Securing green infrastructure is crucial to maintaining the quality of life in cities like Krakow, which maintain their position as important academic and cultural centres with historic traditions, have metropolitan aspirations, and struggle with investment pressure and suburban sprawl. Creating new public green spaces responding to the needs of city dwellers is a challenging task. The main goal of this paper is to map those activities which may be a direct and indirect result of teaching landscape architects about the use of participative planning in public park design. The article describes how and why public participation for landscape architects was introduced at Politechnika Krakowska (Cracow University of Technology, later referred to as CUT) and what inspired the development of the teaching programme. The theoretical background shows the links to the main theories in this field referring to both local and international researchers. Then the author justifies the choice of a public park as an appropriate topic for participatory design and refers to successful case studies from Poland and other European countries. A description of the course of study on public participation in the design of public parks and the methods and tools introduced is followed by an attempt to map the qualitative outcomes of the didactic efforts.
As far as the theory of participative planning is concerned, the data for this study was collected during a literature review along with the analysis of individual case studies (examples of good practice). The author conducted a qualitative analysis when mapping what action had been taken following students’ projects prepared over the last 16 years basing this on information she had gathered over the course of teaching the students. A review of municipal websites with official documents relating to urban planning and public consultation was also useful and personal communication was made with representatives of Zarząd Zieleni Miejskiej (the Municipal Greenery Authority, hereinafter referred to as ZZM). A series of interviews was carried out with people involved in the implementation of green policies in Krakow.
The path to public participation as an academic course in Kraków
When in the year 2000 the Institute for Landscape Architecture at CUT decided to open a new course of studies − landscape architecture − it was seen as an opportunity to officially include public participation in the training regime of future professionals who would later influence urban planning and landscape design. And that is why in 2002 the first group of students of landscape architecture took part in an experimental project at CUT. A semester project involving the design of a public park was preceded by a public survey and a participation workshop. This experiment has been repeated every year from then on in the form of design classes integrated with social science modules. The curriculum was developed by a team under the supervision of Krystyna Pawłowska which, apart from architects, also included sociologists and social geographers. Behind their initiative stood the individual experiences of the team (France - PACT-ARIM; UK, local government involvement after the collapse of communism in 1989) and a deep understanding of the social challenges connected with participative planning. The surveys that precede the project take place as part of the public communication module, which familiarises students with the programme of public participation in design projects and the basics of sociological surveys, in addition to making it possible to provide some practical training in various methods and research tools. The methods used by the students include various types of questionnaire, individual interviews, focus group interviews, observation studies, mental maps, methods of creative thinking and workshops with children.
The novelty of the curriculum was based on introducing a stage of identifying the extant situation before the design, not only through functional, natural, historical and compositional analyses appropriate to designers, but also by identifying appropriate circles of stakeholders and taking into consideration in the design their habits, needs and preferences. This is achieved by the selection of an actual location as a project site within Krakow (or its surroundings), as well as surveys among the residents of an area carried out by the students, the outcomes of which are to be taken into consideration in the project. This approach results in an improved quality of project, which goes beyond the artistic design itself and provides answers to the actual needs of the public.
After completing a sequence of classes (landscape perception, public communication, integrated design, sociology and environmental psychology) graduates should be able to use simple methods typical of the social sciences during the carrying out of their projects; they should know how to and be able to cooperate with professional social researchers and identify situations in which there is a necessity of professional mediation measures that exceed their capabilities (Pawłowska & Skrzyńska 2007).
