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Pawel Mrozek on MKUA's role in the public space debate

16 of February '24

Article taken from A&B issue 11|23

What role should MKUA play in the debate about the quality of urban space? Does it fulfill such a role at present?

I feel that the deliberations of the MKUA in Gdansk should be to some extent open to the public. The MKUA is an important opinion-forming body that can make many valuable comments on draft plans, influence their nature and the working methods of the Gdansk Development Office.

However, because of the fact that it is a body about whose work no one knows anything except the participants in the meetings themselves, its power of influence does not bring lasting changes to the whole philosophy of plan-making. In a sense, with each successive plan, we encounter similar explanations that this and that can't be done, but that this is not part of any broader debate in the city, it often ends with the conclusion: the planners promise to see what can be done, and the MKUA members promise to see what can be done, and the MKUA members say that they are very much counting on the goodwill of the planners, and so on and so forth.

In addition, among many council members, there is unfortunately still a cult of modernist beliefs from bygone eras, including an aversion to contemporary urban mobility models that place more emphasis onpublic transportation and less on space-high parking ratios, which in their assumptions are supposed to elevate us to an American standard of living that is completely incompatible with the vision of a modern European city.

In Gdansk we still have the problem that the city does not have a downtown, but a collection of loosely scattered built-up areas grown around former suburban villages connected to each other by roads, and this downtown character is sorely lacking in a city that wants to pretend to be the capital of the province. Few local plans have any opportunity at all to create and complement decent multifunctional quarter developments in the city, and they continue to promote neoliberal free Americanism within urban composition. I wish that with the involvement of the MKUA we could restore urbanism in the city as a kind of art that creates its composition. At the moment, however, local plans still act more as a trigger for investment land than something that has any greater value for residents and could leave a valuable trace for future generations.

We are filling the space with compositionally and aesthetically worthless structures. After all, this space will unfortunately run out at some point. There are really very few places left in the city that can make a good difference, and I would very much like to make every effort within the MKUA to make sure that these last chances to save some spaces are not wasted.

Paweł Mrozek

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