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A prescription for Krakow's Wesola

06 of November '23

The interview is from A&B issue 10|23

Changes that city residents have been waiting for are slowly taking place in Krakow's Wesola. This is an important area that the City bought from the University Hospital in 2019. Since then, not much has happened there. The land was handed over to the Cracow City Development Agency company in kind. However, there was no idea how the space should function and what should happen there. Until a city institution, the Krakow Festival Office, appeared on Wesola. Its new director has an idea for activities on Wesola.

Carolina Pietyra

Carolina PIETYRA - has worked for years with the international innovation and business community. She was associated with the Opus B strategic and creative agency, where she managed a team of specialists dealing with tasks in change management, modeling elements of organizational culture or designing effective internal communication. She served as managing director of Aktan Poland, the Polish branch of one of the leading consulting companies on the French market specializing in innovation and transformation through service design. In addition to working with companies on organizational culture change, digital transformation, service development and communication, she has also worked on projects with the broader public sector, including institutions such as Tatra National Park, the City of Krakow, Krakow5020, the Marshal's Office of the Malopolska Region, the Technology Accelerator Gliwice, and KBF, as well as universities, including the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow and the University of Economics in Krakow. Carolina Pietyra replaced Magdalena Doksa-Tverberg as KBF director, who had held the position since February 2022.

Carolina Pietyra i Małgorzata Tomczak — wywiad w podcieniu budynku Apteki

Carolina Pietyra and Malgorzata Tomczak - interview in the arcade of the Pharmacy building

Photo: Adrian Pallasch

Malgorzata Tomczak
: Since when have you been the director of the Krakow Festival Office?

Carolina Pietyra:Since October 3, 2022.

Malgorzata: We meet in the future Pharmacy of Design on Wesola Street, but you also still operate in Potocki Palace on the Main Square.

Carolina: Potocki Palace is a place for locals, it integrates the cultural ecosystem around the Market Square, so as to re-energize a space that for years did not encourage residents. Well, and basically it's an open space for coworking, collaboration, meetings, mostly with literature. You can also attend concerts, workshops and other cultural activities there. It is more of a literary branch, in anticipation of Planet Lem.

Margaret: And where and how do you operate on Wesola?

Carolina: We have moved to Wesola to a temporary space, as the renovation of our final location is being extended. For the time being, the Krakow Library will not renovate its buildings (at 15A, 15B), so we temporarily moved a significant part of our team to building 15B, renovating it at our own expense and with our own efforts. I wanted the programming, production and marketing teams to be here, so that we could get a feel for the neighborhood and want to change it organically, but also intuitively, rather than remotely or from scratch. We plan to move to the Monastery, at 19 Kopernika St. This is a conscious choice by our institution, we want to have more space to collaborate with residents and other institutions. It is a large building, which through its architecture will better support the implementation of our statutory tasks.

spacer po Wesołej

a walk through Wesola

photo: Adrian Pallasch

Malgorzata: What is your relationship with the Krakow City Development Agency? Both entities report to the mayor of the city.

Carolina: The cooperation is parallel, we decided to create the district together: the Krakow City Development Agency manages the buildings, space and infrastructure. KBF, in turn, has taken on the role - self-proclaimed, so to speak, although of course with the approval of the Mayor of the City of Krakow [laughter] - of animator of the entire human, institutional ecosystem that functions around this district, and facilitator of the participatory process. We have been meeting for several months in workshops to define common needs, goals, vision and tools for its implementation. It's a long and difficult process that grows in part out of the City's consultations with residents, but we are meeting with a larger group that includes city entities, NGOs, universities, hospitals, architects and urban planners, also councilors and the public side.

Apteka na Wesołej

Pharmacy in Wesola

Photo credit: Adrian Pallasch

Margaret: What is to be in the Pharmacy?

Carolina: A design center - the Pharmacy of Design. We left the name of the previous function to emphasize it. In my opinion, design as a field is needed to be able to carry out good, effective revitalization processes. The pharmacy is in the heart of the district, and in this situation we want design to be the center of change in Wesola.

Malgorzata: How do you understand "design"?

