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Trough in gabions - de-concretization of the banks of the Warta River

07 of September '21

No longer a canal in a concrete channel, but a river with a more natural appearance. Work is underway in Poznań to free the Warta from the corset with which engineers squeezed it more than half a century ago.

The Warta in Poznań was regulated and framed by concrete bands in the 1960s. The old riverbed - the only section of the river that ran through the Old Town area - was also buried then. In this way Poznań turned its back on the river, which - along with the floodplains - was reduced to an urban "corridor" cutting up the city. Until the 1990s, almost no new buildings or recreational centers were built along the river (with the exception of an outdoor swimming pool opened in 1979 and closed after one season for technical reasons). In recent decades, the Warta also lost its transportation significance - barges disappeared from the river, and for a time - cruise ships as well.

Only the last decade has seen rapid and beneficial changes. The city turned to the river, along which houses began to be built from the 1990s and - from the beginning of this century - buildings of the Polytechnic University. A pedestrian and bicycle thoroughfare called Wartostrada has been laid out on both sides, with only a few additions needed. The floodplains near the river are crowded with residents, city beaches have been arranged, and private catering initiatives have appeared. The Kontener Art, a gastronomic and entertainment enclave initiated by married couple Ewa and Zbigniew Łowżył, which began the return to the river in 2010, is still in operation. Currently, the Łowżyls are also reviving the banks of the Warta River at the former Szelągowski Park.

stone mattresses

Wschodni brzeg Warty
na wysokości Politechniki

photo: Jakub Głaz

Finally, since last year, a testimony to the technocratic approach to the river of half a century ago is disappearing: the dilapidated and unsightly concrete band that made the river look like an industrial canal. As part of - as it's somewhat loftily termed - renaturalization, the concrete is being replaced with fortifications in the form of gabion baskets and mattresses filled with stones and humus. Such a solution is intended not only to prevent erosion of the banks of the Warta River. The unsealing of the concreted banks is expected to strengthen ground retention and reduce the discharge of rainwater directly into the river. For now, at the halfway point of the work, it looks rather rough, but the stone-filled baskets are to be overgrown with greenery in the future, which will make the river - though still regulated - look friendlier. New terraces, slips and stairs are also being arranged. A gravel-strewn pedestrian path will also run along the riverbed. The work, which began a year ago, covered a 2.5-kilometer section between Przemysl Bridge and Ostrów Tumski. The cost of the investment by Wód Polskie and the city of Poznań is about PLN 30 million, 80 percent of which is EU funding.

Prace na wschodnim brzegu
Warty na wysokości os. Piastowskiego (sierpień 2021)

photo: Jakub Głaz

Last summer, when the work began, it was not without controversy. Naturalists from the social coalition Zazieleń Poznań appreciated the "de-concretization" of the banks, but called for them to be left in their natural state, as is the case outside the downtown section of the Warta River. They argued that the solution used and regular maintenance of the greenery on the gabions would adversely affect the Warta River's biodiversity. They also pointed out that the gabion baskets could become a reservoir of discarded trash and cigarette butts. City officials reassure, however, that greenery will be allowed to grow more freely in selected sections , and the entire length of the banks will not be pruned too drastically either.

slimming down the footbridge

Methods of target maintenance of the newly created band-aid are still being worked out in detail, as the development of the city's Warta River banks is a rolling process. In January of this year, the Municipal Urban Planning Studio outlined a strategy for the river within the city limits, dividing the banks into recreational, leisure and nature zones. The detailed solutions of the landscaping elements on the section currently being transformed will be adjusted to the concept developed at the MPU.

Wizualizacja brzegów Warty po
zazieleniu opaski z gabionów

source: Poznan City Hall

However, the effect of the ongoing work will be visible not, as planned, in December this year, but in September 2022. The activities have dragged on due to high water levels, unprecedented in the Warta River for several years. The banks of the northern section of the downtown section of the Warta River are also waiting to be "de-concretized." This will happen if further EU funding can be obtained. Meanwhile, Poznań residents are now waiting for the Berdychowska Footbridge, a pedestrian and bicycle bridge that has been announced for years, the design of which was selected three years ago in a competition (designed by ARPA Architektoniczna Pracownia Autorska Jerzy Gurawskiego, SKI Studio Błażej Szurkowski, MS86A Maciej Sokolnicki Architekt and Adam Turczyn). It is to be built where the ongoing work ends - over the fork of the Warta River and the relief trough connecting to the Cybina River. The investment is being delayed for financial reasons. Estimated costs have risen so much that work is underway to "slim down" the project. It remains to be hoped that they will not spoil the successful competition concept.

Jakub GŁAZ

The vote has already been cast