Participation and spatial transformation in large housing estates in Poland. Case study of Ursynów Północny

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Abstract

This article investigates the suitability of traditional and participatory planning approaches in managing the process of spatial development of existing housing estates, based on the case study of Warsaw’s Ursynów Północny district. The basic assumption of the article is that due to lack of government schemes targeted at the restructuring of large housing estates, it is the business environment that drives spatial transformations and through that shapes the development of participation. Consequently the article focuses on the reciprocal relationships between spatial transformations and participatory practices. Analysis of Ursynów Północny against the background of other estates indicates that it presents more endangered qualities than issues to be tackled. Therefore the article focuses on the potential of the housing estate and good practices which can be tracked throughout its lifetime. The paper focuses furthermore on real-life processes, addressing the issue of privatisation, development pressure, formal planning procedures and participatory budgeting. In the conclusion it attempts to interpret the existing spatial structure of the estate as a potential framework for a participatory approach.

Abstract

This article investigates the suitability of traditional and participatory planning approaches in managing the process of spatial development of existing housing estates, based on the case study of Warsaw’s Ursynów Północny district. The basic assumption of the article is that due to lack of government schemes targeted at the restructuring of large housing estates, it is the business environment that drives spatial transformations and through that shapes the development of participation. Consequently the article focuses on the reciprocal relationships between spatial transformations and participatory practices. Analysis of Ursynów Północny against the background of other estates indicates that it presents more endangered qualities than issues to be tackled. Therefore the article focuses on the potential of the housing estate and good practices which can be tracked throughout its lifetime. The paper focuses furthermore on real-life processes, addressing the issue of privatisation, development pressure, formal planning procedures and participatory budgeting. In the conclusion it attempts to interpret the existing spatial structure of the estate as a potential framework for a participatory approach.

Introduction

Large housing estates are seen as a phenomenon of the post-war period in Europe which is related to the welfare state in the West and state socialism in the East. Regarding the notion of participation, such estates constitute an unprecedented social experiment, exemplifying a totalitarian top-down policy. This fact is commonly identified as the main cause of the failure of post-war mass-housing (Ayala & Sotoca 2012).

Regardless of the variety of estates that are observed, the preconceived scenario of the estate’s lifecycle starts with great expectations and, sometimes, initial success. This first stage is followed by a long-lasting and inevitable process of decline and obsolescence that leads either to demolition or to efforts at restructuring usually initiated and subsidised by the authorities (Murie, Knorr-Siedow & van Kempen 2003; Wassenberg 2013). At this point the main difference between Western- and Eastern-European estates is visible, as ‘government stimulation of local participation is less frequently encountered in the relatively young democracies than in the older democracies’ (van Beckhoven, van Boxmeer & Ferrando 2005: 238). In post-socialist countries (with exception of the former East Germany) this phenomenon goes hand in hand with a lack of government housing policy and in particular a lack of programmes targeted at large housing estates (Węcławowicz, Guszcza & Kozłowski 2004; Temelova et al. 2011). Additionally in Poland a great deal of new development arises outside of the spatial planning framework. This is caused by the repeal of old Spatial Plans (made before 1995) according to the Spatial Planning and Development Act 2003 (Ustawa z dnia 27 marca…) and an over decade-long delay in enacting new Local Spatial Plans. Since neither government schemes nor spatial planning procedures are involved in development processes, there is no basis for formal participation. Unlike in Western Europe, where participation was brought about as a reaction to government-led policy (van Beckhoven, van Boxmeer & Ferrando 2005: 233), in Poland it often emerges in order to force the local government to take the initiative in spatial planning on the residents’ terms.

The main thesis of this article is that the business and legal environment shape the early days of participation in large housing estates in Poland by forcing spatial transformations beyond the compass of spatial planning. How do participatory practices influence the directions of spatial development? The author addresses this topic by exploring the example of Ursynów Północny housing estate in Warsaw, Poland.

Participation – theoretical frames

Among the many definitions of local participation, this article refers to it as a ‘meaningful participation of individuals and groups at all stages of the development process including that of initiating action’ (Lane 1995 cited in Claridge 2004: 19). Planning is considered the first public service to introduce public participation (Baker, Coaffee & Sheriff 2007: 9). The most popular theoretical model of participation is the so-called ‘ladder of participation’ (Arnstein 1969). It takes the power of making decisions by citizens as the sole measure of engagement. It distinguishes eight forms of participation varying from a low level citizens power (‘manipulation’, ‘therapy’) through forms such as ‘informing’, ‘consulting’ and ‘placation’ to genuine involvement in the decision-making process: ‘partnership’, ‘delegated power’ and finally ‘in control’. During the 1980s and 1990s the theory of planning embraced more aspects of participation by widening the category of ‘stakeholder’ and creating the idea of ‘collaborative planning’ (Healey 1997, 1998). It draws the planning ideal as multiparty governance involving private interests, public agencies and citizens. That idea of searching for ‘objective’ vision of the estate through free and open discussion is often realised by consensus politics. Unfortunately, it often proves to be unrealistic due to the inevitable inequalities in power between the stakeholders and the contradictions occurring between their value systems. As a result ‘instruments for planning and managing are increasingly sophisticated, but also further away from the existing urban problems’ (Ayala & Sotoca 2012: 63). Therefore, the notion of agonism becomes increasingly popular. It underlines a conflict as a natural element of social life and discussion and consequently creates the opportunity to widen the group of stakeholders allowed and willing to participate (Rogers et al. 2017). Consequently, complying with the ideas of ‘the right to the city’ evoked by grassroots activists (Hubbard & Lees 2018), individual and informal forms of participation are brought back as significant features.