Carolina: For me, it's a much broader concept than the standard industrial design, it encompasses design fields, and you can design very different things.

zdjęcie wnętrza Apteki przed remontem

Photo of the interior of the Pharmacy before the renovation

Photo: Justyna Mędrala

: That is, design in the broadest sense.

Carolina: Yes, but I would also like to emphasize the existence of intangible design, which starts at the borderline between the physical and virtual worlds, i.e. everything related to digital media. This is experience design, which is mostly applied to digital projects, but also, going further, customer experience design, which is about experience holistically. Experience is, of course, a very broad concept. Then there is service design, related to service design, where everything can be treated as a service, including space. This is a very broad spectrum, which is of course different from what we have been nurturing in Krakow for a long time, which is art. The design process is somewhat different from the creative process inherent in art - and in this way we can differentiate what will happen at the Design Pharmacy from art, which is also sometimes referred to by the word "design." What designers and creators have in common is the purpose of their activities - to find answers to specific needs. So we invite designers to the Pharmacy in order to help us "cure" the neighborhood. Hence the pharmacy in the name - it is supposed to refer to the process of transformation, i.e. redefining the functions of individual buildings, common spaces, green areas or routes of movement, as well as what will happen in the service or social layer. In the first place, design should respond to the needs of the neighborhood, and in the second place to the needs of the city, which has been waiting for a very, very long time for there to be a strong, strong ecosystem related precisely to design. We are also waiting for the National Museum in Krakow to create a Museum of Architecture and Design, which will also highlight how rich our city is in design, designers and the history associated with them. So design in terms of both tangible design and design that deals with designing processes, changes and prototyping solutions will find its place at the Pharmacy.

ścieżka edukacyjna przy Aptece

The educational path at the Pharmacy

photo: Adrian Pallasch

Margaret: So you didn't choose the former pharmacy building on the grounds of the University Hospital by chance - functionally it meets your needs?

Carolina: Let's just say that the pharmacy suits us not only ideologically, but also spatially. The central location of the building and the interesting modernist exterior are important, but the fact that it is not a historic building is also important, so we have the opportunity, virtually on the spur of the moment, to enter and operate on the site. This is also important because we want to give this building to designers, who will thus get carte blanche - a building with white walls that can be filled with ideas. In addition, the layout of these rooms, at first glance, seemed suitable for creating a multifunctional space for designers in Krakow. There is a need for a multifunctional space where people can collaborate, create projects together and meet designers from other fields, but also just hang out.

Malgorzata: What will be the program of the Design Pharmacy? I know that the Toy Museum with an educational program for children is also to operate there, designers are to meet and create. What else will there be?

Carolina: Design events. This fall we anticipate many meetings a little conference, a little workshop, which will gather designers around the theme of design, we want the value of being there to be interaction with others, but not one-sided transactions. So we invite designers to give the district some of their time, competence and ideas, and in return we give them an environment through which they can develop.

Sanatorium Sztuka

Sanatorium Art

Photo credit: Adrian Pallasch

Margaret: The Design Pharmacy is supposed to integrate designers and create a creative meeting place. That sounds very good. You have ambitions to create a creative neighborhood as well, and the new Wesoła, it seems, is made for that. What are your experiences with the emergence of such neighborhoods around the world? Much has been written about creative districts, what model do you think will work here?

Carolina: Mostly it doesn't start with a single cultural institution, a certain collective has to be formed, either bottom-up or top-down, with neither model having a clear advantage here, in both cases something can go wrong. Each time, the basis of the process is cooperation. With a bottom-up collective, it's mostly a free settlement of space, artists or artisans appear, and over time the place grows, buds and produces a new quality, which the City appreciates and begins to support, seeing the benefit in it. This is how creative districts are created. The second model assumes the initiative of the City, which has just such a space as Wesoła, and as if gives the district away on certain terms to creators, associations and institutions, inviting them to cooperate. There are various models for implementing this idea: one can give the area to art colleges in various fields, which then naturally attract the rest of this ecosystem, as happened in Nantes, France, or, as in the case of the "M50" district in Shanghai, to artists - the City rents the spaces to them for small rents, they populate them creating a unique place. This increases not only the value of the neighborhood, but also the value of the city. In Shanghai, this process has resulted in a tourist district, and unfortunately there are fewer and fewer artists there.