These types of classes and the manner of their teaching are also meant to sensitise future designers to the goal of their activity, which is the design of a landscape that is sustainable, inclusive and that improves the quality of life, in other words—a landscape for people. This is fully compliant with one of the most important guiding documents in this field—the European Landscape Convention, which states in the preamble that ‘the landscape is a key element of individual and social well-being and .. its protection, management and planning entail rights and responsibilities for everyone’ and while defining the landscape, places it at the centre of human perception (European Landscape Convention 2000). Furthermore, the method of experiential learning that is used in this programme supplements theoretical academic lectures and increases the effectiveness of teaching through participation in processes and building a base of experiences. It is an example of the implementation of the principle of experiential learning as the best method of teaching adults (Kolb 1984). The programme of public participation in projects featuring the planning of space and landscape (Pawłowska et al. 2010) is based on transferring the participation ladder (Arnstein 1969) onto the reality of and regulations concerning spatial planning in Poland and the successive stages of the carrying out of projects involving space. It refers both to legally imposed methods and points to a palette of informal measures (Pawłowski 2015), whose implementation makes it possible to increase trust between parties and thus is conducive to the success of the project being carried out. Inspirations in this case were both the experiences and methods of participative planning in the US (Sanoff 2000; Creighton 2005) such as the work of Project for Public Spaces (Wiley-Schwartz & Madden 2005) or the National Charette Institute (NCI), Great Britain (like Planning for Real, which is a tool considered to be important in local urban planning (Proczek 2015; PfR)), and Germany (Bischoff, Selle & Sinning 2005). Especially interesting here is the activity of the MUA - Mycielski design practice which transfers Charette methodology and experiences to Polish conditions (Rogulski 2017). This method is also sometimes modified and used in landscape architecture teaching (Stępień & Pochwała 2011). Moreover domestic experiences are also obtained by institutions and NGOs that operate in the vast field of civil society beyond the area of urban planning. One such achievement is the creation of databases of methods and projects such as the website of the ‘Stocznia’ Social Research and Innovation Workshop and of the Foundation for Socio-economic Initiatives, which has run an online portal active since 2010, part of a system project entitled ‘Konsultacje z zasadami’ [Consultations with principles] (Konsultacje z zasadami…). In addition this involves the ‘Przestrzeń dla partycypacji’ (Space for participation) project which is a part of the PO WER 2.19 project carried out with Fundacja Napraw Sobie Miasto (Repair Your City Foundation), Pracownia Zrównoważonego Rozwoju (Sustainable Development Workshop) and Związek Miast Polskich (Association of Polish Cities) respectively; (Partycypacja Obywatelska…). The method of work developed at Politechnika Krakowska (CUT) refers to the current state of the art in terms of participative planning and is a creative development of it in terms of designing the landscape.
One of the essential preconditions needed to support increasing public involvement in matters of space is a broad education. It is difficult, however, to find universal means of effectively educating the public as a whole because it is necessary to adapt various methods to different target groups. Academic education creates a particular opportunity to demonstrate to future designers the benefits that the participation of potential users can bring them in design when they step out from the trap of solely aesthetic decision making (Gehl 2010). In order to convince them of the justification of initiating cooperation with the consumers of the space that is being designed, a list has been formulated of the most important benefits that landscape architects can obtain from participation:
- enabling designers to obtain accurate answers concerning the needs of users;
- use of the practical knowledge, inspiration and ideas of users;
- addressing points of contention before the start of serious conflicts;
- obtaining precise information about the level of support for a conceptual design;
- obtaining public acceptance for a design through a belief in co-authorship;
- obtaining the support of users in the competition for space with developers, public authorities and other participants;
- informing and educating users;
- gaining the trust of users that is necessary in the case at hand, as well as in those that follow.
The design of a public park as an opportunity to learn real public participation in urban planning
A discussion concerning the scale, scope and methods of public participation in spatial planning (Pawłowska & Staniewska 2014) and in general (Sobiesiak-Penszko 2013; Siemiński 2015) has been ongoing in Poland with varying intensity for many years. Current legal regulations create a certain formal framework for the involvement of the public in the drafting of planning documents of strategic importance (Study on the preconditions and directions of spatial development [Studium uwarunkowań i kierunków zagospodarowania przestrzennego] of the municipality) as well as those that constitute local law (the local physical development plan [Miejscowy plan zagospodarowania przestrzennego], according to the Spatial Planning and Spatial Management Act [Ustawa z dnia 27 marca 2003 r. o planowaniu…]). Despite numerous cases of apparent participation or ones that have only negligible involvement from the public side, current regulations do not make it impossible to carry out actual participation, nor do they deny the possibility of real influence on the shaping of the space of cities by residents (Pujdak & Patyk 2015). The condition for the success and implementation of an in-depth process of participation is convincing the public administration representatives to undertake something more than a simple formal concordance with the letter of the law in the efforts they undertake (Olejnik &Terlega 2018) - which is usually limited to brief official information and a ‘public debate’ as required by legal regulations. An attitude that is favourable to dialogue and actually searching for solutions to problems makes it possible to move from a formal, yet unproductive process, to actual participation and towards reaching consensus (Healey 1997). This situation is easier to create in the case of a project with a decidedly positive perception as is the case with an initiative to establish a public park. Moreover, when landscape architects decide to work for a public administration or local government after having had the experience of the participative design of a park while they are a student, it is easier for them to get involved in true participation concerning more serious and complicated topics.