Apparently it is not solely the position of residents on the ladder, but the balanced positioning of all stakeholders that can make participation efficient. Therefore the identification of the power relationships of stakeholders, demonstrated in spatial developments, is one of the objectives of the research. It refers to the idea of ‘place making’ with the objective of ‘the promotion of the social, economic, and environmental well-being of diverse places and the development of institutional capacity to achieve this’ (Healey 1997 cited in Hall & Rowlands 2005: 50). Consequently residents’ participation is relevant in this article as an important element of the complex process which materialises in a particular spatial transformation. By these means, the organisational forms of participation considered in the article, vary from individual investment activity through informal individual or associative forms of protest to formal participatory practices.

The case of the Ursynów Północny estate

As existing research on large housing estates indicates, the specific factors determining the processes of estate development are generally well known and draw parallels between estates, cities and countries. But it is combination of some of them occurring at a specific time and place that characterises a given estate. Therefore, despite obvious similarities, it is impossible to portray a universal model of an estate that would apply to every situation. As a result, numerous studies on large housing estates are based on case studies, each of them contributing to the discussion (van Kempen et al. 2005; Temelova et al. 2011; Kovacs & Herfert 2012; Wassenberg 2013).

A case study of Ursynów Północny in Warsaw, that is the scope of this article, reveals both the similarities and differences between Ursynów and other large housing estates in post-socialist countries. Ursynów Północny was designed between 1970 and 1978 and was built from 1974 to early 1980. With nearly 10,000 dwellings and 38,000 inhabitants it was the biggest single housing investment in Poland. In general it followed a pattern similar to many other East European housing estates including: large scale of investment, dominance of a state-owned general contractor, predefined prefabricated technology and rigid living space standards. Like most estates in post-socialist cities, Ursynów was hardly affected by social erosion and does not face abandonment. At the same time it distinguishes itself from other estates. Whereas the most common problems of estates include increasing socio-economic differentiation amplified by the side effects of privatisation, the poor technical condition of the buildings caused by the long-term negligence of maintenance and a lack of complex programmes of regeneration of housing estates (Murie, Knorr-Siedow & van Kempen 2003; Musterd & van Kempen 2005; Temelova et al. 2011; Kovacs & Herfert 2012), only the last of these applies to the Ursynów Północny estate. There are several reasons for it.

Firstly Ursynów has not been affected by the escape of better-off households and more educated people following privatisation after 1989. In fact, the transformation period was not the first time the Polish state introduced private property to social housing. The new policy introduced by the newly appointed party and state leader Edward Gierek in 1971 adopted a general rule of increasing the share of private ownership in the housing system (Jarosz 2010). The housing estates were to be built by state-controlled housing associations. Furthermore, a right-to-buy accompanied by a system of discounted prices was introduced. The rules of allocation prioritised ‘work’ and ‘merits’ over ‘needs’. As Ursynów Północny was meant to be a flagship of the new policy it followed these rules. Therefore, the despite generally egalitarian character of socialist society, Ursynów was inhabited in relatively large part by well-off and educated people some of whom were the private owners of their flats.

Secondly, except for a short period of stagnation at the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s, Ursynów Północny has not faced a long period of decline. Since the early 1990s Ursynów has been the subject of constant development and change, resembling the model of a historical city rather than that of a housing estate.

Moreover, Ursynów generally enjoys a relatively good opinion among the residents of Warsaw and the Ursynów district (Węcławowicz, Kozłowski & Bajek 2003). This is partly because of very good communication with the city centre through the underground line and several bus lines. Another reason is the relatively high attractiveness of housing estates on the housing market in Warsaw. It is not only because of the persistent housing deficit in Poland and especially in Warsaw, the rigidity of the housing market and a low level of residential mobility, as is usually pointed out in other post-socialist countries (Kovacs & Herfert 2012), but also some positive changes taking place all over Warsaw: the development of communications, growth of trees and greenery, development of shops and services as well as technical renovation of buildings, especially in the field of thermo-modernisation. It has to be said that another factor increasing the attractiveness of old estates is a growing disappointment with newly built housing. Admittedly new houses maintain higher technical standards, whereas the quality of their urban environment is criticised for its high density of building insufficiently mitigated by planning regulations. As a consequence, large housing estates with their green areas and developed infrastructure are seen as attractive places for new developments and have to face growing investment pressure. This process can be seen as the most probable cause of future social downgrading of some of the estates. The main assets of the underprivileged inhabitants, namely green spaces and affordable schools, can be reduced in scale by new buildings or commercialised (Sykora 2000). Therefore this paper does not focus on the privatisation of flats but analyses the influence privatisation has on the space between buildings, assuming that this sphere is the main arena for participatory processes.

Last but not least, a distinguishing feature of Ursynów Północny is its urban and architectural design. While East European estates are considered to be more commonplace and uniform than those in Western Europe (Hall, Murie & Knorr-Siedow 2005; Murie et al. 2005), Ursynów Północny has been praised for its innovative and user-friendly design, both in the period of its construction and now (Węcławowicz, Kozłowski & Bajek 2003). It is easier to find similarities between Ursynów and some of the western estates (for example Bures-Orsay – now Les Ulis - designed by R. Camelot and F. Prieur in 1967 in the southwestern suburbs of Paris) than eastern ones. The background of this phenomenon consists of two facts. The first one is the timing of the project – a time of political change, enthusiasm for reforms and governmental support for innovations. The second is the young age of the designers. The competition design was prepared by Ludwik Borawski aged 46, Jerzy Szczepanik Dzikowski aged 26 and Andrzej Szkop aged 27. Shortly after the competition Ludwik Borawski died and the position of architect in chief was assigned to Marek Budzyński, 34, who returned to Poland after one and a half years spent in Denmark. Following the idealistic pro-social approach introduced by modernist architects in the pre-war period, designers have seen themselves as ambassadors of the future inhabitants in terms of the quality of the estate. They have seen themselves in opposition to the strong interest coalition formed by large public construction companies and planning institutions which took control over the housing industry in socialist countries (Budzyński 1975). Contrary to many designs of the time, the designers have brought some depth to their spatial ideas, combining their own social sensitivity with the expert knowledge of the demographers, sociologists and psychologists participating in the design team. Their main objectives were to stimulate the activity of the inhabitants and extend social activity beyond the ‘pioneer’ period to the next stage of estate development (Herbst 1975). Ursynów’s design was an attempt to combine the positives of the neighbourhood unit and traditional urban space, forming a ‘city within the city’.

