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A unique city space and a project out of bid. What can go wrong?

Kuba Głaz
17 of March '23

A mood swing is being set up for residents by the Poznań authorities. The reason? Plans for the revaluation of the unique and green Church Street. Joy from the long-awaited renewal is mixed with bitterness, because the contractor for the project will be selected in... a tender. The main criterion: price. "You don't design such important spaces this way," comments the president of the Poznan SARP.

Church Street is a Poznan rarity. Its shape, which is several hundred years old, is a trace of the former oval village of Jeżyce, which was incorporated into Poznan in 1900, grew and is now one of the most popular neighborhoods. The street has dimensions similar to a heavily elongated square or avenue. Between the roadways is a wide strip, once homogeneous, green and with ponds arranged in the middle, today—degraded, partially wooded and divided into four random enclaves (some, as squares, have recently acquired separate names). These are, in turn, a green space with benches, a gas station, a fenced parking lot and a green dog run.

Ulica Kościelna w Poznaniu

Koscielna Street in Poznan, view of the square on the north side, opposite—the gas station

photo: Jakub Glaz

For more than twenty years, the street has been encased more and more densely with residential buildings of both historicist and neo-modernist forms, which create frontages that were almost nonexistent before. Until the end of the twentieth century, Koscielna Street was dominated by the old suburban atmosphere in spirit, mixed with the industrial function developing on the western side of the street (archival photos: here) The center of gravity of Jeżyce moved after 1900 to Jeżycki Market and Dąbrowskiego Street.

Ulica Kościelna w Poznaniu

Koscielna Street in Poznań, a gas station and a fragment of a parking lot between the roadways (both objects to be liquidated)

Photo: Jakub Głaz

Tender at the end of the road

Efforts to revitalize the attractive street began in 2013 with a discussion arranged in the Koscielna space by the Open initiative. The issue, however, got somewhat bogged down. The Board of Urban Greenery ordered severely imperfect concepts, neighborhood councilors became active from time to time, and in 2018 there was even an architectural competition for students (results: here and here ). Recently, the topic has gone quiet, and suddenly, a few days ago, the city announced on its website that the

the space between the roadways of Koscielna Street is to be transformed into a coherent, functional and aesthetically pleasing green space and recreation area for the residents of Jeżyce. In order for this to happen, it is necessary to develop comprehensive project documentation.

Sounds good and nothing but applause, the gas station and parking lot will disappear, but the devil is in the details. The designer is to be selected through a tender (details of the terms: here). An announcement on the matter was published on March 3, the city authorities publicized it more widely after nine days, and bids must be submitted by March 24. The bidder that best meets the following criteria will be selected in the proceedings: price (60 percent), completion date for the first stage (20 percent), experience of the person appointed as Greenery Supervisor (20 percent). The city informs that

the subject of the contract is the execution of three design concepts, followed by a construction and detailed design on the basis of one concept selected by the Employer with a clear division into two scopes, i.e. Design documentation for the investment task of the City of Poznań(land development, greenery, paving, small architecture, lighting) and design documentation for the investment task of Aquanet [Poznań Waterworks—editor's note](all elements of the hybrid rainwater retention system, including rainwater supply infrastructure).

Ulica Kościelna w Poznaniu

Koscielna Street in Poznań, a parking lot makes it impossible to pass through with a wide strip between the roadways, a visible fragment of the eastern frontage with a postmodern building

Photo: Jakub Głaz

ghostly decision makers

However, it is difficult to find out, among other things, what the criteria for selecting the final design will be, what powers the group that will decide on it has; how historical, cultural and social aspects will be taken into account, and whether residents will be allowed to have their say. Besides, the greenery in the street will be designed out of context—the old and modern architecture in the street and the needs of the surrounding residents that need updating (such as the number and size of playgrounds). Next door, in the post-industrial areas of Jezyce, a huge developer offensive is underway (dense residential development of the so-called New Jezyce), which will significantly affect the social cross-section, the number of users of the space and communication. Meanwhile, the subject of the tender is no longer the design of roadways and sidewalks along the frontage.

Ulica Kościelna w Poznaniu

Koscielna Street in Poznań, traffic calming has taken place here in recent years

photo: Jakub Glaz

Wojciech Krawczuk, president of the Poznan branch of the Association of Polish Architects, comments strongly on the matter .

The tender formula for such an important topic in public space is inappropriate. The examples of bad Poznan realizations selected through a tender procedure are proof. A professional competition is needed here. The community of architects and landscape architects was overlooked and the intellectual effort that resulted from the discussions and meetings devoted to Kościelna Street was largely ignored.

A repeat of the mistake?

Meanwhile, the city is wading into the tender, although, as the city itself reminds us, it has already tried to go down this road once:

[the tender] announced in 2018 was based on concepts prepared by the winners of a student competition. "The students' proposals were very interesting, but at the stage of developing the design documentation they turned out to be impossible to implement, "stresses Weronika Sińska-Mikuła, head of the Downtown Projects Branch of the Office of Project Coordination and City Revitalization. "In addition, we were keen to include water retention issues as much as possible."

So, since the student works turned out to be inadequate despite the awards, it means that the terms of the competition, which should clearly specify the city's intentions, were probably not carefully prepared. With communicating its expectations, moreover, the magistrate still has trouble. The announcement released a few days ago skimps on information about, among other things, the approach to existing greenery (mature trees). On the other hand, the description and scope of the task and requirements for bidders contained in the bidding documents are confusing and scattered over many places in the voluminous documentation.

If it is a problem for the city to simply prepare a succinct abstract (brief) with a map, understandable also to the average resident(reliable public information), then the results of the just-announced, much more complicated procedure should be expected with great apprehension.

Jakub Głaz

The vote has already been cast

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