The significance of areas of urban green is rising in contemporary cities since green spaces have a positive influence on air pollution (Tallis & al. 2011) and may reduce discomfort during periods of heat stress (Lafortezza et al. 2009) and above all they improve the wellbeing (Carrus et al. 2015) and quality of life of residents (Matsuoka & Kaplan 2008). For this reason these types of projects rarely meet with opposition, which leads to a fear of protests and conflicts associated with the NIMBY syndrome (Schively 2007) that is often present during spatial planning procedures (Bednarek-Szczepańska & Dmochowska-Dudek 2016). A design of the layout of a city park provides many opportunities for creatively solving natural conflicts between various groups of stakeholders through design, although it does not always mobilise involvement in planning as effectively as a protest in defence of one's interests (Staniewska 2014). A landscape design can naturally become a tool for reaching consensus (Pawłowska 2012). and an actual answer to the needs identified during social surveys. And that is why, among other reasons, the design of a public park was chosen as an experimental field for learning about participation. It concerns a subject which is easier to imagine than the abstract provisions of a local plan, which is often presented in a manner that is difficult to understand for non-specialists. Both the theory and practice of landscape planning confirm that the use of 3D visualisations tailored to the planning process stage encourages (Al-Kodmany 1999) and improves participatory planning (Lovett et al. 2015). And since visualisations of a park space and its plans are easier to read than a mosaic of land use categories presented on a map, described using specialist jargon replete with abbreviations and coefficients that are difficult to decipher, landscape architecture students are taught to use these tools effectively while communicating with various groups of stakeholders.
The increasing activity of individuals and non-governmental organisations that participate in the movement for ‘the right to the city’ (Harvey 2003) also applies to urban public spaces in terms of providing access to green areas. Moreover, green space in urban neighbourhoods (van Dillen, de Vries & Groenewegen 2012) and walkable green spaces have positive impacts on health (Takano, Nakamura & Watanabe 2002). The fact that greenery is a subject that encourages participation has been demonstrated in many Polish cities by motions for participation budgets in which a large proportion of the applications are projects concerning the rehabilitation of neglected areas, new planting, green squares and parks (Wojtuch 2016). Citizens’ activity in this field has also been seen in public consultations concerning the document ‘Directions of Development and Management of Areas of Greenery in Krakow for the years 2017-2030’ (‘Kierunki Rozwoju i Zarządzania Terenami Zieleni w Krakowie na lata 2017-2030’). These were conducted in Krakow and involved residents over the course of two years of work, featuring 15 workshop meetings in each district, as well as 5 information and discussion meetings. Detailed reports on the public consultations that were carried out can be viewed on the website of the Municipal Dialogue Centre in Krakow (II etap konsultacji… 2016). This interest in providing green infrastructure shows that a public park can focus public attention and involvement.
The inspirations for the incorporation of public participation in the design of a city park were both foreign and domestic good practices. The pioneering endeavour was the design of Dębnicki Park in Krakow (Pawłowska 2009). Park am Gleisdreieck in Berlin is an example of a long and complicated process that resulted in an extraordinary park with a rich functional programme while simultaneously leaving space for spontaneous actions by users and the renaturation of post-industrial areas (Walz et al. 2011). This project still attracts public attention and activity. Park nad Balatonem in Warsaw, in turn, was an effect of the courage of the local government (the mayor of the district), who decided to make the functional programme of the park dependent on the ideas of residents within the framework of a specified budget. In both cases the results of social surveys concerning the needs of residents became the basis for design competition guidelines (Mulak n.d.).