Due to the above-mentioned features, Ursynów Północny presents more qualities that are endangered than issues to be tackled. Therefore the article focuses on the potential of housing estates and good practices which can be tracked throughout their lifetime. In this paper Ursynów Północny is considered as a part of the city equivalent to inner-city districts.

Planning the Ursynów Północny housing estate

Ursynów was designed applying a traditional planning approach, with participation practices absent during planning, construction and occupation. In a way, the estate’s design introduced a structuralist approach of a structure with a long life cycle and infills with shorter life cycles (Herzberger 2011). According to the ‘Group parcellation’ theory of M. Budzyński (1984a), the fixed net of public spaces containing public infrastructure is the basic urban framework. The net structure forms the parcels, whose space is formed and is continuously transformed through the participatory processes. However, due to the centralised and monopolised investment process of the time, prefabricated buildings became an unchangeable framework for future activities. Buildings formed a system of three overlapping networks: pedestrian paths, traffic routes and green belts (Figure 1). The areas for future evolution, and therefore the participation of the inhabitants, were to be flat interiors, gardens, balconies and verandas as well as the arrangement of shopping buildings. Consequently, it was the basic structure of the pedestrian paths that became the space available for participation and social bonding.

Figure 1

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Figure 1

The main urban structure of the Ursynów Północny estate: a – pedestrian paths, b– green areas, c– traffic routes and parking areas, d– schools, e– commercial buildings, f– community clubs.

Source: own study

Citation: Urban Development Issues 60, 1; 10.2478/udi-2018-0034

The activity of the residents following occupation of the estate

Whereas the innovative design was supported by the authorities, the construction of the estate coincided with a time of economic crisis in the late ‘1970s. Consequently, and in typical fashion for large housing estates, the Ursynów estate was not fully completed. Admittedly, all the housing blocks were built along with some of the schools and a few shops, but the lack of the planned urban centre, work places and an underground line ruined the idea of Ursynów being a ‘city within the city’ (Romaszkan 1982). On the other hand, the difficulties and isolation from the other districts stimulated social activity. Social activity was also enhanced by two factors, which are considered distinguishing features of Ursynów against the background of a typical large housing estate. The first factor was the relatively high level of the residents’ education. Many of them were artists, journalists and intellectuals. Furthermore, a larger than usual proportion of the residents had deliberately selected Ursynów as a place to live instead of moving there due to the lack of an alternative. These circumstances worked in favour of creating local identity and willingness to participate (Lisowski & Drozdowski 1984). In addition, Ursynów as a whole was built as a cooperative investment. Therefore, the housing cooperative SBM Ursynów managed the estate on its own and actually played the role of local government (Rogiński 2017: 42).

At the beginning the residents’ activity focused on the organisation of the flats followed by rearrangement balconies and verandas, as well as fencing and planting small gardens. Garden fences that became the borders between private and public space were built informally by individuals (Pańkow 2016: 315) and tolerated by the cooperative. Spatial activity focused on greenery as some community gardens were established within the pedestrian path areas. Nevertheless the residents’ involvement in creating the common areas was mostly confined to coercive ‘social actions’, such as tree planting, mostly performed contrary to the principles of landscape design. With regard to influencing the way that the estate areas were laid out, the main activating factor was conflict or disagreement (Błędowski & Chordecki 1984).

The planning approach to participation in the projects for further development

In the 1980s designers took the empty space left in the location of the unrealised facilities as an opportunity to readjust the vision of the urban space in the estate in order to comply with the changing circumstances. Two of the master plans delivered in the 1980s were the ‘Ursynów - Extensions’ project and the KEN Avenue Master Plan (Budzyński 1984b; Budzyński & Badowski 1990). The ‘Ursynów - Extensions’ project emphasised the individual activity of the inhabitants as investors, following the footsteps of Lucien Kroll (Hunziker 1976). It provided the opportunity to build extensions to the prefabricated buildings in the form of frontage development as well as to build small shops and kiosks within the pedestrian path areas. Only the latter element was carried out. The idea of building the extensions triggered protests from the residents, who did not want any changes after having lived in a provisional environment for several years. The second plan, the KEN Avenue Master Plan, had been inspired by the location of the church. It put emphasis on the shape of the public space at the city core so as to make it a spatial medium of local identity and an arena for participation. The KEN avenue plan corresponded with Leon Krier’s idea of ‘architecture of community’ (Krier 2009). It was carried out through the 1990s and after the year 2000, mostly by the Ursynów housing cooperative. All the above mentioned projects provided new infills to the unchangeable structure of the basic network. Although it created an evolving urban system, as was originally postulated by the designers, the main actors in the development remained the housing association and small businesses, while the inhabitants’ role in shaping the estate area was a side effect of managing the difficulties rather than organised activity.

Landownership processes

Among the many other changes, the year 1989 introduced landownership as a new objective of spatial development and participation. New procedures, aiming at the regulation of landownership according to capitalist values, forced housing associations to formalise and remove ambiguity from land ownership by concluding a permanent land use agreement with the city. That goal, however, has never been fully accomplished. One of the reasons behind this was a lack of recognition of the necessity of common space. The land has been divided into building plots and vehicle streets, with no regard to the pedestrian paths. Consequently, the latter have been exposed to conflicts of interest among residents. Conflicts arise between convenience for car traffic and child and pedestrian safety. The green areas were not regulated at first, in order to cut down the annual lease payments. As a result, the plot map of the Ursynów estate is a palimpsest of the remains of old field patterns, the traffic network and buildings plots, where the actual spatial structure is almost unrecognisable. Therefore, introducing private property into the land tenure arrangements posed more questions than it gave answers to and has not translated into a sense of ownership that could have encouraged residents to take the initiative in reshaping their neighbourhood.

