KRAKOW KEYSTONE Project

Final Year MSc project 1
Edinburgh University

How large can we see ?


The focus of this work is on large scale strategy and long term thinking. A central piece of land has been left untouched due to its sensitive historical background. It now longs to be reintegrated into the city which has grown fragmented. This is how opportunities to help both the site and Krakow emerged from a brief initially about park intervention.

Wandering in and around the site, we were soon struck by a sense of unease. Partly because of its historical background of Nazi concentration camp, but also, in no small part, because of a spatial and functional disjointedness ranging from the site scale to the urban one.

Indeed, within a mile radius of the camp, we found a large array of typologies ranging from touristy historical center to derelict industrial land from the past century. The site was also located within yet another disorganized mixed used sprawl of suburban retail, service and housing.

The fragmentation of the city was confirmed in our research: the top left map shows how little coherence and cohesion was to be found around the site. The next logical step was to check if it had occurred to local authorities, and if so, what measures were taken to resolve the issue. Indeed the city was well aware of the situation and planned to remediate through urban regeneration. This was an ongoing strategy that, sadly, proved to have little success in binding and enhancing the south of Krakow, presumably because of the prioritization of economical ties. In 2013, though, Krakow’s council commissioned a strategic rethinking of the planning policies. Its aim was to help Krakow incorporate 6 of its townships showing the most potential, to help guide forthcoming changes in the urban fabric over the next half-century.
Too much information at a time leads to a proportional if not exponential increase in difficulty of the decision making process. The last map (bottom right) aims to compromise between the amount of information and its clarity. It represent something that matters to a strategic thinker: the  city’s capacity to change. 
Urban areas likely to change for the good of the city as a whole are marked as “soft urban tissue”.On the other hand, the places that seem less likely to change and already work well, are marked as “hard”.

After the analysis stage, it appeared that the strategic importance of the site was greater than its’ spatial attribute alone. This led to the restructuring of the project’s brief towards and urban scale approach.
The site is used as a Keystone to connect 3 major elements identified by the 2050 vision plan: The historical core and the 2 selected southern Townships.
The paths have been easily drafted through the abstract urban tissue, which could then in turn, easily be decompressed into the different layers it was build upon. That way, the path could then logically be refined at need, to relate to the existing and future urban features.
The detailing of the 3 connections created on the next page, established the south western one as having the most potential. With these foundations, the site’s masterplan could now be developed in coherence with it’s large scale and proximity to the city.

Eventually, the site’s very large scale forces a more focalized approach to enable design work. 3 Elements stood out and could be combined in a more consistent design: 
• An abandoned quarry, which has already become a very valuable Eco-system with its own micro climate, favoring a strong myco-activity.
• A protected patch of land that bleeds out of the site, showing strategical potential.
• An abandoned Nazi camp, which has been whipped clear of any trace by the Nazi’s themselves, upon the arrival of the Russian forces.

The whole site’s charm came from the beauty of nature slowly covering human artifacts.
The quarry was already slowly starting to accumulate gravitational water at a lesser pace. The main design for this part was to increase it’s hydrology through alteration of its edge topography. A funnel effect is generated this way, bringing more water in and thus increasing mycological activity further more.

The protected patch was to be stretched out into an ecological corridor extending the site’s boundaries to reach another ecological reserve to the west. This enables the reshaping of its edges and the integration of residential developments.