Actions undertaken during the teaching process
The specifics of the teaching process unfortunately do not allow for the full carrying out of a project from its conceptual phase to that of implementation—the completely voluntary realisation of a conceptual design of a public park is a task that is difficult in Polish conditions, and the establishment of public areas of planned greenery is still the task of local government. This is why the didactic sequence includes 10 stages that are accompanied by a simultaneous information campaign carried out by students:
- The selection of an area in which there is a need to provide public greenery − a park (usually in cooperation with Zarząd Zieleni Miejskiej (the Municipal Greenery Authority), often on the basis of signals provided by the public and expressed in the framework of, for instance, projects proposed for the participation budget);
- An on-site visit, preparing photographic documentation;
- Identifying the existing situation (planning and property situation, flora, fauna, the form of the terrain, existing development) and identifying the public environment (nearby institutions, education, social services, services, type of buildings, NGOs, informal groups);
- Identifying stakeholders;
- Adapting the research methods to stakeholder groups;
- Analysing preferences and needs (using various methods);
- The completion of the studies for the survey, report, initial definition of design guidelines;
- A design workshop;
- A design based on guidelines resulting from the research results and the problems included in the study curriculum;
- Project presentation, exhibition of projects.
Information about work starting on a subject is provided through local newspapers or websites and social media. Invitations to workshops come in the form of posters, which challenge students with the task of visual communication. When preparing for the design process, students learn how the area is being used by using the observation method employed by the Project for Public Spaces. Individual and focus group interviews, brainstorming and mental maps constitute a supplement to the quantitative studies. The stages ranging from the selection of an area to the conclusion of the survey based studies usually last one semester (around 4 months). The following semester commences with a design workshop, often organised at a school (work with children and youth provides numerous inspirations for creative solutions) or in places in which social life is concentrated (like the main hall of a community centre) and is an opportunity to meet future users and entice them to cooperation (e.g. during cultural events, at an equestrian club).
A large model of a given area is built during the workshop, making it possible to mark essential sites or the most urgent problems (as a reference to the Planning for Real method), in addition to marking the proposed layout of paths. Apart from this, participants are invited to thematic tables, where issues that are characteristic of a given area can be discussed—in the form of a ranking of preferred solutions, the search for forms that fit a given place, games or the construction of miniature models (Photo 1). The workshop is documented, filmed and photographed, with each thematic group preparing a report. The functional programme of the future park is once again updated and supplemented. The entire process resembles the Participatory Rapid Appraisal method (Theis & Grady 1991) in which the future designer steps into the role of a student treating the participants in the meetings as experts on the existing situation.
This is followed by design classes in accordance with the study curriculum, which take one semester (4 months) and culminate in a presentation at the university and in an exhibition of the best projects outside its walls, to which the participants of the social surveys and workshops are invited (Photo 2 and Photo 3).
A complete semester project is composed of four posters. The first poster presents the conceptual design of the development of a park site on a plan (drawn to a scale of 1:500 or 1:1000) and in cross-sections, a birds-eye view and in perspective views from eye level (Figure 1). The second one is to show a concept for a landscape architectural element located within the park − e.g. a park pavilion, a bridge − presented in technical drawings (drawn to a scale of 1:100 or 1:50) and visualisations. The next poster displays a particularly attractive design of a plant arrangement within a selected section of the park both using technical drawings and in coloured perspective views shown during two seasons of the year. The final poster demonstrates atypical elements of street furniture devised specifically for a given site (e.g. the visuals of educational trails, watch posts, wildlife observation posts) using technical drawings and perspective views.
Mapping the qualitative results of the didactic efforts undertaken
A measurable result of the classes on the participatory design of parks given to landscape architects is that several dozen conceptual designs are produced each year. Their body of work covers 16 locations in Krakow and its surroundings (Table 1). In order to refer to the public participation ladder, which assumes partnership and co-participation in the carrying out of a project, the question is posed concerning the practical effects of the didactic and design process that has been carried out in this manner. Do the conceptual designs that have been developed by that means have a chance of being built?