The shift in landownership recognition was followed by a wide range of court claims from the former land owners and their heirs intending to regain the expropriated land. As a result of changes in the law and rulings of the Supreme Court, Supreme Administrative Court and Constitutional Court, in general there are two conditions to be met in order to reprivatise a plot of land. The first of these is the unrealised aim of expropriation, which is usually interpreted as non-compliance with the primary design. A second condition is that the land use agreement between city and the housing association was not concluded before 1998 (Odpowiedź sekretarza stanu… 2013). For this reason, the green areas have been the first to be reprivatised, as most of the sports and recreational facilities planned in the green belts had not been realised and were replaced with lawns.

Spatial transformation and informal participation

Property rights and the reprivatisation process translated into changes in the spatial development of the estate through the right to build, according to which only the Local Spatial Management Plan could prevent a landowner from building on his plot. One of the examples is the Zakątek Cybisa development at Cybisa Street which is currently under construction (Figure 2).

While there was no Local Plan, it was possible to build new housing developments on the green areas on the basis of an administrative decision ‘Conditions of Development and Spatial Management’ (in Polish: Decyzja o warunkach zabudowy i zagospodarowania terenu), which usually constrains the density of construction and building height to that of the neighbouring buildings. As the buildings bordering the belts of greenery were deliberately designed to be the highest in the estate, some of the green areas can become the most intensely built-up zones in Ursynów. The interests of the neighbours are protected by law in terms of fire safety and insolation but not in terms of quality of life, which in this case is based on green areas and pedestrian spaces. Furthermore, new development on Cybisa Street gave a new meaning to the inner vehicle roadways, used as access ways to the parking areas, which had been a rather insignificant element of the landscape. These inner roadways are the only possible link to the public road for new developments located in the green areas. Therefore, permission from the owner of the access road, which in this case is the city which owns the land and the cooperative that owns the road, became a key condition of the building licence. In the case of Cybisa Street, the president of the City Council and president of the cooperative agreed to make the access way available to the developer, provoking suspicions of corruption. The president of the cooperative lost his job and even though it did not change the situation at Cybisa Street, it affected the attitude of residents and cooperatives towards new developments.

Figure 2

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Figure 2

The spatial evolution of the Zakątek Cybisa development in the green area at Cybisa Street on the Ursynów Północny estate.

Source: 1974: Marek Budzyński, 1994,2013,2017: Warsaw Map Service

Citation: Urban Development Issues 60, 1; 10.2478/udi-2018-0034

Only the last stage of the process, e.g. the building licence for new development, is subject to protests, as the reprivatisation of the expropriated land is considered an act of historical justice, including by the residents. However it is the reprivatisation of land that should be essentially public that appears to be the source of the problem.

In general, objections regarding non-compliance with the details of the initial project despite keeping to its basic ideas were used to negate these ideas. Moreover, the fact that they only took account of the initial design when considering fulfilment of the aim of expropriation (which was the building of a housing estate) meant that they could override subsequent changes and adjustments. That undermined the effort that the inhabitants had been putting into the Ursynów development over the last 40 years and was incompatible with the idea of Ursynów being an evolving urban system. The residents trust in the local authorities and housing association was also undermined, as these were unable or unwilling to protect their interests. In fact the case of Cybisa Street has revealed an intentional lack of continuity in estate development, marked by the date of 1989, as expressed on the district website: ‘[Ursynów] transforms from a bleak housing estate into a vibrant part of the metropolis’ (Ursynów district site). That approach draws a division line between the residents for whom the past of the estate had become the source of their well-being and the local government for whom it seems to be unwanted baggage. The increase in social awareness of the spatial qualities of the estate and, consequently, an increase in the activity of the inhabitants is the good news that came out of it. This was seen in the next new development in another green area, called ‘Great Adventure Square’. Residents from that part of estate took advantage of the earlier experience of the residents of Cybisa Street and began to protest at an earlier stage of the investment process, putting pressure on local government to enact the Local Spatial Management Plan.

Formal participatory practices

Participation in formal planning procedures can be understood as a reaction to disregard for the spatial quality of estates. The inhabitants’ requests of the plans are limited to maintaining the status quo, particularly in the sphere of green areas and parking spaces (SBM Stokłosy site). The residents are protesting against any new buildings regardless of their location, which would result in better protection of the estate’s green areas as well as the slowing down of the development of Ursynów’s urban core. They are also trying to prevent planners from transforming the inner parking access ways into public roads. Despite the fact that it would not change the way these routes into the estate are used, that shift is perceived as opening new opportunities for developers. The pedestrian paths are to be protected far more thoroughly than was originally intended by the designers. Neither extensions within the frontage development nor additional kiosks are allowed (Miejscowy plan zagospodarowania przestrzennego…).

An additional barrier to the urban development of Ursynów is the fact that the Local Spatial Management Plans are divided into small areas, partly due to the landownership claims. Consequently there is no planning document, which could bring a comprehensive spatial vision of the Ursynów Północny estate. It seems to be especially critical in the central part of Ursynów – KEN Avenue – that is now just a border between two plans.

Apart for the protests and formal planning procedures, the most popular form of participation nowadays is a participatory budget. With this year’s budget of 6,500,000 PLN and ca 250 projects, Ursynów is one of the leading districts in Warsaw. The original Ursynów Północny estate with some 40,000 inhabitants is, however, a minor part of the whole district which has a population of ca 145,000 inhabitants. The participatory budget map (Ursynów district participatory budget site) shows that the administrative division is quite inadequate for the efficient scale of communities with a genuine ability to participate.