Wianki na Wesołej

Garlands in Wesola

Photo: Katarzyna Kukiełka

Margaret: The all-too-familiar gentrification is taking place.

Carolina: Yes, that too. It's also worth citing another example, a neighborhood that is very diverse and developed, such as La Friche La Belle de Mai in Marseille, which has been developing in a very structured way for thirty years, and the City invests, gives tools and supports activities in such a neighborhood. It gives space to various entities, NGOs, universities - this cannot be accomplished alone.

Malgorzata: What opportunities and room do you see for cooperation with institutions and universities in Krakow?

Carolina: Universities are an important partner for us. We have invited the Academy of Fine Arts to work together, because it is developing very dynamically in the field of design, and this partnership works out for us in other projects as well. We are also talking to the AGH University of Science and Technology, which in turn is introducing smart city optics. The University of Economics, on the other hand, has the potential - beyond science - to create a space where, at the intersection of culture, design, startups and academia, we will be able to create new value. However, we have a long process ahead of us. UEK also has a postgraduate course in energy transformation co-created with Shell, which I think could provide valuable solutions for the district. Experiments, prototypes could help the energy transformation of the area. We still have talks ahead of us with Krakow University of Technology, Krakow Frycz Modrzewski Academy and the Academy of Physical Education. Because Wesoła is not only about design, but also about quality leisure space.

Malgorzata: What is the most urgent thing to do in Wesoła?

Carolina: From my point of view, the most urgent are three things: the first is to build a community of Wesoła stakeholders and integrate them. We're trying to lead it so that we maintain the right dynamic for everyone. This is a very diverse group. If we work together, we will see results faster. The second thing is infrastructure and changing the function of the district. At the moment, there are no clear paths of communication within the district and no passable roads connecting this section with the rest of the city, and it's not easy to get to a given address. The lack of gastronomy is also a problem. This is our biggest challenge, because we need a small, fast-casual gastronomy, and after talking to investors, we know that they are afraid of Wesoła. They are afraid of the process, that is, of having to wait for results. For example, at Sniadeckich 3 there could be such a multi-concept gastronomic conglomerate. This is an important issue, because all the analyses of creative districts around the world show one common denominator, which is an interesting gastronomic offer. And the third thing is the development of a coherent urban policy, implemented by the company, which will facilitate the entry of new stakeholders into the district. And here I mean such financial solutions that will make the district function not only culturally and artistically, but in general. It would be necessary to come up with tools that would encourage risky activities, so that this place would also be a space for experimentation, a laboratory of possible solutions. To sum up: integration of people, infrastructure and tools to support development from the perspective of the city.

wydarzenie „Jestem Wesoła”

"I am Merry" event

photo: Adrian Pallasch

Margaret: What is the biggest threat to the district from your perspective?

Carolina: In the long term, the biggest threat to the district is gentrification, as we have already mentioned, which is killing creativity in most creative districts around the world. That's why a long-term vision is so necessary. All the time we need to work on appointing leaders of change, people who will be responsible for the process and for developing the vision in a responsible and sustainable way. There is also a need to develop metrics. We are discussing this with various researchers, including urban planners.

Margaret: What metrics are you thinking about specifically?

Carolina: Other than the CSO ones [laughs]. These metrics that I'm thinking about boil down to studying quality of life. And I don't have them precisely defined yet. Within the structures of the KBF, the Trends Observatory for Culture was established this year to serve all cultural institutions, to show and combine different types of trend data, in order to produce innovations andnew solutions, but also to observe phenomena, such as those happening in Wesola, and then juxtapose them with pan-European or global trends to see if what is happening here is part of a larger process, or, on the contrary, a certain peculiarity.

Margaret: What activities are you planning for the coming months?

Carolina: At the Design Pharmacy, we plan to support the male and female designers who were selected in a competition and will work there from October this year until June 2024. We will also develop other collaborations in the building; a reading room collecting items on design in the broadest sense has already been established, and more partnerships are planned. We also have events ahead of us as part of an undertaking called Design in Krakow, but also meetings, workshops, exhibitions, outdoor games and much more! We certainly have an intense and interesting autumn ahead of us.

Malgorzata: Thank you for the interview!


Illustrations courtesy of the Krakow Festival Office.

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