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‘What do we have in common?’ is a multi-threaded argumentation for building community-centered public spaces. Moreover, the project is a visual exercise in building one’s own identity through relations with environment and in defining solidarity and regeneration through designing architecture.
A drawn lexicon of ideas shows how common can open spaces be – the ones of the housing projects or enclosed in gated communities; ones of the parks, piazzas, historically important sites or borders between the urban and the rural; or even the ones plugged into virtual reality.
‘What do we have in common?’ maps transformations of infrastructure into multifunctional (and infrastructural) public space and shows simple means to create local centers dedicated to small communities. The common lexicon reveals how rich a programmatic layout of a public space can be and how capacious its definition is. Researching and sketching various common spaces and their social, economical and spatial aspects I try to define the most complex common space’s definition possible.
[left] Local public space. All of the lights
The metropolis light park is an intellectual correspondence with a nocturnal panorama of the capital city. The lamp posts of various heights and sizes of lighting fixtures emit light of different colors – from chilly blues to warm shades of orange. A new Varsavian public space is an abstract light gradient – a spectacular aura of a grand city!
[middle] Local public space. Panorama of Toruń
Toruń is famous for its complex panoramas and a brick-laid Old Town. Simplified models of those characteristic features could serve as a multi-plan spatial installation, where particular layers host various pro-public functionalities.
[right] Local public space. Silesian heap
The black garden is a hilly landscape resembling Silesian heaps. Organic arrangement of wild and lush greenery complements this postmodern postindustrial landscape, embodying the unique character of Silesia region.
[left] Local public space. A sailing knot
Harbor cities could get a bespoke urban couch inspired by characteristic sailing knots. The bench was formed to provide various forms of seating: ones with a comfortable back support, larger sunbed-like zones or separate spaces for individual seats. The knot’s color scheme could differ depending on the context – both intense colors of standard sailing ropes or timid galvanized steel could complement the urban, beach or harbor surroundings.
[middle] Local public space. An urban beach
Some cities lacking the sea access (or paradoxically those sea-shore ones) could gain a public space of an urban beach as an undulating wooden deck for the users can rest and sun-bathe. The urban beach form should also provide some ‘below-deck’ shaded zones, where it would be possible to organize a local café or provide other services.
[right] Local public space. New river
Łódź – contrary to what its name indicates – does not have a river visible in its urban tissue. Therefore, a new public space should include water as a space-building resource. Circumferential stream could form an outstanding and restorative meeting place that is very distinct (and potentially more popular) from other public spaces in the city.
[left] Local public space. The dragon’s pathway
Public spaces inspired by urban legends (for example ones about the Wawel dragon) do not have to be infantile nor primitive. Cracow’s footbridge could resemble a dragon with its undulating trajectory – there is no need for a figurative representation of a mythological creature. The new footbridge may not be the fastest way to cross the Vistula river, but for sure provides the most interesting experience.
[middle] Local public space. Wroclaw island
Wrocław is a city of a hundred bridges, but also of river islands. We propose inscribing the city’s genius loci into a new island – a contemporary public space of the city inspired by existing city structure. Small archipelago of recreational functions could appear on the Oder river or on dry land and create a new local typology. Islands could incorporate water features into their structure to make the space more restorative and attractive (especially during the summer’s heatwave).
[right] Local public space. Wroclaw bridge
Since Wroclaw is already the city of a hundred bridges, the next one – besides providing communication infrastructure – could serve as a new public space. Pro-public footbridge with balconies and terraces of various shapes manifests the possible multifunctionality of urban infrastructure.
[left] Local public space. Zalipie square
Zalipie – famous for its folk drawings on facades and fences – could also impose the local tradition onto its public space. Folklore motifs could emanate from its pavement arrangement, greenery forms or street furniture shapes. Surprising application of local artistry reinterprets the tradition and equips it with contemporary functionalities.
[middle] Local public space. Cracow’s mound
Mounds are land structures characteristic for Cracow’s topography.Their iconic forms could inspire smaller scale public space interventions to the local landscape. Therefore, a new mound – equipped with urban furniture and contemporary functional layout – could enrich a network of traditional city mounds, providing them with the contemporary programmatic agenda.
[right] Local public space. Cracow’s reversed mound
New Cracow mound could also invert a traditional form. A terracing structure reinterprets both a mound and a sunken plaza typologies, providing a public space hidden from wind and noise.
[left] Local public space. Mountain landscape
Mountain tectonics could be manifested in a terracing structure that serves as an abstract place of rest and play. Subsequent terrace layers form tribunes, longitudinal benches and exercise zones; the intuitive shape exercises the imagination of a potential user.