A list of public parks designed by landscape architecture students from Politechnika Krakowska (Cracow University of Technology) from 2002 onwards and further action after project completion
Source: own study based on information from the municipal websites, Zarząd Zieleni Miejskiej [ZZM] and personal archives
|Year||Park name||Further actions|
|1.||2002||Surroundings of the Piarists’ High School||Not known|
|2.||2003||Surroundings of the CUT dormitories||Not known|
|3.||2004||Three parks in Niepołomice (near the Mound, The Observatory, The Gateway to the Forest)||Exhibition of student projects held at Niepołomice Castle in spring 2005, others not known|
|4.||2005||Park in the town of Dobczyce at the foot of the dam||Exhibition of student projects held at a local cultural centre in spring 2006. Some new elements implemented area rehabilitated in years 2016-2018 (new paths, playground for children, tree and shrub maintenance), information from the municipal website (https://www.dobczyce.pl accessed)|
|5.||2006||Area in front of Zakrzówek Quarry||International design competition held in 2016, now in the preliminary stage of implementation of the design, graduates from CUT awarded a special mention in the competition|
|6.||2007||Dorota and Maciek Park in the Kliny Borkowskie district||Exhibition of student projects held at a local district cultural centre in spring 2008, other impacts not known|
|7.||2008||Sensory garden – extension of Dębnicki Park||Design works contracted in 2018 by ZZM, to be implemented in 2019|
|8.||2009||Park near Golikówka Street||Not known|
|9.||2010||Park near Płaszów Lake||Competition held in 2016, exhibition of competition entries in 2016 - main award for the design team of landscape architecture graduates from CUT, later further consultation (2017), project in course of implementation|
|10.||2011||Park near the Courts of Law||Participative planning undertaken by an independent NGO in 2015 − a small park called Mariana Eilego Square built in 2017 as a part of a bigger project named ‘Superścieżka / super-path’|
|11.||2012||Park in Szczyglice||Exhibition of student projects held at a local cultural centre in spring 2013, other not known|
|12.||2013||Park near the ponds on Szuwarowa Street||Exhibition of student projects held at a local district cultural centre and at an equestrian centre in spring 2014. Local land use plan implemented. Preliminary work undertaken by ZZM to clarify the issues of complicated land ownership (2018)|
|13.||2014||Park near Sudoł Creek||Not known|
|14.||2015||Park at the Widok housing estate||Competition held for part of the area in 2016 - main award given to a design office where a member of the team was a landscape architecture graduate from CUT|
|15.||2016||Dąbie Park||Exhibition of student projects held at Małopolski Ogród Sztuki (the Garden of the Arts, a cultural institution) in spring 2017. Partly in the course of implementation, students on internships at ZZM|
|16.||2017||Park near the ponds at Tetmajera Street||Exhibition of student projects held at the municipal pavilion for tourist information in Krakow in spring 2018. In autumn 2018 ZZM announced a tender for a detailed project proposal taking into account the students’ ideas and the results of current participation meetings. Further stage of consultation planned in autumn 2018|
|17.||2018||Park near Lubostroń Street||Local land use plan implemented. Preliminary work undertaken by ZZM to clarify the issues of complicated land ownership. In the course of design at CUT (fall/winter semester 2018)|
The answer to this question is not obvious. The didactic cycle is difficult to carry over to the practical side of the implementation of a development project and the direct transfer of projects for construction is not possible for a number of reasons. One of them is that some individual creative solutions accepted by supervisors during classes can be too costly and exceed the capabilities of the city’s budget. Student projects, although often very creative and very accurate in answering the needs of people and specific places, nevertheless do have their flaws. Despite this, the projects that were developed constitute a valuable database of ideas and inspirations for technical, construction-ready designs that are being performed by municipal enterprises.
In order to map the possible direct and indirect outcomes of students’ designs the author decided to look for action which followed them (see: column ‘further actions’ in Table 1 above). Although no quantitative analysis would be representative, it is possible to name types of action which may be seen as partly inspired by teaching.
The first thing to note is that since 2015 the Institute of Landscape Architecture at CUT has had a cooperation agreement with the ZZM) and consults this institution upon the selection of subject areas suitable for a design topic. This municipal institution has been responsible for the maintenance and creation of new green areas in Krakow from summer 2015 onwards. Previously these were the tasks of other municipal units also responsible for maintenance, road building and public transportation. The creation of ZZM brought a significant change in green space management in Krakow. Consequently, the authors of the most interesting projects have − for two years now − been awarded internships at ZZM where they are given the opportunity to continue working on their project subjects and to prepare for their gradual implementation, or to participate in a similar projects on public green areas in Krakow. This enables ZZM to adopt the best ideas and try to implement them by their own workforces or to include them in the conditions for the design tenders as has happened in case of the park near the ponds on Tetmajera Street (participative planning conducted by students from spring 2017).
