FUNCTIONS ON NOWA HUTA AFTER 89′
Until 1989 the area of Nowa Huta, from the eastern limit of the city to Mistrzejowice, developed according to the successive long-term development and zoning plans, the top-to-bottom central planning, and subjugation of the functions of first the city and later the complex of Kraków districts to the needs of operation of the complex of steelworks. Two functions were strongly dominant in space and at the same time clearly separated from each other: industrial and residential. Residential areas were complemented with educational, healthcare, and service facilities. The saturation with this infrastructure varied significantly depending on the section of Nowa Huta, which had an impact on a different dynamic of changes at the time of systemic transformation; it depended on the type of extant developments, time of their construction, and the degree of advancement of construction works.
Many assumptions have never gone beyond the design stage, beginning with the original concept of the town hall in what is today Ratuszowy Park, the opera closing the central square (Plac Centralny) from the south, the services district, and the campus of the Kraków Technical University (PK) in Czyżyny.
Frequently initiated, the grand projects to change the face of the district, of which not even one has as yet been completed, with majority having been confined to the drawers no one is ever going to open. Planned and managed top-down, the city became an area somewhat abandoned by the new authorities and left to fend for itself. Rather than being groups of locals acting for the common good, the grassroots movements that began to take over the initiative were, however, groups of interest that followed the principles of the free market: traders who started from stalls and moved to large marketplaces, and developers building ever bigger residential estates.
Civil initiatives often arise in opposition to the activities of the municipality, which was for instance the case with the decision to build the waste incineration plant within the district, and with the Nowa Huta of the Future (Nowa Huta Przyszłości) project, which the locals answered by establishing the Nowa Huta of the Present (Nowa Huta Teraźniejszości). Attempts at positive actions, animated by the ever better operating local institutions of culture must realise that the potential of real influence in the surrounding space is hampered by irresponsible activities of the municipality. It takes much effort to rally a group of locals around positive actions, especially of more strategic and long-term type. How little effort is necessary in turn to destroy such mobilisations, the Municipality of Kraków has frequently shown organising successive community consultations and projects, and making empty promises concerning the revival of Nowa Huta.
The first years following the watershed of 1989 were predominantly the time of remedying those functional gaps; filling up the “nobody’s” empty spaces with makeshift pavilions and stalls, commercialisation of shared spaces, and transformation of buildings that served culture into shops. The whole 29-year period was also a show of fecklessness and lack of involvement of local authorities in the processes taking place in Nowa Huta.
In 1990, with the completion of the last of the blocks of os. Mistrzejowice-Zachód estate (today’s os. Oświecenia), the most important and longest stage of development of Nowa Huta, construed as a conglomerate of five city districts, stretching from the industrial compound to the airfield in Czyżyny, was closed. The construction of residential estates based on plans that originated as early as in the 1960s was over with the last building in the technology of prefabricated slab being completed.
Nowa Huta is often perceived through the lens of its oldest part, designed and built in the spirit of socialist realism, whose construction, however, only provided for a short period, of less than a single decade. Already in 1959, that is just 10 years after the ground was broken for the city, the Swedish Block was delivered for use: a building fully coherent with the ideas of modernism and standing in opposition to the decorated buildings of socialist realism in its nearest vicinity, which make the general impression of the district. The following developments – Sektor D (Centrum D, Handlowe, Spółdzielcze, and Kolorowe estates) as well as Bieńczyce, Wzgórza Krzesławickie, Czyżyny, and Mistrzejowice were raised from 1960s to 1990s, and this is precisely where most of Nowa Huta residents live.
Discontinuation in the implementation of the previous plans, changes in the operation of housing cooperatives and property structure, yet also such natural reasons as the spatially differentiated demographic structure of the residents, and the age and condition of the buildings were among the factors that were decisive for the transformations of residential spaces of Nowa Huta after 1989. Its oldest section, most distant from the centre of Kraków and at the same time not enjoying the best press perhaps because of many years of failures in the field of spatial planning (the local area development or zoning plan was only approved in December 2013), survived the time of transformation and the construction boom of the 2000s nearly unchanged, at least in terms of architecture and urban planning, thanks to its dense and nearly completed development.
