The public square is a construction inherited from the past that remains today as the quintessential element of the European town (Levy 2012: 156)
Squares define and identify the principal space of any city, and often end up determining its identity. In urban structures, squares are distinguished by high functional and spatial values. Because of an interesting arrangement, squares often become a sophisticated cultural objects or even works of art. It also functions as a background for many events and projects; artistic, commercial or entertainment in nature. In a way squares provide space for accomplishment for many diverse needs − important both for individual and social development.
Over the centuries, squares and market places formed the most important parts of the cities. These places became symbols, showcases and determinants of urban spatial development. Together with surrounding architecture, squares became an evidence of power and importance. Medieval cities were unambiguously associated with its squares, as it was the place where the main roads led. Over the course of time new architectural elements emerged within its territories, while other elements disappeared or were transformed. Such accumulation represents different stages of city development. Over the centuries, discussions were held concerning forms, possible transformations or renewals of squares and whole cities. The evolution of urban space was inseparably connected to change, whereas change was bound to criticism.
A struggle between a desire to preserve historic buildings and to introduce new structures, adjusted to contemporary needs and different lifestyles, is linked to the inevitable process of city development. However, it is a compromise that usually wins and the urban regeneration, witnessed in the last years, provides the best evidence.
Recently, architects, planners and theoreticians provided an endless amount of advices, ideas and directions concerning the quality and design of public space. Among the most visible were commercialisation and globalisation which have consequently led to the sort of standardization and repeatability of spaces in European cities that impedes the ability to distinguish one from another. It is therefore crucial for cities to find new ways of differentiation from its competitors (Richards & Wilson 2001: 1931). But how and in what way squares can be different? Examples may include incorporating the diversity of street furniture, facades and buildings, various activities and participants as well as variety of bushes, trees and plants (Regalo da Fonseca 2014: 9). Heterogeneity makes the urban space intriguing and appealing, however the maintenance of a proper balance is always required. Nevertheless the studies show that apart from environmental beautification and physical design, it is the accessibility to all groups of users combined with singular components of public space that animate people to spend their time there (Parlindungan Siregar 2014: 11). In effect, a public space needs to be aesthetic, exciting, sustainable, efficient and useful to promote lingering, movement, encounters and interaction (Pasaogullari & Doratli 2004) in consequence acting as an indicator of the quality of urban public space (Gehl 1987: 13).
Greenery is yet another topic often mentioned in studies of public spaces. An introduction of trees and plants to the urban open spaces, supports health and helps citizens to reconnect with nature on the daily basis (Moloney 2015: 18). Urban vegetation influences human well-being due to the benefits it provides (Barrera & Henríquez 2017: 1,2). According to M. Z. Memluk (2013: 519) green areas within a public square contribute to environmental aesthetics, help to improve air quality, reduce noise levels, as well as negative effects of urban heat islands.
Lastly, it shouldn’t be forgotten that all the parties interested in the public space ought to be involved in its vision creation, design and project. But the most important element in the whole process are users and their expectations as the public space is being designed for them (Regalo da Fonseca 2014: 2). Citizens are the ones that gather on urban squares hence their role seems to be crucial when envisaging the successful public square.
This article aims to characterize transitions of main city squares, the process that took place in the last 15 years in different cities and towns of Lower Silesia. The paper indicates varying attitudes toward such projects; from preservation to new uses of this public space. Many Lower Silesian towns and cities, marked by post-war destruction and demolition, gradually underwent restoration, reconstruction, retroversion (historic core in Głogów), cleansing spaces with a more conservative approach and finally introduction of contemporary architecture in the city centre are among the main, identified renovation approaches. Majority of analysed towns (exception: Wrocław) possessed historic, architectural and spatial structures that became degraded due to the migration, ageing of population and other economic problems. The degradation was often accompanied by unemployment and increase in crime. Regeneration programs (financed with EU funds) are often treated as a solution to various social problems.
The New Market (Nowy Targ) regeneration in Wrocław City
Nowy Targ, one of the most important, historic squares and marketplaces in Wrocław, was destroyed during the WWII. In the 1950s and 1960s the decision was made to erect new, different from the historical structure (Eysymontt 2009: 42) which led to a change in the square’s function: from trade/commercial to housing/residential. Such a radical project, alien to the historic structure, had faced a lot of criticism and backlash. At the time, the idea to reconstruct the historic city centre was confronted by a more progressive vision of housing space made of concrete, and alternative idea of retroversion - structures referred to historic buildings and its spatial divisions.
Although the project for housing quarters - prepared by a team of architects (Ryszard Natusiewicz, Włodzimierz Czerechowski, Anna Tarnawska and Jerzy Tarnawski; Eysymontt & Krzywka 2006: 43), was judged an outstanding example of Polish post-war modernism, with time it became an ‘invisible’, unnoticeable space on a mental map for an ordinary citizen, not to mention tourists. Despite the location in the heart of the academic space (between Dominikański, University, and Market Square as well as the Market Hall), it laid unexploited by students nor local residents. Its new architecture, arrangement and deprivation of former trade function (upheld since medieval times until the beginning of the 20th century), simultaneously eliminated this important space from social interaction.
