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Cultural Parks

by Kraków Heritage team
21.03.2023
Cultural Parks Cultural Parks
Kraków is currently a leader in implementing the idea of cultural parks in Poland. What is a cultural park and how does the protection of the cultural landscape contribute to our understanding of our heritage?
AREAS OF SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY

During the first decades of the 21st century, a debate on the aesthetics of public space swept through Poland. Glaring advertisements, dubious quality souvenirs on stalls, acoustic and visual clutter represent just some of the negative effects of the mass culture infatuation that the country experienced after 1989. These have particularly affected historic city centres, adversely affecting the quality of life among the inhabitants and degrading the image of their representative parts.

Cultural parks represent a particular form of monument protection, introduced in 2003 to the Act On The Protection Of Monuments And The Care Of Historical Monuments. Pursuant to the regulations, the municipal council may, on the basis of a resolution, establish a cultural park with the aim of protecting the cultural landscape and preserving distinctive landscape clusters of historical monuments.

The resolution specifies the name of the cultural park, its boundaries and manner of protection as well as prohibitions and restrictions, which may relate to: carrying out construction works and commercial or service activities. In addition, the resolution may regulate the issue of the conditions for the location of small architectural objects, the storage or warehousing of waste, the placement of boards, inscriptions, advertisements and other signs.

Kraków is a pioneer city with regard to the establishment of cultural parks in Poland. Three have been created in the city so far: Old Town Cultural Park, Nowa Huta Cultural Park and Cultural Park of Kazimierz District with Stradom. In addition, work is also underway to extend the Old Podgórze area with Krzemionki into a cultural park. These are the most valuable sites in the city in terms of material heritage – and areas of particular social responsibility.

 

OLD TOWN CULTURAL PARK

The Old Town Cultural Park was established in 2010 with the aim of protecting the historic centre of Krakow located within the Kraków Planty area, together with Wawel Hill. It is a place of particular importance for the cultural heritage of Poland and Central Europe: the most important element of the UNESCO World Heritage List of 1978 and part of the area awarded the title of a monument of history. In its entirety, the park set out rules for the aesthetic development of space and the protection of the cultural landscape within its boundaries – to include signs and advertisements, façades and roofs, commercial and service activities, the operation of restaurant terraces, and transport activities provided by the popular electric cars (melex).

This led to the creation of a tool enabling city authorities to:

  • Enhance the aesthetic arrangement of the most representative parts of the Old Town –the Market Square, the Royal Road with Floriańska and Grodzka Streets and Szewska Street,
  • Reduction of disturbing light, sound, and imagery into the public space,
  • Improvement of the aesthetics of restaurant terraces,
  • Regulation of street trading rules,
  • Measures to increase the quality of the goods on offer in souvenir shops,
  • Regulation of tourist transport in the park area and improvement of the aesthetics of electric cars (melex),
  • Regulation of the activity of electric scooter and segway rentals,
  • Creating the aesthetics of fair events,
  • Organising the calendar of cultural events in the Main Square, Small Market Square and Szczepański Square.

In retrospect, the Old Town Cultural Park has become a pioneering measure contributing to the protection of the heritage of the historic centre of Kraków in a broad landscape perspective –i.e., one that is not limited to the protection of monuments alone, but also considers it important to take care of the public space that surrounds these monuments.

NOWA HUTA CULTURAL PARK

The city faced a new challenge in the following years – namely to reorganise the urban space of the oldest part of Nowa Huta – an exemplary worker’s town of the People’s Republic of Poland, which is currently the largest district of Kraków. Nowa Huta is a valuable historic complex established in the second half of the 20th century, both in terms of urban planning and individual architectural realisations – a model example of confronting the local tradition of modernism with the politically imposed patterns of socialist realism. At the same time, Nowa Huta is a unique urban complex with a significant contribution of green areas envisaged at the design stage.

