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Can we afford intensive space development ? On the extremes of residential development in Poland, using the example of the Bliska Wola development in Warsaw and more

27 of October '22

The conditions for the realization of housing development in Poland have their own colors. Especially now at a time of inflation and rising interest rates, after a time of great boom and readily available credit. Market mechanisms have resulted in the development of many spaces with residential buildings, which, although sold, in some cases are not ideal and generate many problems with which we will be left for years. At one pole, gated, integrated into city centers, maximally and unrealistically intense with apartment areas that raise questions - are they still housing units? At the other pole, separated from the city centers are pens of doe-like single-family estates in the open field, complexes with intensities that are surprising in single-family development.

Osiedle Bliska Wola - wewnętrzna ulica i intensywna zabudowa mieszkaniowa

Bliska Wola estate - an inner street and intensive residential development

photo: Tomasz Bradecki

Bliska Wola

It is worth finding out that intensification of development can lead to urban forms that generate great excitement in the debate about a good residential environment. It's been a long time since a single housing development like Bliska Wola in Warsaw provoked so much discussion and commentary. Kacper Kępinski, in a 2021 article[see here], writes about the investment's compliance with the Local Development Plan. He asks the question, is this a fulfillment of the will of millenials, or a pat-development? Helena Łygas of na:Topic[see here] mentions the problems faced by residents and the lost suppliers serving the settlement. She points out assessments of the estate's quality of life, both complimentary and critical.

Bliska Wola - wewnętrzy dziedziniec jednego z kwartałów

Bliska Wola - the inner courtyard of one of the quarters

photo: Tomasz Bradecki

Agata Twardoch describes the pros and cons of various forms of housing, points out the needs of residents and rightly points out intensification practices in the detail. The debaters are many, and some of the voices have become active in connection with one high-profile development, the Bliska Wola estate.

Osiedle Bliska Wola - wewnętrzny dziedziniec z terenami zieleni, małą architekturą i ścieżkami spacerowymi

Bliska Wola estate - an inner courtyard with green areas, small architecture and walking paths

photo: Tomasz Bradecki

After visiting the Bliska Wola estate, the following observations come to mind. The small amount of greenery promotes high temperatures in summer, the high degree of sealing of the area does not allow rainwater to be retained locally, let alone create a microclimate. The acoustics of the inner courtyards allow all the many times reflected sounds from the glazed facades to be heard.

Bliska Wola estate - publicly accessible public space inside the estate

Bliska Wola housing estate - publicly accessible public space inside the estate

photo: Tomasz Bradecki

This Warsaw estate can be considered as architecture realized at a good quality level - material solutions are aesthetically pleasing, of high quality. Double facades have been used in many places - perhaps to protect residents from excessive noise. The few green areas are designed and well-kept, high-quality common public space has been proposed, including playgrounds, a playground, numerous services in the first floors.

Bliska Wola estate, plan

Bliska Wola estate, plan

photo: Tomasz Bradecki

There are no fences on the estate, you can move freely. However, this does not change the fact that the estate is characterized by a unique and unprecedented intensity for Polish conditions, and this can be felt at every step. Despite numerous words of criticism - the investment was realized, Bliska Wola has its residents and users and will be with us.

Pyskowice - osiedle zabudowy jednorodzinnej wzdłuż ulicy o długości ponad 800 metrów.

Pyskowice - single-family housing development along a street over 800 meters long.

Photo: Tomasz Bradecki

second suburban pole

Let's also take a look at the other suburban pole ostensibly called low-intensity single-family development. Developers and planners are trying to make the best use of every possible site (read as high intensity as possible), if the zoning allows it.

Przykład osiedla zabudowy jednorodzinnej zrealizowanego na podłużnej działce

The photos presented in the article are an example of single-family residential development along a street more than 800 meters long.
There are many such examples, and let's not be surprised if we find longer ones. Everything that has already been built in recent years will already stay with us, and the question that seems most relevant is what's next?

Photo credit: Tomasz Bradecki

Extreme cases are single-family developments multiplied in suburban areas. Again, there are disadvantages: a single entrance, an endless fence, the possibility of getting lost, and advantages: at last we have a common n-fold aesthetic (without competition of form, color, spatial cacophony).

Pyskowice - przykład osiedla zabudowy jednorodzinnej zrealizowanego na podłużnej działce

Pyskowice - an example of a single-family housing development realized on an elongated plot of land

photo: Tomasz Bradecki

In the context of these considerations, let's remember that Polish society is shrinking in size, we are observing problems of urban depopulation, and about the hectares of land designated for development, which in Poland, according to estimates, can provide housing for up to several million people.

how do we plan for the future?

The questions remain, how will we plan for the future? Is it possible to prevent such developments or influence them to take a different shape? Is it possible to create provisions of the LSDP that would not be rigid and would give room for freedom for the investor, but also for the municipality adopting the plan for a good purpose? Storey more in exchange for more biologically active area, green roofs and or opening up space.

Schemat: różne formy zabudowy oraz relacje intensywności zabudowy i pozostałych wskaźników: ilości kondygnacji, gęstości zaludnienia, ilości powierzchni biologicznie czynnej oraz wykorzystywanych środków komunikacji

Diagram: different forms of development and the relationship of building intensity and other indicators: the number of floors, population density, the amount of biologically active area and the means of transportation used

© Tomasz Bradecki

The book entitled Indicators, parameters and models in the formation of intensive residential development proposes solutions for the evaluation of ensembles even at the stage of the design of both MPZP and the project itself. According to such a concept, each deviation from the plan would have to have its consequence in another aspect, which makes the settlement more friendly and ecological. All this would have to be described in possible indicator values. It would not be necessary to implement such an idea if it were not for the fact that changes to the MPZP would not be so time-consuming, or it would be possible to include several alternatives in the provisions of the MPZP. Life shows that often such changes could have a positive effect. At the moment, the values of indicators are taken mainly as maximums due to the invisible hand of the real estate market.

In view of the above considerations, it is worth considering whether we can afford to develop in such an intensive way such a valuable, non-renewable resource as space? In a way that, perhaps, will one day cease to suit us.

Dr. Tomasz Bradecki

has been studying residential complexes for many years, specializes in urban indicators, author and co-author of numerous publications, competition projects, founder of the research group

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