[middle] Local public space. Mountain valley
Undulating landscape inspired by a mountain panorama is a place of intuitive and casual use. A playscape of terraces and programmed layers could be supplemented with compositions of wild greenery that enrich a sensoric landscape.
[right] Local public space. A coalie
One of Polish most important stocks deserves a post-exploitation monument. Nevertheless, the spectacularly ‘levitating’ coal is not only a memorial statue, but a pavilion and a meeting place. Using characteristic elements of local culture and natural resources enable creating site-specific public spaces that the local community identifies with.
[left] Seasonal public space. Spring’s harbinger
Terracing structure made of plant pots is an urban Kościeliska valley, where spring sprouts with crocuses and snowdrops. Due to layering of the structure it can be installed on the smallest city site, transforming an obsolete piece of land into a pocket urban garden. The plant arrangement can vary with seasons – spring flowers can be planted in regular parks, while the plant pots would host summer or even evergreen greenery compositions.
[middle] Seasonal public space. Summer solarium
A simple wooden deck with added shading structure serves as a grand recreational plateau during hot summer days. The platform’s height of 40 cm transforms its perimeter into a large bench.
[right] Seasonal public space. Rustle path
A hilly pocket park with lots of leafy trees and bush is a public space of autumnal appreciation (all this rustling and swishing!). Multicolor leaves that fall on walking paths pleasantly rustle under passers-by feet, creating a truly seasonal orchestration.
[left] Seasonal public space. Autumnal rain park
Autumn rain can be waited out at home or used as a creative building resource of a seasonal playground. Sculpturous terrain of a rain park makes running and jumping into puddles a programmed (but still fun) experience, while a simple folly gives the parents dry shelter during children’s play.
[middle] Seasonal public space. Winter slide
Shallow pool of an informal meandering shape even during a mild ground frost transforms into a spectacular ice slide. Curling route makes it possible to divide the slide into shorter sections explored by multiple users. During the spring and summer months the meandering pool could serve as a safe space to learn roller skating or riding a scooter.
[right] Regenerative public space. Climate change
Public space should be experienced as regenerative and restorative. A simple installation following this theme can take the form of an abstract environment lit with the most comfortable light color and light temperature. Especially during the winter months such a space would help its users regain balanced circadian rhythm and boost the immune system. As Olafur Oliasson’s Weather Project showed, an abstract experience of being exposed to beautiful light can create a non-defined public space.
[left] Communal space. A common table
Portable street furniture can compose larger constellations or one grand urban object – a common XXL table. An interactive formula for establishing a public space can integrate a local community and give opportunity to adjust the space to the changing needs of its users.
[middle] Communal space. A connecting fence
Instead of building a fence that divides feuding neighbors a public fence connects people from various environments and social bubbles. Fence’s perforations serve as gates, playground tunnels or peeking windows just to check if grass is greener on the other side.
[right] Public resources. A living monument
One of Polish most famous (and edible) export commodities – an apple – inspires a public space created around a singular apple tree. The pocket apple park is bordered by a dense hedge with few entrance gates. The micro-orchard is equipped with longitudinal benches, making the apple monument a pleasant resting space as well.
[left] Public resources. Souvenir pavilion
Amber – a typical souvenir from Baltic seashore and one of our nationally treasured resources – serves as an inspiration for this sculpturous pavilion. Opalescent, resin-like forms create an organic structure reflecting the captivating beauty of the amber.
[middle] Public resources. A grand plank
Public space can be inspired by surrounding nature. This two-story pavilion resembles an imaginary natural monument.
[right] Public resources. Urban copse
Tree-like street furniture defines an urban copse. Structural forms made of wood are multifunctional and intuitive, making the new forest adjust to various possible functionalities.
[left] Public resources. A running field
Romping in the rye without going out of the city! A walking/running path created in an urban cornfield creates a new spectacular context for city activities. A plant selection dedicated to city spaces does not have to be limited to barberries or evergreens. Cities should be laden with perennials, fruiting and edible plants and even cereals. Surprising greenery composition could attract more users, increase their engagement in sustainable living and provide urban crops.
[middle] Public resources. A Polish fieldscape
When thinking of Polish landscapes we often envision colorful farmlands. This picturesque vision could be easily implemented into a network of existing urban public spaces with monochromatic quarters creating a greenery patchwork onto which we superimposed a running path.
[right] Public resources. Urban breakwater
Cascade structure made of wooden beams serves as an abstract playscape or an exercise & health route. Simple and cheap playground uses local resources as a building material – for example utilizing scraps from conservation works of Parks & Recreation city departments.
[left] Formal public space. Monumentless plinth
Monuments often create public spaces around them. In Cracow people meet next to the statue of Adam Mickiewicz, while the Monument of Miners’ Effort in Katowice after years of being an informal skate spot became an official skatepark. That is why a new typology of monument uses only its plinth to create a sign in space and a non-discriminative meeting spot. This monumentless plinth or a meaningless monument can effortlessly create a vital contemporary public space.