Participatory projects have highlighted a great interest in the green areas as a social space whereas traditional public spaces like streets, squares and pedestrian paths seem to be outside the area of interest of participants. The reasons behind this can of course be a change in lifestyle and the shrinkage of green areas across the whole city. The tendency can be also driven by an intention to secure public status for the green areas and to perceive development as a compensation for the building up the green areas. Furthermore, social activity is often perceived as a nuisance, which leads to moving it as far from the dwellings as possible. Making green areas more available and pedestrian-safe results in the segregation of traffic, including pedestrian and bicycle routes. This leads to the duplication of paths and a further loss of green surface. As a result green areas become more crowded and also more paved every year, while pedestrian paths seem to be less vibrant than they were in the ‘difficult’ 1980s.

In some cases the implementation of participatory projects causes protests from the residents. The most common reason is protection of car traffic and the existing qualities of the green areas.

Conclusion

From the very beginning of the estate, participatory practices revolved around managing the green areas, pointing to their growing importance. During the last twenty years car traffic has become another significant factor, especially in terms of parking spaces but also pedestrians’ safety problems, resulting in the paving of green areas. Whereas in the 1970s individual activity in managing the green areas was seen as an opportunity to preserve its natural character, recent changes indicate the need to moderate the activity of the residents and investors in order to sustain the green areas in a biologically active state. Maintaining nature in the urban environment has become one of the main objectives of designing a sustainable community. Residents seem to accept and take for granted a modernist vision of the city, e.g. a model of a housing estate with broad green areas, and they do not express the need for the traditional urban model. Nevertheless the traditional public spaces in the centre of the Ursynów estate are becoming very popular among the residents. Participatory practices are strongly affected by a sequence of procedures including the ambiguity of landownership, reprivatisation of expropriated land and new developments. Altogether they create a long-term process which neglects the original structure of the estate. The outcome of that process is unexpectedly a high status for the inner parking access ways and green areas, out of proportion to their spatial or social significance, as well as the fact that social activity focuses on resisting any urban change as an imposition on the status quo perceived as an anchor of the local community. Despite the residents’ activity and support demonstrated by housing cooperatives and local government, there is an apparent difference in the power of residents and private developers, which in general arises from the legal and business environment. In the conflict of values that confronts the sense of local identity, well-being and quality of urban space with ownership and entitlement to profit, the latter’s greater power is indisputable. This lack of symmetry results in an antagonism that is impossible to resolve by means of consensus politics. Unless one uses multi-value logic, the antagonism is unlikely to be transformed into agonistic positions which are considered more productive and adequate to social reality (Rogers et al. 2017: 11–15). In fact, most of the issues concerning spatial management, apart from the new buildings, can be interpreted as a quite well balanced game of interests between residents, housing associations, the district and the municipality. It matches the pattern of a spatially evolving and socially sustainable urban system. However when it comes to new buildings, which are the most important feature in forming the area of the estate, private developers are the ones who have got the initiative to reshape the urban system. This is contrary to the socialist period, when housing cooperatives and designers were the most active players in estate development. As a result, formal plans are often a random outcome of conflicting interests rather than a coherent strategic vision of the future development of the estate.

Most of above mentioned processes are observed in the large housing estates across Poland (Szafrańska 2013; Mergler, Pobłocki & Wudarski 2013). The main differences arise from the relatively good economic position of Warsaw and Ursynów, which results in investment pressure having a major role as a source of conflict. It underpins the importance of green areas as a subject of participatory practices. This complies with the general situation of participation in Poland, as K. Pawłowska (2012: 66) points out that the ‘planning and management of green areas is particularly closely related to ideas of public participation’. Typically participation is considered as a way of avoiding or resolving conflict (Pawłowska 2008).

However the Ursynów Północny case shows the potential for distinctive urban design to broaden the scale of participation. The division of space provided by the urban pattern in Ursynów Północny goes well with the different approaches shown by residents in formal and informal participation processes. Therefore it is more apparent in Ursynów Północny than in other estates that the area of a housing estate consists of different types of environment which need differing participatory approaches. One of these areas is the urban core, like KEN Avenue in Ursynów (Figure 3). This is the space of links with the district and the city, of the fulfilment of metropolitan ambitions and of the most intense development, where participation should be established at the city and district level. Another environment is represented by local public spaces, featuring local identity (Figure 4), where the inhabitants of the estate and the district should be encouraged to participate and as much as possible to launch a range of activities, including recreational activities, in order to relieve the green areas (Figure 5). The third type of space is found in the green zones in the estate, where the inhabitants’ activity should follow sustainable development guidelines in terms of green and blue infrastructure, biodiversity and sometimes even wildlife preservation. Finally the fourth environment is formed of the pedestrian access paths or neighbourhood spaces (Figure 6), where maximum participation should be allowed in the form of agonistic management by the residents and the owners from neighbouring blocks with institutions like the housing association or cooperative as moderator. Whereas there is an obvious need to empower citizens and inhabitants through participatory practices, in author’s opinion it is also inevitable that one should bring back a traditional planning approach as a medium of comprehensive and coherent spatial vision for the estate which would serve as a spatial framework for a participatory approach.

Figure 3

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Figure 3

KEN Avenue on the Ursynów Północny estate

Source: photo by Krystyna Ilmurzyńska (2008)

Citation: Urban Development Issues 60, 1; 10.2478/udi-2018-0034

Figure 4

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Figure 4

Local public space in the city core of Ursynów Północny.

Source: photo by Krystyna Ilmurzyńska (2013)

Citation: Urban Development Issues 60, 1; 10.2478/udi-2018-0034

Figure 5

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Figure 5

The Main Square and parish church in the core of Ursynów Północny

Source: photo by Krystyna Ilmurzyńska (2018)

Citation: Urban Development Issues 60, 1; 10.2478/udi-2018-0034

Figure 6

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Figure 6

A pedestrian path on the Ursynów Północny estate

Source: photo by Krystyna Ilmurzyńska (2017)

Citation: Urban Development Issues 60, 1; 10.2478/udi-2018-0034

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  • Budzyński, M. & Badowski, Z. (1990) Ursynów-Natolin. Plan szczegółowy regulacyjny Alei K.E.N., Spółdzielnia Pracy Twórczej Architektów i Plastyków „A”, Warsaw [in Polish, internal materials, unpublished].