The largest changes, however, have taken place on a less visible level: that of property structure and number of people per flat. With the option to purchase their flats at reduced prices, most previous tenants turned into flat owners. With the development of housing communities, the fragmented property structure began to transform into a form visible throughout the district. These began to modernise and transform the previously formally coherent architecture of the district in a manner as individual as uncoordinated. New elements improving the functionality of the buildings began to emerge, parallel to the disappearance of the ones that caused problems in everyday maintenance. Insufficient heritage protection allowed the disappearance of many of the solutions that built the individual character of Nowa Huta residential estates under the layers of styrofoam. The problem of vacant flats is another one to have come with time: still a few years back, a view of metal sheets covering council housing windows was fairly common in the older parts of the district.
The recent years and the fashion for Nowa Huta revived interest in living in the area. The picture of dishevelled, poor, and dangerous part of Kraków slowly began to yield to the notion of a green place with good access to educational and healthcare infrastructure, and greenspace. It should be emphasised that this is in no way an achievement of city authorities, who could have noticed the degradation of the space of the district after so many years, as what had a greater bearing on the change was the fact that hardly any such institutions and spaces exist in the newer districts of Kraków. Based on the ideas of American neighbourhood unit (Clarence Parry) and soviet micro-region (Rus.: Микрорайон), these residential estates, being finite wholes with infrastructure designed for greater than current numbers of residents, can cater not only to the people of Nowa Huta but also to those coming from more distant districts that lack basic infrastructure. The passing time and the ageing of the original tenants and owners of flats, who at times were also their builders, a major generational exchange has taken place in the recent years. Many flats inherited by children are inhabited by younger residents, which also enforces changes in the space of the district: a new type of services and facilities has emerged. Catering previously mostly to seniors they have now had to adjust to the new clients. Such changes are hard to classify as gentrification as you can still buy an affordable flat, yet certainly the access to places designed for the younger generation is strongly limited by financial considerations to the retired generation that still accounts for a large share of residents.
Entirely different changes took place in the newer districts, especially Czyżyny and Mistrzejowice, that is the areas which at the end of the period of transformation were only partially completed urban designs. Apart from the transformations typical of the period: privatisation of flats, development of communities inhabiting individual blocks or even their single sections, and exchange of owners, the housing cooperatives remained active as investors to be now accompanied in the process by a new type of residential investments run by private developers on the plots privatised by the municipality and state treasury, and regained by former owners. The changes, which proved less burdensome for previous inhabitants concentrated primarily in Mistrzejowice. Apart from a handful of projects on free plots in the central part of the district, new investments are primarily gathered on its outskirts, mostly on os. Piastów estate, and on os. Oświecenia: one of the latest additions at that the same time was least completed. What is characteristic of the majority of the investments concluded in the recent years, also the ones developed by housing cooperatives, is the lack of shared community infrastructure and public spaces. New, fenced enclaves offering the people living previously in the area no compensation for taking over what used to be shared infrastructure began to mushroom in the open estates. The construction of additional floor space did not trigger major changes in the transport system of Mistrzejowice, and to reach the centre of Kraków by tram, you still need to take a roundabout way, via Bieńczyce and Nowa Huta.