The resolution on the establishment of the Nowa Huta Cultural Park was adopted in 2019. The boundaries of the park correspond with the entry in the register of monuments of the urban layout of the district and cover an area of 376 hectares. The document’s objectives envisage:

  • Preservation and exposition of the cultural heritage and landscape of the historic urban layout of Nowa Huta within the boundaries of the Park,
  • Protection of the historical building line, as well as dimensions and forms of architectural complexes,
  • Functional and compositional protection of squares and the original greenery layout, 
  • Protection of axes, routes and viewpoints, including the prominent John Paul II Avenue, Solidarności Avenue, Rose Avenue and General Władysław Anders Avenue,
  • Protection of the cultural landscape, i.e., counteracting excessive expansion of commercial and service activities detrimental to the architectural form of historic buildings or affecting their visual exposure.

The implementation of the regulation was preceded by consultations with the community. After the creation of the park, the city was involved in assisting and advising entrepreneurs as part of the ‘Signboards in Nowa Huta’ project. Moreover, in the building of the Utopia Home – International Empathy Centre by the Łaźnia Nowa Theatre, as part of the Nowohuckie Pogotowie Szyldowe (Nowa Huta Signboards Emergency) project, representatives of the Foundation Kultura i Miejsce advised entrepreneurs on adapting signboards to the park’s requirements. In collaboration with the community of Krakow designers, dozens of new signboards were prepared for entrepreneurs operating in the Park.

Despite the difficulties associated with transition and the challenges that the new regulations brought to entrepreneurs, the creation of the park has contributed to restoring the minimalist aesthetic of the ‘Old’ Nowa Huta in line with the visions of its designers.

KAZIMIERZ WITH STRADOM CULTURAL PARK

On 1 September 2022, after another stage of public consultation, the resolution establishing the Kazimierz Cultural Park with Stradom came into force. The park encompasses the area of the historic city, now a district of Kraków – Kazimierz, and the former suburb of Stradom, located between the Old Town and Kazimierz.

This is an area of unusual concentration of historical buildings from the Middle Ages to Modernism, for centuries the main residence of Krakow’s Jewish community. The entire area of the park belongs to the area inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1978. Kazimierz and Stradom are not only important heritage sites, but also districts where residential functions are intertwined with cultural and entertainment functions, subject to the various pressures and challenges of modern times.

The most significant challenge accompanying the creation of regulations for the Kazimierz with Stradom Cultural Park was to improve the quality of life of the district’s residents, who for years have been experiencing pressure associated with the district’s tourism boom, the uncontrolled growth of the catering and hotel industry and its negative consequences: the disappearance of its general public functions, hindered mass transport or public disturbances that breach the peace at night.

The provisions of the cultural park are intended to clarify issues related to outdoor advertising, small architecture, transport of tourists (melex), retail and market activities, corresponding to the long-term policy of limiting car traffic in Kazimierz district as well as development of green areas in the centre.

CULTURAL PARK STARE PODGÓRZE WITH KRZEMIONKI

There are plans to establish a cultural park in the near future in the Podgórze district, founded in the late 18th century by the Austrians and functioning as an urban organism separate from Krakow until the First World War. The district, picturesquely situated between the Vistula River and the park-like hill of Krzemionki, neglected for years, has in recent decades been transformed into a melting pot with numerous cafés, clubs and designer boutiques, and is also a popular residential area for young Krakow inhabitants. At the same time, unlike Kazimierz, Podgórze remains to an even greater extent a residential district, full of unique traditional crafts and small shops serving the local community.

The provisions and regulations of the envisaged project of cultural park will provide tools of protection for this fragile ecosystem by, on the one hand, organising the advertising chaos that has affected the district’s main traffic arteries – Kalwaryjska and Limanowskiego Streets – since the 1990s, and, on the other hand, by reconciling the interests of residents, tourists, entrepreneurs, and club and café owners.

For more information, please check the website of Cultural Parks in Krakow.

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