[middle] Public infrastructure. Sport railings
Typical urban infrastructure elements, such as railings are great – but overlooked – for building public spaces dedicated to urban sports where the users can exercise parkour or calisthenics. This public space is designed as a linear structure with railings’ diameter enabling a perfect grasp during exercising.
[right] Public infrastructure. A public curb
Labyrinth composition made of curb units can become a meeting place, where the curbs are used as seats or exercising routes. To fully embrace a potential of a common space it is crucial to look at city’s infrastructure or service trajectories and transform them into multifunctional public spaces.
[left] Playscape. Public swing
An interesting public space can be built by multiplying a singular element of street furniture. A new public space exchanges typical piazza benches with swings and creates a large common urban toy.
[middle] Temporary public space. An urban pillow
Temporary public space takes a form of giant urban pillow, where city dwellers can simply rest on. Usually inflatable castles are dedicated to children, but imagine how many adults dream of a similar adventure?! A form that is soft, adjacent to the user and most importantly fun is a perfect solution for a summer public space, when all the people want to be on the beach, but not everyone can.
[right] Temporary public space. Seasonal attractor
Cities usually decorate their public spaces with seasonal decorations. We propose changing flat designs into three-dimensional structures that can be explored, not only looked at. A large-scale bauble is a pavilion that enables changing the perspective (and taking most creative pictures).
[left] Public space for isolation. Type 1
Public space of post-pandemic times is a place of common isolation and being separate, but together. That is why new (and variable) arrangements of green spaces should enable dividing them into smaller plots for individual or restricted group use. Spatial divisions could be obtained with differentiation of greenery – high and low grass, cut and wild perennials or a checkerboard-like graphics could easily define places dedicated to various users.
[middle] Public space for isolation. Type 2
It is possible to establish smaller green rooms as pocket open-air interiors that are available from a peripheral path. This way of dividing a bigger open space provides the safest possibility of using it again. Green interiors of different sizes let the users adjust the spatial choice to their preferred activity: reading, having a picnic or playing badminton. Separate open-air rooms are marked with higher grass or hedges, providing both privacy and safety.
[right] Public space for isolation. Type 3
Post-pandemic times make it worthwhile to bring back the French garden’s idea of a living labyrinth made of plants. Living labyrinth is a safe open space designed for social-distancing. Separated paths foster long regenerative walks along high hedges without ‘the danger’ of bumping into strangers.
[left] Functional public space. Urban balconies
Balconies and terraces do not have to be apartments’ extensions. When interconnected, those elements can build a surprisingly public vertical domain. A vertical common space for strolling and daydreaming can enrich local narrative even in a dense limited area.
[middle] Regenerative public space. An urban ecosystem
The gamble wall of a multi-family housing is a perfect space for creating a green wall – either with advanced technologies or a simple arrangement of climbing plants. It is crucial that the green wall starts a complex ecosystem around it – with birds regulating the amount of bugs, insects pollinating the plants and finally people caring for and protecting the vertical urban biotope.
[right] Phenomenal public space. An urban waterfall
Water features within a housing estate can be spectacular, for example when using a gamble wall as a waterfall frame. Not only the waterfall cools the usually overheated façade and creates a beneficial microclimate, but also uses the captured rainwater.
[left] Romantic public space. To the moon!
Contemporary public spaces lack ‘various times and various places’ follies derived from English garden style. So instead of putting a large-scale mural on the gamble wall this ‘useless’ facade could host a new type of spatial installation that introduces a surprising narrative. The romantic moon could become a perfect photo-opportunity and a romantic getaway.
[middle] Seasonal public space. A summer hill
A hill by the wall serves as a place for picnics and common sun-bathing. This public space could be equipped with movable street furniture (benches and tables) which enable seasonal, interchangeable usage.
[right] Seasonal public space. A snowy slope
The gamble walls with added stoops or plugged-in landscape can effectively enrich the functional program of an urban quarter. Even a small added hill provides new scenery to barbecue, sunbathe or sledge down the hill. Just like the history of construction taught us, a new topography can be formed with soil dag out during housing construction works.
[left] Functional public space. Vertical greenhouse
The other idea is to transform a blind gable wall into a vertical greenhouse, where the building’s inhabitants can cultivate flowers or edible herbs. The communal structure could strengthen a local community – this time establishing it around a relaxing and almost meditative activity that gardening is.
[middle] Temporary public space. Urban prototyping set
Public space can adapt to dynamic changes in the local community. Smart system of portable street furniture enables arranging variable public space’s compositions and testing the proposed designs, their efficiency and popularity.