The pressure from developers and lack of planning is even more visible in the case of Czyżyny. Along the historical runway of Rakowice- Czyżyny airfield, situated between the main transport routes connecting Nowa Huta to the centre of Kraków, with access to sports infrastructure and greenspace, the district with plenty of empty space in its heart became attractive for developers looking for quick profits. Lack of binding zoning plans (the plan was invalidated by the Regional Administrative Court before the construction began) and proper protection of the remains of the historical airfield (protection only extends to the space, but not to the runways) means that what has recently been one of the best locations in Kraków with the best prospects for being developed into an inhabitant-friendly area was turned into a concrete jungle with developments intensified to the maximum. Failing to respect the historical value of the runway, developers transform it freely, destroying its original structure and replacing with car parks and, at best, with fenced playgrounds. The largest and the most controversial of the residential estates – Avia and the later stages of development in Orlińskiego street are a model showcase of developer solutions aimed at maximisation of profit at the cost of comfort of current and future residents, greenspace, and heritage. Buildings pressed together as much as they can be, offer drab architecture, a row of monumental, identical skyscrapers from the side of the runway, while the space between them is taken up by car parks, partially fenced and impenetrable for anyone other than owners of flats. The estate was controversial already at the design stage. No school will be built to cater for the 3500 planned flats, and the number of parking spaces was limited to under 2400. Lack of educational facilities caused protests, primarily among the residents of the neighbouring estates afraid that the ones already in operation will now be overpopulated. The developer makes it clear that he intends to freeload on the existing infrastructure, offering nothing in return. You can read about the opportunity to use the already existing schools, kindergartens, and outpatient clinics in the promotional materials of the estate. The nearest institution is already overcrowded. The present attempts at assigning residents of the new estate to institutions in the neighbouring estates resulted in protests due to the distance that children would have to cover. Moreover, parking spaces become the cause of conflicts within the new community. When you purchase a flat, cheap for Kraków conditions, the developer offers you also a parking space, yet at a price absolutely unreasonable. Manipulating the existing law, some of generally accessible spaces originally designed for people with disabilities have also been sold. On the police map of threats and dangers to safety and security, which the public may also use to inform about an illegally parked car, the newly developed areas of Czyżyny are deep red. Only in this one area, people notified of around 850 places linked to car parking problems. In this way developers who take no responsibility for the space they develop, and the city that is not interested in catering for the interests of the inhabitants built a space founded on conflicts, and the cost of their solution, whether by adding additional infrastructure or removal of the damages done will be borne by all people living in the area.
Recreation and public space
In contrast to what transpires in the new developments, residents of the oldest estates cannot complain on lack of public space and recreation. The common element in the new places is the absolute domination of the passenger car that began in the 1990s and is still growing, while neither the municipal authorities nor housing cooperatives seem to have any idea how to solve the problem. The oldest settlements in Nowa Huta, developed around the skeleton of the main arteries and a network of narrow internal streets of the estates that double as pedestrian roads, are not adjusted to the current number of equals. This entails degradation of the greenery, with lawns and pavements being devastated by wheels, and fire and ambulance access roads being blocked. Interestingly, there used to be multi-storey car parks in the old part of Nowa Huta, yet their function has changed: one of them is today a part of a culture centre and the other – a furniture shop. The cycling infrastructure has been similarly transformed. Originally, there were separate paths for bikes along the main thoroughfares of Nowa Huta, separated from the pavements with a green belt. Yet they have been transformed into car parking spaces, and new bicycle paths are only being built. How strongly transport infrastructure intervenes into the space of the district can be seen best in its central square, which has been stripped of its original functions, with a centrally located transport hub. This function is now entirely lost, and the centre is surrounded by a forest of lighting and traction poles, signposts, and traffic lights. The most symbolic example of subjugating an existing urban developments to the cars was the transformation of most flower beds in the northern section of al. Róż into car parking space. Thus, the benches that have remained in their original places let you admire the bodies of cars parked right in front of them.
Still, transformations of public spaces in Nowa Huta are a range of similar, uncoordinated decisions, frequently contradictory to the developed plans of revival and successive competition designs for the most important spaces in the district. The Local Programme for the Revival of Nowa Huta was approved in 2008. Since 2009 when the first public consultations were organised to discuss the transformations in the main square and the district, none of the changes promoted by the locals have become implemented. No main prize was granted in the international architectural design, the jury’s sessions were secret, and the results of the competition was subject to no extensive consultations with the local community. Thus, the locals were involved in the process of consultations, promised to have their environment changed for the better and supported with visualisations of the highest-ranking design by Romuald Loegler, yet then the city showed no will to account actually for their opinion. A local vegetable market in the central square, a rose garden in al. Róż (which after all is called “the avenue of roses”), art pavilions, fountains, and attractive greenery will now exist only on paper. There have been far more of such unfulfilled expectations.
