs, lawns and a low pond. Unfortunately, the project does not cover the entire area - something that is already a regular feature of all the New Center of Warsaw measures implemented. In this case, the exit to the road tunnel under Marszalkowska Street is deleted from the scope. When will it be backfilled? No one knows. So the square will still be separated from the other side of the arterial by a road junction for years to come.

Read also: Poland's strangest square will change beyond recognition

MSN almost ready

MSN i TR Warszawa

MSN and TR Warsaw

UM Warsaw / Thomas Phifer

The Museum of Modern Art building is under construction next to the square , and is finally scheduled for completion in the fall of 2024. That's a 4-year delay from the announcements for this particular concept, but the construction history dates back to 2006. Designed by New York studio Thomas Phifer and Partners, the building is almost complete. Finishing work is underway inside the six floors, centered around a monumental central staircase. The museum occupies nearly 20,000 square meters of space, including 4,500 square meters of exhibition spaces on the first and second floors. The first of the large trees that will fill the walkway between the Museum building and the TR Warszawa theater, designed by the same team... which, according to tradition, is not being built at the same time, was also recently planted. In the construction tender, the cheapest bid exceeded the budget by 350 million zlotys, and the city decided to cancel the proceedings. When will it resume it? It is not known.

Also read: public space and culture victims of inflation

The end of stagnation at the Congress Hall

Sala Kongresowa - wizualizacja

Congress Hall - visualization

UM Warsaw

One of Warsaw's most important concert spaces, the Congress Hall in the Palace of Culture and Science has stood empty for nine years. This scandalous situation is the result of complications related to the renovation that began in 2015, valued at the time at PLN 45 million. First the contractor declared bankruptcy, then it was impossible to find a new one. Eventually, after several canceled tenders, Congress Hall has a chance to return to its glory days, for the skyrocketing sum of 393 million z lotys. The work will include a comprehensive modernization of the Hall, along with technical, sanitary, conference and catering facilities. The latest generation of electroacoustic infrastructure will appear.

New Chmielna, but not Zgoda

Ulica Chmielna

Chmielna Street

RS Landscape Architecture / UM Warszawa

Work is also underway on Chmielna Street. This street, just 15-20 years ago, was a landmark of the capital. Today it does not live up to its potential, is seen as a degraded and unattractive place, and the renovation carried out here in the 1990s has not stood the test of time.

Read also: The capital's ugliest promenade nears metamorphosis

We will restore the importance of Chmielna Street as a place for meetings, leisure and walking, and the most important shopping street in Warsaw. Chmielna will gain the form and function of a green promenade - equipped with benches and planted with trees and shrubs.- says Michal Olszewski, deputy mayor of Warsaw.

Ulica Złota - projekt konkursowy

Zlota Street - competition project

RS Architektura Krajobrazu / UM Warszawa

The project for the reconstruction of Chmielna Street and a section of Bracka Street (partially reconstructed as part of the construction of the Pięciu Rogów Square) was prepared by the RS Architektura Krajobrazu team. The same designers took first place in the competition to develop a concept for the development of public space in the area of Zlota and Zgoda Streets decided in 2021. Unfortunately, this part of the New Warsaw Center is not being implemented for the time being - the detailed design was supposed to be ready in May 2023, but the deadline was postponed. The reconstruction is planned for 2024-2025 at the earliest.

three squares without a date

Plac Żelaznej Bramy

Zelazna Brama Square

MAU / UM Warsaw

That's why specialists from the Office of Architecture and Spatial Planning of the City of Warsaw began - together with professional architects from design offices - a public discussion on changes to the squares: Teatralny, Bankowy and Żelazna Brama. Residents of the capital who took part in meetings, consultations and charrette workshops were also able to express their opinions.

Also read: the workshop confirmed that the transition is needed. New Iron Gate Square

Plac Teatralny

Theater Square

MAU / UM Warsaw

The concept for changes to all three squares will now be refined and agreed upon with city units. However, the office does not give any real date for the realization of these investments. Nor is there any announcement of even temporary changes in their use until the reconstruction is completed. There is even a term already circulating on the Internet for charetteization - that is, subjecting more urban spaces to the charette method in order to produce concepts that have no prospect of implementation and thus create the illusion of action.

Read also: Theater parking lot will turn into an urban square

The facelift of Trzech Krzyży Square and Marszałkowska Street

Marszałkowska po przebudowie

Marszałkowska street after reconstruction

ZDM Warsaw

"A huge metamorphosis" calls the City Hall the renovation that a section of Marszałkowska Street between Solidarności Avenue and Królewska Street hasundergone. As part of this crowning achievement, the sidewalk was renovated, a road for bicycles and parking spaces were designated. More greenery has appeared. Here, too, the scope of work was limited - the planned pedestrian crossing in the Saska axis was not created.

Read also: Street defeated City Hall. A nightmare of participation in Warsaw

Plac Trzech Krzyży - przed i po przebudowie

Trzech Krzyży Square - before and after reconstruction

ZDM Warsaw

Trzech Krzyży Square has also been modernized , it is now easier to cross it on foot or by bicycle, and tall trees have been planted. However, its space is still dominated by its traffic function and instead of an urban square it more resembles a traffic circle with a very strange shape. Targeted changes in the area with this partial renovation seem to have been pushed back to the distant future.

Powstancow Warszawy parking lot

Plac Powstańców Warszawy

Powstancow Warszawy Square

photo. lapstudio / um warszawa

Powstańców Warszawy Square, which underwent renovations several years ago, is being rebuilt. However, the current changes are targeted and involve the construction of an underground parking lot under the square's slab for 420 cars. In connection with this, a section of Swietokrzyska Street will also be rebuilt (the space for cars will be enlarged), and the square itself will see air intakes, a ramp, entrance and parking service facilities sp routing up, ignoring the square's urban composition - by the way, this is nothing new, it's enough to look at the station infrastructure elements of the central section of the second subway line interfering with pedestrian routes and view axes.

Read also: A new, worse version of Warsaw Insurgents' Square.

Kacper Kępiński

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