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We need the Alina Scholtz of the 21st century

06 of April '21

In recent years, awareness of the good that comes from the presence of greenery in the city has grown significantly. The more officials allow trees to be cut down and developers concretize more areas, the more residents fight for plants. The only thing missing from this debate is the voice of experts.

Landscape architect(s) - this is a profession completely overlooked in the public debate. Although there are many experts doing this job, hardly anyone remembers them, what's more, they are usually hired to design private gardens, because developers and other investors don't usually find it necessary to support their ventures with professionals in this field. In the landscape design industry, there is a widespread perception of being undervalued, a rightful grievance to a large extent about remaining in the background of "real" architects, as their "inferior" variety.

It's a paradox that at a time when we talk more and more about greenery in the city , criticize the concreting of more city areas and fight against tree cutting, we underestimate the work of those who know the most about landscape design (and, after all, in the city there is usually no question of wildlife - here greenery is most often designed or taken care of the existing one). Speaking of projects for cities, we have architects and urban planners in our minds, but not green space designers. It seems high time for a renaissance of this profession. We need to understand and appreciate the skills of those who are able to propose optimal landscape solutions for urban areas - these, after all, can include not only parks or squares, but also small green spaces and even the commonly derided plants in pots. It is hard to imagine that there is anyone better equipped to propose plant compositions for difficult urban spaces, it is from the knowledge of architects and landscape architects that one should draw, looking for methods, places, ways to incorporate greenery into cities that increasingly need it, to select the right plant species that will find their way into concrete jungles. In a situation where greenery in the city is becoming a rare good, and at the same time is increasingly necessary, because it saves us from the problems of climate change, it is high time to devote more professional attention to it.

osiedle Sady Żoliborskie

Sady Żoliborskie estate

photo: Anna Cymer

To do this picture of the condition of the architectural or landscape architecture profession justice, it is worth expressing regret that experts in this field far too rarely speak in the public debate. I don't recall speeches by experts in green design referring to phenomena that electrify residents appealing to respect green urban resources. But this problem applies equally to building designers: the voice of architects in debates about how our cities should develop in a sustainable way is also virtually unheard. On this level, the two professions seem equal - their representatives, despite their competence, prefer to stay out of socio-economic disputes, in which citizens are fighting for a better quality of life and separating it from the financial benefits of those who transform our landscape.

This, however, is the result of a crisis in professional ethics that is worth stigmatizing and correcting, but which is not directly related to the need to restore the importance of the profession of architects and landscape architects. All the more so because there is someone to follow in this field - we have in Poland a rich tradition of green space design, the development of which began as early as the late nineteenth century. The father of this field, pioneer and forerunner is considered to be Franciszek Krzywda-Polkowski, who built his understanding of landscape architecture by studying in Moscow, London and, above all, Boston and New York. It was to him that in 1930 the Council of the Faculty of Horticulture at the Warsaw University of Life Sciences entrusted the creation and management of the Department ofLandscape Architecture and Park Studies in Skierniewice. This was the first initiative of its kind in Poland.

In 1932, Alina Scholtz, one of the most interesting and worth remembering figures in the Polish history of landscape architecture, defended her diploma here under Krzywda-Polkowski. Scholtz was a member of the Society of Polish Town Planners from 1938, and SARP from 1946, where she headed the Landscape Architecture Section for two decades.

From June 16 to November 28, 2021, Warsaw's Wola Museum will host an exhibition titled "More Greenery! Alina Scholtz's Projects," aimed at remembering this unjustly forgotten figure, whose influence on Warsaw's contemporary appearance and, even more, on the way and quality of life of its residents was very great.

Żelazowa Wola dworek chopinowski

Żelazowa Wola Chopin manor house

BN Polona © press mat. of the Wola Museum in Warsaw

One of Alina Scholtz's earliest realizations was a project for a park and garden around Fryderyk Chopin's manor house in Żelazowa Wola, developed back in the 1930s together with her mentor, Krzywda-Polkowski. This project carried a lot of symbolic baggage - after all, the greenery around the composer's home had to be not only impressive, but also appropriately "Polish." In 1949 Schultz joined the team of the Capital Reconstruction Bureau - she was behind the design of greenery along the W-Z Route (does anyone bother with greenery when building automobile arteries today?), the gardens at the Brühl Palace, and the grounds of the Służewiec Race Track.

Trasa W-Z

Route W-Z

Photo: Zbyszko Siemaszko, NAC © press mat. of the Wola Museum in Warsaw

For many years Alina Scholtz worked closely with Romuald Gutt, an extremely conscious architect who was well aware of the importance of greenery in the architectural context. For Gutt, Scholtz designed the garden at the Chinese embassy in Warsaw and at the Polish People's Republic embassies in Beijing and Pyongyang (here she worked with Zbigniew Karpinski), the reconstruction of the Saski Garden or the Piłsudski Mound in Cracow. She also designed the garden at Romuald Gutt's own house on Górnoslaska Street in Warsaw. It was according to her concept (in cooperation with Maria Szczypiorska) that the capital's Moczydło Park was created. For many years Scholtz also worked on the creation of projects for housing estates- she was the one behind the greenery designs for the estates designed by Halina Skibniewska, the Żoliborskie Orchards, the Szwoleżerów estate or the Sadyba estate.

osiedle Szwoleżerów

Szwoleżerów estate

photo: Anna Cymer

The work of Alina Scholtz can still be drawn on today - although land in the city has become a valuable element of speculation, and thus is rarely used for greenery (after all, greenery does not bring income), it was this landscape architect who showed that in thethis work is not just about picturesque shaping of flowerbeds, but also selecting plant species that will tolerate urban conditions and the Polish climate well (Scholtz was an admirer of paradise apple trees or hawthorns, which, according to her, perfectly harmonized with residential buildings). It would be great if the exhibition dedicated to Scholtz, which is being prepared for June, would become a starting point for a discussion on the presence of landscape architects in the contemporary design process.

Anna Cymer

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