Following an update of the revival programme for the district, extensive consultations with local community were organised in 2014. They worked out of a model for future management of the process of revival, involved many actors, pointed to the crucial problems, and suggested initial recipes for their solution. Again, to no effect. The success of public debates concerned setting up a cultural park within Nowa Huta to protect its historical values and space, define the form of commercial billsposting, and permitted level of intervention into the existing substance. However, there was again no determination to put the items developed with the locals into effect. The kindled hopes and unfulfilled promises make it increasingly more difficult to get the locals interested in the space surrounding them and rally them to participate in the debates that as yet have never brought expected results. Nor is the approach of local representatives favourable: despite the size of the district, its participatory budget has for years been one of the smallest in the city in terms of the amounts earmarked for the local residents to use.
Only topical investments are conducted, and these are frequently enforced by the catastrophic condition of individual spaces and elements of infrastructure rather than by the strategical approach. Parks are renovated, sports and recreational infrastructure complemented. Stadiums either have undergone or are still undergoing overhauls, new sports halls and swimming pools are built near the schools; and a generally accessible sports centre Com-Com Zone was developed.
Yet, despite a dynamic development of Nowa Huta districts, no public and/or recreation space has been made from scratch after 1989. Another controversy was the construction of the sports and events Arena in the Park of Polish Aviators at the expense of greenery. Moreover, during the preparations to host the Winter Olympic Games in 2022, the city presented plans to build the Olympic Village on the territory of the park, which prompted local protests. Still, the construction of the events and sports hall is another example of an opportunity for a developmental stimulus for the district wasted and of lacking strategic thinking. Going beyond the completion of a single, costly investment, the city authorities did not protect the area around the hall with a local spatial management plan before embarking on the construction, nor did the city start buying that land out to include it into the park, even though it seemed obvious that land value of the surrounding plots would skyrocket after the completion of the investment and the nearby road grid helping to access and develop the area. The budget of the costly construction project did not include restoration of the park, whose large chunk was carved out for the construction. Today the vicinity of the Arena is a construction site for tens of blocks of flats being put up without any plan and without the protection of the fundamental interests of the locals.
Industry and services (jobs)
The history of industry in Nowa Huta and its post-1989 transformations is primarily that of privatisation and reduction of employment in steelworks. A succession of ownership changes, breakdown of the structure, the closure of successive divisions, and investment in the selected ones only. Today, the total employment in the steelworks is around 7000, which means 30,000 fewer jobs than in its peak operation. All that, however, takes place behind the closed gates of the facility, which is a city within a city with own infrastructure, transport, and services.
What provides a very good illustration of the changes in the landscape of Nowa Huta industry and employment after 1989 are primarily the newly established companies, mostly gathered in the Kraków Technology Park in Czyżyny. Set up in 1997 as Centrum Zaawansowanych Technologii (Centre for Advanced Technologies), it was given the mission to build the new economy of Kraków and manage the potential of economic changes of the time. The land in Czyżyny, previously intended for the development of the new campus of the Kraków University of Technology, of which only the Mechanical Department and the dormitories were completed, was earmarked for its expansion. The Technology Park situated between Czyżyny and the city centre could provide the connecting space as well as invigorate the space of a district often referred to as the “sleeping quarter”, and stimulate local trade and services. This, however, never happened. What developed instead of a district integrated with the city was a secluded enclave of technology companies, unconnected to the surrounding estates and the Park of Polish Aviators. Built along a single street without any accompanying infrastructure, the office buildings provide a sad illustration of total impotence of the city in developing and implementing strategies exceeding a single investment with limited functions and space. A seat of such tycoons of the digital industry as Comarch, the technology park does not even have a regular public transport connection to the rest of the city, as no bus terminal has been envisaged.
