The pioneers of Poznan's return to the Warta River are changing their location again. This time with the construction of a pedestrian bridge. For 15 years, KontenerART has been proving how much can be done with temporary and low-cost structures. This flexible approach will result this year in another arrangement for the riverfront center.
Poznan turned its back on the river in the 1960s, filling in its picturesque old river bed on the edge of the Old Town. There was also a regulation of the Warta, which—in the downtown section—resembled a sad canal framed on both sides by concrete bands. The situation began to change only at the beginning of the previous decade. Today, thanks to investments in architecture (the Poznań Gate, the Polytechnic campus, the renovation of the former river baths, the Bishop Jordan Bridge) and public space (the so-called Wartostrada, city beaches, parks), the Warta river banks are full of life.
Park in the old Warta riverbed, view of Ostrow Tumski—new Art Container is being built on the right side
photo: Jakub Głaz
pioneers in the scrub
The pioneer of the return to the river, however, was the artistic and gastronomic initiative KontenerART, which is changing location and shape once again this year. Run by Ewa and Zbigniew Łowżył (a photographer and musician), the container town first stood on the embankment between the river and the walls of the Old Gasworks in 2011, and immediately attracted creative Poznań residents looking for a break from the routine of downtown bars and clubs. KontenerART offered not only a cultural, social and entertainment program (concerts, workshops, gastronomy), but also an opportunity to commune with a space previously unfrequented and neglected by the magistrate.
KontenerART Poznań—view of the current location (right) and the Old Gasworks with its absurdly large parking lot separated by a wall from the city river
The large number of visitors at the very beginning was no accident. KontenerART had already made a name for itself: it had opened before, only that—first—in front of the Polish Theater in the very center of the city, and then in 2009-2010 on the area after the buried riverbed of the Warta River. At that time it was not yet a park (it has been one since 2016), but an undeveloped area used as a dog run, a place for drunken revelry and a wild parking lot. The KontenerART moved from there in 2011 to the riverbank, so as not to disturb the surrounding residents with noise.
KontenerART Poznań—view of decommissioned structures in the old location.
photo: Jakub Glaz
The changes in location and adaptation to successive sites and growing needs were made possible by an idea that KontenerART has stuck to—true to its name—to this day. From the very beginning, the Łowżylowscy have been shaping the space for their initiative with the help of shipping containers adapted for new purposes. Thanks to this, KontenerART has not stagnated in its original shape and also attracts residents through subsequent rearrangements.
KontenerART Poznan—view of the current arrangement: the main two-story body with a terrace
Over the years they have been sensibly planned in cooperation with several designers: Jerzy Rychlicki and Agata Smok, mode:lina group and Adam Wiercinski. Thoughtful configurations allowed for an attractive experience of the surrounding space: both the neighboring (still isolated from the city) Old Gasworks and the panorama of Ostrów Tumski, viewed from the roof terraces. The latest version, to be experienced from mid-April, is the work of Mateusz Antończyk.
KontenerART Poznań—arrangement in the new location, 2023, visualization
proj.: Mateusz Antończyk
KontenerART Poznań—view of the arrangement in the new location, 2023, visualization
proj.: Mateusz Antończyk
New is not only the arrangement, but also the location. This is necessitated by the start of construction, expected in the spring, of a pedestrian and bicycle crossing over the Warta and Cybina rivers, known until recently as the Footbridge, and for several months now as the Berdychowski Bridges (a 2018 competition design, we wrote more about it here). This is because the bridge's abutment and connection to the shore falls exactly where the popular „konty” Łowżyłów stands today. Thus, the containerART is moving a few dozen meters to the north, in place of the previous beach in front of the complex. The area is more spacious and wooded, adjacent to the park and the stairs leading to Wartostrada. The arrangement of Antończyk returns to the original, highly inclusive character of KontenerART. It is more open to the surroundings than the space separated in recent years with two gates leading inside.
KontenerART Poznań—new location overlooking Ostrów Tumski with the cathedral
photo: Jakub Głaz
the river is alive, worse for the city
The program remains the same. There are food containers, a place for workshops and meetings, an open space among the trees and a stage for performances. Despite the short time the city has given for the changes (the decision on the long-delayed construction of the Berdychov Bridges was made in January)—Zbigniew Lowzil promises that everything will take place on time (the biggest hassle is connecting the installations). This is thanks to a flexible, well-thought-out and refined over the years container system. Together with Adam Wiercinski, the Lowzhills are, moreover, experimenting with container adaptations at another Wartburg site they are developing—Szeląg Garden. In addition to an office and residential container, a day care center and a community garden, residential containers for short-term rent are to stand there in the river current (they are currently still standing by the walls of the Old Gasworks)
KontenerART Poznań—work on adapting the new location; in the background, dark green residential containers that will be moved to the Szeląg Garden
photo: Jakub Głaz
The container solutions show emphatically that—in order to revitalize a space—you don' t need an architectural icon and a Great Investment at all. What matters is creativity and—this is also important—the determination of the creators. The success of KontenerART can also be measured by the large number of other similar (but more trivial) seasonal investments along the Warta River opened in recent years. Last year there was even an oversaturation in this matter after the controversial placement of a large entertainment complex right on the bank by the Królowej Jadwigi Bridge. Perhaps it's time for the Lovzys to return downtown with their KonterART. The banks of the Warta River are already alive. Instead, the city center is rapidly dying—post-pandemic, in crisis and dug up as part of the so-called Project Center. The magistrate—just as it did more than a decade ago on the Warta River—can' t cope with the problem. So it's time for experienced specialists.