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Kwarciak: The Main Market will no longer be such a concrete pan

Wiktor Bochenek
12 of December '22

In the civic budget of the City of Krakow, the project to green the market square won twenty thousand votes. Trees in the market square are nothing new, but they have stirred up controversy.

The market square's plate is now a touristized space, as the Christmas market set up there on snowy days like these reminds us. Residents are not the only element that has disappeared from this landscape. In the past, the market was overgrown with trees, which are hard to find today.

Opinions on the subject of greenery are varied, nevertheless, when the project to green the market appeared in the proposals submitted to the Civic Budget it met with great public interest.

The project "Let's plant trees in the main square!" won more than twenty thousand votes. The scale and interest in the project shows the need for greenery in this part of the city.

Zieleń dawniej stanowiła istotny element przestrzeni rynku

Greenery used to be an important element of the market space

© National Digital Archive

We talk to the initiator of the campaign, Krzysztof Kwarciak, about how the idea for the Krakow market came about, whether it was a good idea, and what it looks like from the technical side.

Wiktor Bochenek: Where did the idea for the "return" of trees to the Krakow market come from?

Krzysztof Kwarciak (Ulepszamy Kraków): Back in the 1960s, the Main Square was full of greenery. However, the trees growing in the city's central square were cut down, and nature had to give way to concrete. Quite a few archival photos have survived, showing how the plantings blended nicely into thehistoric space. Therefore, I thought it was worth considering the possibility of returning to the earlier arrangement.

Especially since the small amount of greenery in the main square leads to many problems. The huge concrete slab gets very hot on warm days. As a result, the Main Square in summer becomes one of the hottest places in thecity and spending leisure time on the square is not pleasant. The large empty space encourages strong winds, which get in the way of passersby and threaten the existing tree stand. When submitting the project to the civic budget, I was guided by both practical and ecological considerations.

widok na wieżę ratuszową i drzewami obok niej

A view of the city hall tower and the trees next to it

© National Digital Archive

Wiktor: Why would it be worthwhile for these trees to return to the market?

Krzysztof: The plantings will provide some shade. With more trees on warm days , theMain Square will no longer be such a concrete pan. Increasing the biologically active area will cause a little less rainwater to run off into the sewer system, thus the changes will contribute to greater rain retention in a city center full of concrete. The social aspect of the project is also important.

The huge empty space does not encourage people to spend their leisure time for a long time. For many people, the place only serves as a kind of transportation link between the streets in the Old Town. Residents often visit the Main Square only "on occasion," and few people come here for a long while to relax. In the perception of many Cracovians, the city's central square now serves mainly as a touristattraction.

That's why the project is supposed to restore the place to residents, so to speak, by creating a more friendly space. Also worth mentioning is the fight against smog. Every tree absorbs some amount of pollution. Although, of course, just planting trees in the main square won't have a big impact on the situation, but that's the way it is, bigger changes are the sum of many smaller decisions. Anyway, I hope that increasing theamount of greenery in the heart of Krakow, will become the impetus for a broader change in the city's policy.

Wiktor: How would you comment on the negative voices about the project. Ithas been alleged not only of "making squares into wilderness", but also of limiting the visibility of facades?

Krzysztof: It is worth noting that the space will be arranged in such a way as not to restrict the passage and it will still be possible to hold large events, and the monuments will remain well exposed.

All changes will be made with care and in a thoughtful manner with the participation of the conservationist and specialists. The overwhelming majority of the feedback I received was very positive. Some of the criticism stemmed from a misunderstanding. When I explained that this was not about any "reforestation" of the Market, but only the space was to be supplemented with some trees, many people changed their minds. I understand, however, that any change, especially in such an important place, will have both supporters and opponents.

I respect the differing opinions. However, I wanted to point out that the civic budget is one of the most democratic forms of making changes, and my project received more than twenty thousand votes and gained a big advantage over other proposals.

widok na kościół mariacki i szpalere drzew obok nieistniejących połączeń tramwajowych

view of the Marian Church and the line of trees next to the defunct streetcar connections

© National Digital Archive

Victor: How many trees can be planted in the square? Will they be older trees or rather young ones?

Krzysztof: From the preliminary analyses that were conducted during the verification of the task, it appears that about thirty trees will be able to be planted in the Main Square. The plantings will be made in the ground in the so-called "windows". For this purpose, the tiles will have to be taken off and the ground will have to be properly prepared. It is clear from the concept that these will not be small saplings, but specimens that already have some reasonable height.

Theselection of the specific locations where the trees will be planted is connected with the need to conduct view analyses, make conservation arrangements and possibly conduct archaeological research. Therefore, during the preparation of the project it was not possible to indicate the exact locations of the plantings. I believe that residents should have the opportunity to participate in the planning of the new arrangement of the Market. As the applicant, I will strive to ensure that all important decisions related to the implementation of the project are subject to public consultation.

Wiktor: What species will appear on the market square?

Krzysztof: The project does not specify the species of trees to be planted. I decided that the choice should be up to specialists. However, there will be no problem in selecting the right kind of seedlings. There are many species that can cope with difficult urban conditions. From preliminary findings, it seems likely that eitherelm or acacia robinia will be planted .

Wiktor: Thank you for the interview.

interviewed by Wiktor Bochenek

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