One could think that the civil servants and politicians responsible for the development of the city, who have learned a lesson on the mistakes of the past, would avoid repeating them. Unfortunately, similar problems seem to await the Nowa Huta of the Future already at the stage of first assumptions. As far as logistic companies can really make use of the potential of transport infrastructure in the area, and the reservoirs in Przylasek Rusiecki call for no more than appropriate ordering and ensuring safety, localisation of another technology park, separated from the residential district is highly disputed. This limits the city-building potential of the new areas offering jobs, and reinforces the absolute domination of the residential function in other sections of Nowa Huta. Apart from the office buildings of the tobacco plants and the adaptation of the buildings of the Administrative Centre of the steelworks for business premises, planned by the authorities of the region, there are no actual and/or planned new employers apart from small trade and services. Sentenced to remaining the sleeping quarters of Kraków, the district will not be capable of developing a properly functioning centre that could satisfy most needs of its residents.
Problems that result from the domination of the residential function and demographic changes are primarily visible in the process of continuous changes that Nowa Huta trade undergoes. The previously existing department stores are being colonised by the major commercial networks. Such as places as Dom Handlowy Wanda and pavilions by the Czyżyny airfield have long lost their original functions and structure gathering numerous petty traders offering a varied range of products for the sake of super- and hypermarkets that belong to retail food and cosmetics chains, recently also to gyms. Shops owned by cooperatives and delicatessen are being replaced by grocery supermarkets (in the best case) or simply liquidated. The progressing homogenisation of functions includes visible domination of banking services and pharmacies. In fact, the only function that has as yet managed to resist the changes in Nowa Huta are the three still functioning milk bars.
A brief walk in the main broad streets of the old Nowa Huta is the best illustration of the scale of the phenomenon of abandoning the retail premises and the dying out of local commerce. There is actually no street that wouldn’t be affected and had at least one vacant shop. It must be added that most of these are owned by the commune, and the Municipal Housing Administration has all the tools to develop the tenant policy that would favour the retention of a varied range of commerce and services. Unfortunately, this does not happen. The vacated premises rented at market prices as offices, service centres, and warehouses. Their painted up vacant windows covered with advertisements aggravate the picture of an abandoned and sleepy district where nothing is going on.
The situation in the more modern areas of Nowa Huta looks entirely different. A great number of retail shops, supermarkets, and open-air markets have developed in the places with large density of population and low number of service buildings since the 1990s. The largest of the open-air markets, Tomex covers 7 ha in Czyżyny, and since 1990 has lent its premises to 500 retailers. Not far away, at a location where the construction of the true centre of Czyżyny with pavilions and office blocks was planned in the days of communist Poland, the Centrum Handlowe Czyżyny was built: a complex of dozens of shops with a hypermarket. Built according to the logic that makes the car the main means of transport, large commercial centres remain, however, the destinations of big weekend shopping. Smaller establishments were developed in the new buildings raised along many of the main streets of Czyżyny, Bieńczyce, and Mistrzejowice. The open form of these urban developments, and the large expanses of spare land left along the streets made it possible to have them now filled up with new street faces composed of smallish developments used for commerce and services. Such a complementation of the existing developments could also have a positive spatial effect, if only the city channelled its efforts on the development of a network of more city-like streets with service functions. This, however, does not take place. New residential and office investments are conducted in locations that have no plans, infrastructure, and services, while the pavilions and garages extended along the streets remain a spitting image of something that could be called commercial city streets. This picture is complemented with an infinity of booths and kiosks, gathered mostly around key transport hubs.
