Zakopane. Ski resorts and hotels are closed. Highlanders are gritting their teeth, and probably more than one will have to tighten their belts to survive the winter season. There's no denying that long walks are one of the best things left for Podhale residents. City officials are also likely to go for walks. Perhaps because of this, December 2020 turned out to be a good time to look at potential changes in the public space.
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Podhale's war on advertisements
The first municipality in Podhale to fight and win the war on public aesthetics was Koscielisko. In 2016, Zakopane's Krupówki was formally included in the so-called Cultural Park, which allows for the regulation of trade. However, this did not change the fact that the famous promenade remains to this day a symbol of Polish kitsch in public space. The war has been going on for years. Activists, architects, urban planners have fought it, residents, tourists and Tygodnik Podhalański have fought it - offering companies to advertise for "zlotys" in exchange for removing banners from the city space. What will be the next steps to finally win against "reklamoza"?
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New landscape resolution - down with billboards
Announced for next year, the new landscape resolution primarily targets oversized billboards. The disfiguring, large-size ads dominate the Tatra resort landscape and have even managed to get us used to a kind of Zakopane kitsch.
In mid-December 2020, the Zakopane City Hall published a draft landscape resolution that aims to do away with the ads. The draft is patiently awaiting "public consultation." It turns out that years of protests and wars over the landscape are not enough. All residents will be able to express their opinions on the proposed restrictions, and among them, entrepreneurs will certainly express their opposition - these are the ones most affected by the law being drafted. Maybe eventually they too will discover new ways to advertise - the Internet tolerates kitsch better than the Tatra peaks.
Landscape to recover, changes are coming....
We have proposed quite strict solutions when it comes to large-format advertisements located along the Zakopane highway, because that's where they are most conspicuous. We want to get rid of them in the first place," says Marta Gratkowska of the Office of Spatial Planning at Zakopane City Hall.
In addition to removing large advertisements from the Zakopianka route, the plans include eliminating them within the city as well. Billboards and advertising devices in the form of banners, posters, media using light projections or those obscuring windows, doors, gates and architectural details of buildings will disappear. Advertising boards on bridges, overpasses, trees and bushes, retaining structures, roofs and most fences are to disappear. In addition to controlling the size of banners, control of their "origin" is to help control advertising chaos. The new law will eliminate from Zakopane all advertisements and signs that pertain to companies registered in another city or informing about services outside the resort's borders, among other things.
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Aesthetic signboards to the rescue of public space - but are they really?
Following the lead of other cities, Zakopane is implementing a system - eliminating banners in favor of aesthetic signboards. They have been discussed for a long time. In many cities, people's awareness is growing, with the help of teams such as Traffic Design, cities are slowly undergoing metamorphoses. More projects are proving that less advertising means better. New landscape resolutions are not only eliminating, but introducing oversight of new signs - peaceful, well-designed ones. This is the dream, although the new "strict resolution" stipulates that the size of signboards will remain under the city's control, unfortunately not the color and material they are made of. Distinctive, openwork signs with documented existence before January 1, 1995 are to be placed under conservation protection.
We don't want ads at all. Signboards will be allowed. With the new regulations, they will have more opportunity to hang signboards. A signboard is a form of advertising that tells of a particular activity carried out at a particular property. All other advertising will have to disappear," Marta Gratkowska points out.
Election ads over urban aesthetics standards
Exceptions? Of course, we will still have to wait for more environmentally friendly and aesthetically pleasing election campaigns, because these will certainly not disappear from the public space of Zakopane and probably any other city in Poland any time soon. Big banners and millions of colorful posters in every possible place are out of any system. Those running for power often do not respect the rules, and the posters "appear by themselves." With the rest, not only the election ones. According to Polish law, the penalty for placing an advertisement, poster or banner - whether aesthetically pleasing or not - in an illegal place is imposed on the hanging party, not the principal. In practice, this means catching offenders red-handed.
Hunt for wild ads
Zakopane officials have estimated that as many as 90 percent of advertisements in the city are illegally located, despite the fact that one already has to report to the district office when putting up an ad. However, so far this has not been enforced, and "wild" ads proudly "adorn" Podhale.
Until the end of January 2021, Zakopane residents will be able to submit their comments on the draft resolution. Maybe in the new year it will be possible to remove the ads for good? One can't help thinking that this is still just the beginning of the battle for the landscape. The penchant for multicolored, huge ads and banners of questionable aesthetics has taken firm roots in our Polish culture.