New vision for central Warsaw

Niki May Young
Monday 23 Jun 2008

Aedas release new design proposal for redevelopment of Plac Defilad in the heart of Warsaw:

Covering an area of 25 hectares, this is an important development opportunity for Warsaw, owing to its central location and immense historical, emotional and symbolic resonance for the city’s residents.

Originally a dense residential district, the site formed part of the Warsaw Ghetto during World War II and was almost entirely destroyed after the 1944 uprising. The last remaining traces of the prewar city were erased in 1950 to make way for Stalin’s monumental ‘gift to the nation’ - the Palaceof Culture and Science (PKiN). The landmark building remains an integral consideration in the development of any future masterplan.

The City Authorities began debating the future of the area surrounding the PKiN shortly after the change in government in 1989 and the latest revision published for public consultation earlier this year. Aedas’ alternative masterplan proposal was prepared as a contribution to this publicconsultation process.

Michal Kus, a director at Aedas, said; “Aedas is one of the largest practices in the world, and one of the largest architectural practices in Poland with 55 architects who call Warsaw home. We naturally wish to make our voice heard in this debate.

“In our view, the existing proposals don’t address the main reason why the area currently fails as an urban district-this being its lack of connectivity to the surrounding city,” he added. “Our intervention is designed to show that it doesn’t have to be this way and to try and focus the debate on essential issues.”

Aedas’ proposal introduces two main innovations in an attempt to improve the connectivity of the site. The first is to lower the busy Marszalkowska street, providing ground-level pedestrian links between the site and the attractive and historic streets to the east. The second is to create a raised ‘arrival plaza’ in front of the main railway station on the south-western corner of the site, spanning over Emilia Plater street. This plaza gives direct access to a split-level covered street, which runs the length of the site with offices and retail frontage and incorporating three rail and metro stations.

Building heights and locations have been partially influenced by sructural considerations related to the extensive underground transport infrastructure. The three-dimensional composition created as a result is respectful to the ‘Palace of Culture’, but unlike previous proposals it avoids reinforcing its monumental dominance. By comparing the scale of the successful public spaces elsewhere in the city with the scale of theexisting spaces around the PKiN, Aedas has proposed significant redensification of the site.

The practice’s vision is that a variety of spaces and activities, coupled with connectivity, is the key to turning this area into vibrant city-centre for a European capital.

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