  • Budzyński, M. (1975) Ursynów Północny – uwarunkowania, zasady, Architektura, 1/2, 25-26 [in Polish].

  • Budzyński, M. (1984a) Parcelacja grupowa, doctoral thesis, Faculty of Architecture Warsaw University of Technology [in Polish].

  • Budzyński, M., gen. designer, (1984b) Ursynów Północny Dobudowy. Analiza i wytyczne, Państwowe Przedsiębiorstwo Sztuka Polska, Warsaw [in Polish, internal materials, unpublished].

  • Claridge, T. (2004) Designing social capital sensitive participation methodologies Report, Social Capital Research, Brisbane, Australia.

  • Hall, S., Murie, A. & Knorr-Siedow, T. (2005) Large housing estates in their historical context [in:] R. van Kempen, K. Dekker, S. Hall & I. Tosics, eds., Restructuring large housing estates in Europe The Policy Press, Bristol, 63–83.

  • Healey, P. (1997) Collaborative Planning: Shaping Places in Fragmented Societies Macmillan Press Ltd, Hampshire.

  • Healey, P. (1998) Collaborative planning in a stakeholder society Town Planning Review, 69 (1), 1–21.

  • Herbst, K. (1975) Propozycje socjotechniczne [in:] Ursynów Północny, Architektura, ½, 27 [in Polish].

  • Herzberger, H. (2011) Open Systems [in:] T. Valena, ed., Structuralism Reloaded – Rule-based design in architecture and urbanism Edition A.Menges, Stuttgart-London, 168–177.

  • Hubbard, P. & L. Lees (2018) The right to community? City, 22(1), 8–25. DOI:

  • Hunziker, Ch. (1976) Portrait de L.Kroll, L’Architecture D’aujourd’hui, 183, 62–80 [in French].

  • Jarosz, D. (2010) Mieszkanie się należy… Studium z peerelowskich praktyk społecznych Aspra-Jr, Warsaw [in Polish].

  • Kovacs, Z. & G. Herfert (2012) Development Pathways of Large Housing Estates in Post-socialist Cities: An International Comparison, Housing Studies, 27 (3), 1–19.

  • Krier, L. (2009) The Architecture of Community Island Press, Washington/Covelo/London.

  • Lisowski, A. & Drozdowski A. (1984) Kilka uwag o sytuacji materialnej mieszkańców Ursynowa, Biuletyn IGS, ½, 171–193 [in Polish].

  • Mergler L., Pobłocki, K. & Wudarski, M. (2013) Anty-Bezradnik przestrzenny: prawo do miasta w działaniu Biblioteka Res Publiki Nowej, Warsaw [in Polish].

  • Miejscowy plan zagospodarowania przestrzennego północnej części osiedla Stokłosy część B, załącznik do Uchwały nr LXIX/1902/2018 Rady M. St. Warszawy z dnia 14.06.2018. Available from: https://www.bip.warszawa.pl/dokumenty/radamiasta/uchwaly/2018_1902/1902_uch_zal_1.pdf [accessed: 20.12.2018] [in Polish].

  • Murie, A., Knorr-Siedow, T. & van Kempen, R. (2003) Large Housing Estates in Europe: General Developments and Theoretical Background, RESTATE Series 1, Urban and Regional Research Centre Utrecht, Utrecht.

  • Murie, A., Tosics, I., Aalbers, M., Sendi, R. & Mali, B.C (2005) Provatisation and after [in:] R. van Kempen, K. Dekker, S. Hall & I. Tosics, eds., Restructuring large housing estates in Europe The Policy Press, Bristol, 85–103.

  • Musterd, S. & van Kempen, R. (2005) Large Housing Estates in European Cities. Opinion of residents on recent developments RESTATE report 4k, Urban and Regional Research Centre Utrecht, Utrecht.

  • Odpowiedź sekretarza stanu w Ministerstwie Sprawiedliwości – z upoważnienia ministra – na zapytanie nr 4807 w sprawie zwrotu nieruchomości uprzednio wywłaszczonej, będącej w użytkowaniu wieczystym Warszawa, 2.08.2013. Available from: www.sejm.gov.pl/sejm7.nsf/InterpelacjaTresc.xsp?key=1DF84DAF [accessed: 25.05.2018] [in Polish].

  • Pańkow, L. (2016) Bloki w słońcu. Mała historia Ursynowa Północnego, Wydawnictwo Czarne, Wołowiec [in Polish].

  • Pawłowska, K. (2008) Przeciwdziałanie konfliktom wokół ochrony i kształtowania krajobrazu: partycypacja społeczna, debata publiczna, negocjacje, Wydawnictwo Politechniki Krakowskiej, Krakow [in Polish].

  • Pawłowska, K. (2012) Public participation in decision making on urban nature (Sustainable Development Applications 3), Sendzimir Foundation, Krakow, 53–70.

  • Rogers, D., McAuliffe, C., Piracha A. & Schatz, L. (2017) Resident Involvement in Urban Development in Sydney: The New Politics of the City (Henry Halloran Trust Blue Sky Research Reports, 14HT11) University of Sydney, Sydney.

  • Rogiński, A. (2017) Historia Ursynowa. Okiem dziennikarza Południe Andrzej Rogiński, Warsaw [in Polish].

  • Romaszkan, A. (1982) Zakończenie bez zakończenia Polityka, 15, 8 [in Polish].

  • Sykora, L. (2000) Post-Communist City, [in:] Jażdżewska, I., ed., XIII Konwersatorium Wiedzy o Mieście. Miasto postsocjalistyczne. Organizacja przestrzeni miejskiej i jej przemiany, Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Łódzkiego, Łódź, 41–45.

