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Will the pots prepare Cracovians for the greening of Market Square?

Wiktor Bochenek
23 of January '23

At the end of last week, Krakow was in an uproar, and accusations towards the Board of Urban Greenery were pouring in from all sides. In the near future, the municipal institution wants to get residents and tourists used to greenery. What does this really mean?

For the project "Let's plant trees in the main square!" more than twenty thousand votes were cast in the civic budget. Such great interest in the project indicates several trends that we are increasingly observing in our cities - the need to reduce urban heat islands, to appreciate the value of greenery, to improve retention or simply to end the trend of concrete deserts. We talked about the project with the initiator (see here: Kwarciak: The Main Square will no longer be such a concrete pan).

The project, according to the status of Krakow's Civic Budget, should be implemented within two years. However, the trees are controversial - mainly in the context of covering up monuments, and also about whether the roots will not harm what is under the Market Square's slab, which is equally important for the urban fabric. Over the next year, there will be appropriate studies and expert reports, on the basis of which sites for more than thirty trees will be selected. ZZM wants to convince unbelievers with temporary tree pots, which has awakened a lively discussion.

Wschodnia część rynku

The eastern part of Market Square

Photo: Zygmunt Put | © Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0

a storm in a teacup?

The first problem that arose in the context of putting pots in the Market was not the solution itself, but communication. Part of the larum was raised quite wrongly, pointing out that the pots would be a permanent solution, not a temporary one. The first to fall was communication, which perhaps should have been better carried out - some of the voices against this form of placemaking would not have appeared at all if communication had been carried out in a more open manner.

However, the placement of pots in Krakow's Market Square has led to some questions about the implementation of the project. Will putting up the pots affect the length of the project's implementation, will it be a problem in terms of conducting research, and do the small trees in the pot adequately represent the scale of the assumptions? These concerns, among others, were expressed by the initiator of the project, although it's hard not to notice some skepticism, including toward ZZM.It could be overcome by, well, consultations and ideas for solutions carried out at each stage of the project.

I don't understand the idea of temporarily erecting flower pots in the main square. I think that residents don't need to get used to greenery, and it's worth dealing with the project in its final form as soon as possible. I'm afraid that once the pots are put up, the city won't have the motivation to plant trees in the ground. Temporary solutions are often very permanent. Trees in pots have a bad connotation, and in many cities such installations have been an object of derision. Placed in concrete, saplings usually wither quickly, and low plants do not provide shade. Usually mobile greenery is a picture of misery and despair, not something to be proud of," comments the idea of ZZM in Krakow Krzysztof Kwarciak - the initiator of the project.

Donice były wykorzystywane na placu Nowym. Takie rozwiązanie ma pojawić się na krakowskim rynku

The pots were used in the New Square. Such a solution is to appear in Krakow's Market Square until the location of 30 trees is approved

Photo: Boguslaw Swierzowski | © Kraków.pl

placemaking the krakow way

Despite more than twenty thousand votes in the civic budget, the problem is the Cracovians skeptical of the project. These are the ones who would be convinced by placemaking in the form of pots with trees. The Greenery Board is anxious to convince the unconvinced.

An indirect problem is also the growing skepticism about the Civic Budget, which, as many institutions and think tanks point out, has been grossly increasing for several years. This project cannot be implemented immediately - a consensus must be developed with the preservationist, but also with residents. From this comes the impossibility of speeding up the process.

Low trees will not be authoritative to test planting locations. A better result could be achieved with properly prepared visualizations and studies. The situation could lead to confusion, as many residents will think that this is the implementation of a project from the civic budget, which, after all, involves planting trees in the ground. Therefore, I believe that this interim stage of putting up pots should be abandoned and we should get down to planting ground trees right away. Of course, the choice of specific locations should be preceded by careful analysis and public consultation," adds Kwarciak.

Tree planting crisis - a crisis of confidence?

It is worth thinking about the placement of pots in the Market in the context of residents-institution relations. It is hard not to notice the importance of this project, which is certainly recognized by the Board of Urban Greening. Krakow's Market Square and whether trees will return to it, in large numbers, will be a clear signal to other cities that are struggling with concretosis.

If the planned large trees appear in a place as mythologized as Krakow's Market Square, it will mean that there is no space that cannot be greened even to a small degree. So what is the problem? First and foremost, little trust in city institutions, and the legitimacy in the use of pots, which in the case of other urban spaces may prove to be a valuable solution.

Precisely because of the importance of the project, it is worth using it to better communicate with skeptical residents and urban activists, who should be seen as not an obstacle, but stakeholders looking for the best solution. Perhaps, it is with these groups that a placemaking model could be developed.

This kind of cooperation could avoid mistakes in communication, and in the long run, work out solutions that lead to increased trust for the institution, greenery that is not awe-inspiring, or winning the Green Capital of Europe award dreamed up by the Cracow magistrate. The trees in the Market Square could be a prelude to such actions. It could be the moment when consultations are conducted in cooperation with initiators and activists - breaking the deadlock and piercing the glass ceiling of residents-institutions contact.

Zachodnia część rynku

The western part of Market Square

photo by Zygmunt Put | © Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0

compiled by Wiktor Bochenek

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