Culture and entertainment
What serves the animation of the space are mostly cultural institutions and events. However, some of them have yielded to competition and commercialisation of the market. Two of the three cinemas operating in the district have been liquidated: Światowid transformed into the Museum of the PRL, and Świt was adapted for a supermarket and service facilities. It is a poor consolation that the original architecture of the building and the neon with the name of the non-extant cinema have been retained and restored. The theatres in turn are successful: the Ludowy Theatre operating since 1955 and the Łaźnia Nowa Theatre moved from the city centre. The fact that the theatres take their activity beyond their seats, and run workshops with the locals and organise open air events commands special respect. Local cultural centres, notably the Norwid Culture Centre with ArtZone and Nowa Huta’s only cinema: the Sfinks and the Nowohuckie Culture Centre (NCK) are similarly successful in the activation of local community.
New institutions have also been developed. They include a branch of the Kraków Historical Museum devoted to the history of Nowa Huta and the planned Małopolska Science Centre in Czyżyny. Unfortunately, Nowa Huta did not resist the tendency to festivalise culture in the city. The authorities of the city invested plenty of assets into the development of such events as the Sacrum Profanum Festival and the Film Music Festival, which were organised on the premises of the steelworks for years. Despite their limited formula, focused on the closely profiled audience, and primarily remaining beyond the financial ken of many residents of the district, these events, however, made the normally enclosed space of the steelworks accessible to locals, at the same time emphasising the presence of Nowa Huta on the cultural map of Kraków. This in a sense improved its rank and expanded the functions. These events, however, have changed their formula, and after the completion of the Congress Centre and the Arena, have been transferred to those locations. The space of Nowa Huta and its inhabitants have again been bereft of regular events, which they could identify with to a certain degree, and which, despite all the drawbacks, have built the new picture of the district for years.
More of the same
Most changes in the space of Nowa Huta in the recent years have repeated the errors and omissions that the district has struggled with since its establishment. What the new political and economic system as well as city authorities have to offer is simply more of the same: more clear-cut divisions of the space, more enclaves separated one from the other, and more commercial activity and short-term actions. A new element is offering new unfulfilled promises of strategic nature, ranging from a reconstruction of plac Centralny and aleja Róż, via the new Local Programme of Revival, to the Nowa Huta of the Future every few years. In contrast to the purely instrumental approach of the representatives of central municipal authorities, the work conducted by the local associations, theatres, and culture centres deserves plenty of respect. They are the ones who animate the true social and cultural life of the district, and despite the continuously unfulfilled political promises of revival, they actually integrate the local community and build an offer that improves the comfort of living in the district.
Another idea for the greenery in Nowa Huta is the development of a recreational space with bathing sites, and sports and recreation infrastructure, exploiting the geothermal springs in Przylasek Rusiecki, situated in Nowa Huta between the steelworks and the Vistula, on the premises of an extant complex of reservoirs. The investment is to be a part of a more extensive plant called Nowa Huta Przyszłości – Nowa Huta of the Future, also including the so-called Błonia 2.0, that is an area envisaged for organisation of mass events (which, however, failed to be completed for the World Youth Days in 2016), a logistics centre and technology park in Pleszów.
The last major changes in the area include the construction of Centrum E residential estate in 1988–95 to the design of Romuald Loegler. Still built by a housing cooperative, and following the urban plan of the district, the complex remains the most contemporary element in the space of Nowa Huta to this day. Besides Centrum E, only a few smaller blocks complementing the developments have been built in individual residential estates. There are also examples of post-industrial and former office buildings being adapted to residential purposes, with examples including the printing works in os. Hutnicze estate and Young Worker’s Centre in os. Stalowe estate. In the latter case, all the pathologies of the lacking spatial planning and the logic of maximum profit governing all developer investments came vividly to the surface. The investment not only reinforced the domination of residential function in the area but also became the first example of fencing residential buildings in the district. The investor purchased the building together with its surrounding that until that time had been generally accessible greenspace, across which you could reach the nearby Nowa Huta Reservoir (Zalew Nowohucki). With the functions now being changed, fences were built across the pavements, and the green space became out of bounds to non-residents. The developer shifts responsibility for the decisions to the housing community that will be able to decide, or not, about the possible removal of the fencing.