  • Szafrańska, E. (2013) Large Housing Estates in Post-Socialist Poland as a Housing Policy Challenge, European Spatial Research And Policy, 20(1), 119–129.

  • Temelova, J., J.Novak, M.Ouředníček & P.Špačková (2011) Housing Estates in the Czech Republic after Socialism: Various Trajectories and Inner Differentiation, Urban Studies, 48, 1811–1834. DOI:

  • Ustawa z dnia 27 marca 2003 r. o planowaniu i zagospodarowaniu przestrzennym, Dz.U. 2003 nr 80 poz. 717 [in Polish].

  • Van Beckhoven, E., B. van Boxmeer, B. & Ferrando, L.G. (2005) Local Participation in Spain and the Netherlands in: R. van Kempen, K. Dekker, S. Hall & I. Tosics, eds, Restructuring large housing estates in Europe The Policy Press, Bristol: 231–255

  • van Kempen, R., Dekker, K., Hall, S. & Tosics, I., eds., (2005) Restructuring large housing estates in Europe The Policy Press, Bristol.

  • Wassenberg, F. (2013), Large housing estates: ideas, rise, fall and recovery, Bijlmermeer and beyond Sustainable Urban Areas 48, IOS Press under the imprint Delft University Press, Amsterdam.

  • Węcławowicz G., Guszcza, A. & Kozłowski, S. (2004) Large Housing Estates in Poland. Policies and practices RESTATE report 3f, Urban and Regional Research Centre Utrecht, Utrecht.

  • Węcławowicz G., Kozłowski, S. & Bajek, R. (2003) Large Housing Estates in Poland. Overview of developments and problems in Warsaw RESTATE report 2f, Urban and Regional Research Centre Utrecht, Utrecht.

Internet sources

SBM Stokłosy site: https://www.stoklosy.com.pl/1;363_zarzad_spoldzielni_budowlano__mieszkaniowej_stoklosy [accessed: 8.02.2017] [in Polish].

Ursynów district participatory budget site: http://ursynow.pl/dla-mieszkancow/dialog-spoleczny/budzet-partycypacyjny/budzet-partycypacyjny-na-rok-2019/ [accessed: 27.05.2018] [in Polish].

Ursynów district site: www.ursynow.pl/ursynow/o-ursynowie [accessed: 28.06.2018] [in Polish].

Warsaw Map Service: Biuro Geodezji I Katastru m.st. Warszawy, update: May 2017: http://mapa.um.warszawa.pl/mapaApp1/mapa?service=mapa_historyczna&L=en [accessed: 27.05.2018].

Arnstein, S.R. (1969) A Ladder Of Citizen Participation Journal of the American Planning Association, 35(4), 216–224.

Ayala, X. & Sotoca, A. (2012) Social identity and Mass Housing Estates [in:] M. Gyurkovich, ed., Future of the city. Mass housing estates of multifamily housing complexes? Eco Rehab 3 Cracow 2012 Cracow University of Technology, Krakow, 56–64.

Baker, M., Coaffee, J. & Sherriff, G. (2007) Achieving successful participation in the new UK spatial planning system Planning Practice & Research, 22(1), 79–93.

Błędowski, P. & Chordecki, A. (1984) Współudział mieszkańców w organizacji życia społecznego zespołu osiedlowego na przykładzie Ursynowa Biuletyn IGS, 1/2, 149–170 [in Polish].

Budzyński, M. & Badowski, Z. (1990) Ursynów-Natolin. Plan szczegółowy regulacyjny Alei K.E.N., Spółdzielnia Pracy Twórczej Architektów i Plastyków „A”, Warsaw [in Polish, internal materials, unpublished].

Budzyński, M. (1975) Ursynów Północny – uwarunkowania, zasady, Architektura, 1/2, 25-26 [in Polish].

Budzyński, M. (1984a) Parcelacja grupowa, doctoral thesis, Faculty of Architecture Warsaw University of Technology [in Polish].

Budzyński, M., gen. designer, (1984b) Ursynów Północny Dobudowy. Analiza i wytyczne, Państwowe Przedsiębiorstwo Sztuka Polska, Warsaw [in Polish, internal materials, unpublished].

Claridge, T. (2004) Designing social capital sensitive participation methodologies Report, Social Capital Research, Brisbane, Australia.

Hall, S., Murie, A. & Knorr-Siedow, T. (2005) Large housing estates in their historical context [in:] R. van Kempen, K. Dekker, S. Hall & I. Tosics, eds., Restructuring large housing estates in Europe The Policy Press, Bristol, 63–83.

Healey, P. (1997) Collaborative Planning: Shaping Places in Fragmented Societies Macmillan Press Ltd, Hampshire.

Healey, P. (1998) Collaborative planning in a stakeholder society Town Planning Review, 69 (1), 1–21.

Herbst, K. (1975) Propozycje socjotechniczne [in:] Ursynów Północny, Architektura, ½, 27 [in Polish].

Herzberger, H. (2011) Open Systems [in:] T. Valena, ed., Structuralism Reloaded – Rule-based design in architecture and urbanism Edition A.Menges, Stuttgart-London, 168–177.

Hubbard, P. & L. Lees (2018) The right to community? City, 22(1), 8–25. DOI:

Hunziker, Ch. (1976) Portrait de L.Kroll, L’Architecture D’aujourd’hui, 183, 62–80 [in French].

Jarosz, D. (2010) Mieszkanie się należy… Studium z peerelowskich praktyk społecznych Aspra-Jr, Warsaw [in Polish].

Kovacs, Z. & G. Herfert (2012) Development Pathways of Large Housing Estates in Post-socialist Cities: An International Comparison, Housing Studies, 27 (3), 1–19.

Krier, L. (2009) The Architecture of Community Island Press, Washington/Covelo/London.

Lisowski, A. & Drozdowski A. (1984) Kilka uwag o sytuacji materialnej mieszkańców Ursynowa, Biuletyn IGS, ½, 171–193 [in Polish].