Taking up a design project involving a public park can result in public pressure and, as a result, lead to a start of work on − and afterwards the approval of − the local physical development plan, whose goal is the securing of areas assigned for use as public green areas. This is what has happened in the case of the park near Szuwarowa Street on the Ruczaj housing estate in Krakow. Social surveys carried out by students began in spring 2013, while the exhibition of finished projects took place in May 2014, with the decision concerning the commencement of preparing a plan being announced in October the same year, with its approval coming two years later (Uchwała nr LIV/1097/16 Rady Miasta Krakowa…). Over the course of preparing the local plan, the Municipal Greenery Authority took the students’ designs into consideration when consulting the document in order to formulate provisions concerning the ZP (public green areas) land use category for the area covered by the plan (Jarosław Tabor, personal communication).
Landscape architecture graduates who went through a cycle of education including the participative design of a public park find employment in, among other places, spatial planning offices, where they are given opportunities to implement good practices in their work. Some open their own design practices – one of the most recognisable ones is pracownia k., which specialises in designing areas for children and their participation in landscape design (Komorowska 2017). Others advertise their skills referring to their experience in participative processes – like LANDarch design studio (Pracownia Projektowa Land-Arch), which has a vast portfolio of participative projects already implemented such as part of Superścieżka, which has followed students’ design from 2011.
Furthermore, academic teachers take part in the participative processes organised by non-governmental organisations during the establishment of parks in Krakow by acting in the role of work group heads. In a citywide online vote concerning the design concepts for Reduta Park in Krakow that were developed by groups of residents, the winning entry was prepared by a team supported by Jacek Konopacki from Instytut Architektury Krajobrazu (the Institute of Landscape Architecture) as a landscape architect and tutor (Gurgul 2015). The design concept of Reduta Park was developed as a part of a campaign by an NGO - Fundacja Aktywnych Obywateli im. Józefa Dietla (Fundacja Aktywnych Obywateli…) and is under construction since autumn 2018 (Jacek Konopacki, personal communication).
In addition, ZZM itself, as a public entity, was established in Kraków in 2015 and employs landscape architects who take on the challenge of utilising participation in practice by independently organising public consultations. Currently, public participation is being conducted on a follow-up of the students’ design for the Tetmajera Street Park in Bronowice (Kluza-Wąsik, personal communication, 2018). One of the previous examples was the “Come and design the Białucha Boulevards” (“Przyjdź i zaprojektuj Bulwary Białuchy” in Polish) project, which was carried out in the autumn of 2017 (Bulwary Białuchy n.d.). The project was opened by an information campaign (advertisements in the press, posters, on the platform of the Municipal Dialogue Centre and a promotional film). It was composed of a series of meetings – ranging from a research walk to design workshops, the consultation on an initial version of the design and a call for people to file comments on the presentation of the completed version of the design. Graduates of the Krakow-based landscape architecture course acted as experts and designers on behalf of the ZZM (Iwona Kluza-Wąsik). The final design was credited in a telling manner (Raport ze spotkania nr 6… n.d.). The authors were listed in the following order: first – the residents, then – the landscape architects: Anna Becker, Katarzyna Mucha, Magdalena Kolasa (all three ladies are graduates of the landscape architecture course at Politechnika Krakowska).
Taking all this into consideration, the results of carrying out participative planning in the academic training of landscape architects can be seen in (but not limited to) three main interrelated fields:
- activating citizens in consulting on green issues (ZZM keeps a record of participants in each participative process);
- landscape architects undertaking public participation in their office practices;
- a growing mutual influence between academia and municipal authorities and the units involved in green design policy and decision-making resulting in the creation of new public parks.
The observed activity of young professionals who put the theory of public participation into practice proves that the transfer of knowledge from academia to practice is fruitful and has a beneficial impact on our reality. Therefore, one can risk making the statement that the didactic activity in the field of public participation in the design of public parks leads to the amassing of social capital through the education of the professionals and residents who participate in studies and workshops over the course of the projects carried out during the fifth semester of studies.
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Jacek Konopacki – personal communication, December 2016
Jarosław Tabor – personal communication, January 2015
Iwona Kluza-Wąsik – personal communication, June and September 2018