Mergler L., Pobłocki, K. & Wudarski, M. (2013) Anty-Bezradnik przestrzenny: prawo do miasta w działaniu Biblioteka Res Publiki Nowej, Warsaw [in Polish].

Miejscowy plan zagospodarowania przestrzennego północnej części osiedla Stokłosy część B, załącznik do Uchwały nr LXIX/1902/2018 Rady M. St. Warszawy z dnia 14.06.2018. Available from: https://www.bip.warszawa.pl/dokumenty/radamiasta/uchwaly/2018_1902/1902_uch_zal_1.pdf [accessed: 20.12.2018] [in Polish].

Murie, A., Knorr-Siedow, T. & van Kempen, R. (2003) Large Housing Estates in Europe: General Developments and Theoretical Background, RESTATE Series 1, Urban and Regional Research Centre Utrecht, Utrecht.

Murie, A., Tosics, I., Aalbers, M., Sendi, R. & Mali, B.C (2005) Provatisation and after [in:] R. van Kempen, K. Dekker, S. Hall & I. Tosics, eds., Restructuring large housing estates in Europe The Policy Press, Bristol, 85–103.

Musterd, S. & van Kempen, R. (2005) Large Housing Estates in European Cities. Opinion of residents on recent developments RESTATE report 4k, Urban and Regional Research Centre Utrecht, Utrecht.

Odpowiedź sekretarza stanu w Ministerstwie Sprawiedliwości – z upoważnienia ministra – na zapytanie nr 4807 w sprawie zwrotu nieruchomości uprzednio wywłaszczonej, będącej w użytkowaniu wieczystym Warszawa, 2.08.2013. Available from: www.sejm.gov.pl/sejm7.nsf/InterpelacjaTresc.xsp?key=1DF84DAF [accessed: 25.05.2018] [in Polish].

Pańkow, L. (2016) Bloki w słońcu. Mała historia Ursynowa Północnego, Wydawnictwo Czarne, Wołowiec [in Polish].

Pawłowska, K. (2008) Przeciwdziałanie konfliktom wokół ochrony i kształtowania krajobrazu: partycypacja społeczna, debata publiczna, negocjacje, Wydawnictwo Politechniki Krakowskiej, Krakow [in Polish].

Pawłowska, K. (2012) Public participation in decision making on urban nature (Sustainable Development Applications 3), Sendzimir Foundation, Krakow, 53–70.

Rogers, D., McAuliffe, C., Piracha A. & Schatz, L. (2017) Resident Involvement in Urban Development in Sydney: The New Politics of the City (Henry Halloran Trust Blue Sky Research Reports, 14HT11) University of Sydney, Sydney.

Rogiński, A. (2017) Historia Ursynowa. Okiem dziennikarza Południe Andrzej Rogiński, Warsaw [in Polish].

Romaszkan, A. (1982) Zakończenie bez zakończenia Polityka, 15, 8 [in Polish].

Sykora, L. (2000) Post-Communist City, [in:] Jażdżewska, I., ed., XIII Konwersatorium Wiedzy o Mieście. Miasto postsocjalistyczne. Organizacja przestrzeni miejskiej i jej przemiany, Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Łódzkiego, Łódź, 41–45.

Szafrańska, E. (2013) Large Housing Estates in Post-Socialist Poland as a Housing Policy Challenge, European Spatial Research And Policy, 20(1), 119–129.

Temelova, J., J.Novak, M.Ouředníček & P.Špačková (2011) Housing Estates in the Czech Republic after Socialism: Various Trajectories and Inner Differentiation, Urban Studies, 48, 1811–1834. DOI:

Ustawa z dnia 27 marca 2003 r. o planowaniu i zagospodarowaniu przestrzennym, Dz.U. 2003 nr 80 poz. 717 [in Polish].

Van Beckhoven, E., B. van Boxmeer, B. & Ferrando, L.G. (2005) Local Participation in Spain and the Netherlands in: R. van Kempen, K. Dekker, S. Hall & I. Tosics, eds, Restructuring large housing estates in Europe The Policy Press, Bristol: 231–255

van Kempen, R., Dekker, K., Hall, S. & Tosics, I., eds., (2005) Restructuring large housing estates in Europe The Policy Press, Bristol.

Wassenberg, F. (2013), Large housing estates: ideas, rise, fall and recovery, Bijlmermeer and beyond Sustainable Urban Areas 48, IOS Press under the imprint Delft University Press, Amsterdam.

Węcławowicz G., Guszcza, A. & Kozłowski, S. (2004) Large Housing Estates in Poland. Policies and practices RESTATE report 3f, Urban and Regional Research Centre Utrecht, Utrecht.

Węcławowicz G., Kozłowski, S. & Bajek, R. (2003) Large Housing Estates in Poland. Overview of developments and problems in Warsaw RESTATE report 2f, Urban and Regional Research Centre Utrecht, Utrecht.

Journal Information

Figures

  • View in gallery

    The main urban structure of the Ursynów Północny estate: a – pedestrian paths, b– green areas, c– traffic routes and parking areas, d– schools, e– commercial buildings, f– community clubs.

    Source: own study

  • View in gallery

    The spatial evolution of the Zakątek Cybisa development in the green area at Cybisa Street on the Ursynów Północny estate.

    Source: 1974: Marek Budzyński, 1994,2013,2017: Warsaw Map Service

  • View in gallery

    KEN Avenue on the Ursynów Północny estate

    Source: photo by Krystyna Ilmurzyńska (2008)

  • View in gallery

    Local public space in the city core of Ursynów Północny.

    Source: photo by Krystyna Ilmurzyńska (2013)

  • View in gallery

    The Main Square and parish church in the core of Ursynów Północny

    Source: photo by Krystyna Ilmurzyńska (2018)

  • View in gallery

    A pedestrian path on the Ursynów Północny estate

    Source: photo by Krystyna Ilmurzyńska (2017)

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