New design for the square, developed by Roman Rutkowski Architects and completed in 2013, was meant to revitalize the space and ‘return’ it to the residents. According to the City Council guidelines, the main aim of the competition was to obtain optimal rules of development and shaping of the buildings, with flexible pavement arrangement, and a legible geometrical form of the Nowy Targ Square with a central point (Zagospodarowanie obszaru Placu Nowy Targ… 2010). In line with competition guidance, it was crucial to skilfully connect private trade (in the form of street markets) with recreation, green areas, dominant pedestrian routes, bike lanes and elements of underground carpark infrastructure.
Piotr Fokczyński, from the Department of Architecture and Development of the Municipal Office, has emphasised the wish for the square to ‘become a meeting place, where one can stop for a moment; (…) not just a hardened space, a diagonal for tram stops. A space than can be cosier, pedestrian space, a calm space’ (Plac Nowy Targ we Wrocławiu… 2013).
Architects decided to keep geometry of the square as designed in 1963. Taking post-war development as a model and a starting point, a monochromatic white-grey-black colouring, as in the original project, was also maintained. A WWII bunker was replaced by an underground carpark. Square’s surface was replaced, additionally it received new, minimalistic architecture: two pavilions providing entrance to the carpark area, iron decks, bike racks and benches along the frontage (Photo 1). Lightning was also altered. The original proposal included a commercial pavilion and a fountain, however these remain uncompleted.
Similarly to the 1960s project, the new proposal aroused many controversies and discussions. The architectural community praised the project and rewarded it with a prestigious award (e.g. 1st place in ‘Beautiful Wrocław’ competition). City officials praised the concept during interviews. Residents and citizens, on the other hand, were less pleased, and their opinions were divided. Some were content with the changes; convinced by the project readability and clarity. The majority however, was negative, neutral or cautious about it. Unsupportive attitude was visible on social forums and proven by surveys conducted by M. Dębek1 (from the University of Wrocław) and D. Stryjewska (Stryjewska 2015; Kokoszkiewicz 2015). An empty square also indicated that the project was not a complete success. The survey findings howed that the square was a mere ‘nice wrapping of nothing’; an unintelligible, empty space (respondents drew a crossroad or an empty square on maps in the place where Nowy Targ Square is) and associated it with concrete, carpark and deckchairs (Stryjewska 2015).
Online forums, social media platforms, press and private conversations were full of critical voices for weeks after he square reopened. Lack of greenery, emptiness and lack of services was most commonly commented upon. The space was given many, often negative, labels, such as: ‘architectural drama’, ‘concrete desert’, ‘frying pan’, ‘just concrete and slab’, ‘modern and airless’ (Rutkowski 2013). Despite favourable localisation (close to the Market Square, Ostrów, the University and Market Hall), and construction of car-free zone (as instructed by the guidelines) Nowy Targ Square still lacks life. Most people only pass it by. Few sit down on deckchairs or benches, which due to its size and arrangement, also limit social interactions. What is more (as emphasised by D. Stryjewska), citizens find it rather unfriendly (Stryjewska 2015). The square lacks an influence that would make people want to pause and stay longer. Spatial arrangement and grey and black colour palette does not serve relaxation well. There is no doubt that a fountain could bring a positive change; as historic Neptune fountain stood there until 1945. Lack of commercial units and facilities, usually supporting gatherings, coexistence, and creation of opportunities to remain in a place are among its weaknesses. Sympathisers of the project claim that the square ‘is not meant to be a place where people walk with sandwiches, sit opposite each other and discuss the state of the world or Putin’ (Nie tylko Zaułek Solny… 2015). Usually one sits down to observe passers-by. Another issue raised by many is insufficient greenery. It is worth mentioning that what we see today is true to historical study. As emphasised by R. Eysymontt and Ł. Krzywka (2006: 53), ‘historically, trees and greenery in city centres did not occur outside of building complexes, therefore the one on Nowy Targ Square is secondary’. This opinion is accompanied by one of the architects, who has said that ‘the square is not a lake, nor a forest, but an empty space in the city’ (Kokoszkiewicz 2015). However, analysing citizens’ opinions, listening to their needs and taking into consideration the contemporary arrangements of similar city squares, the urge to add nature and greenery in the city is noticeable. Years of intensive urbanisation, industrialisation, pollution, shrinking of green spaces for new developments, and lifestyle dominated by computers, cars, electronic devices, influence contemporary, tired of ‘technology and concrete’ people to search for contact with nature. Sometimes the only possibility for such encounter lays within the city.
In the light of the above discussion, it is difficult to agree with R. Eysymontt and Ł. Krzywka (2006: 53) who argue that the greenery on the square would introduce ‘provincial, small village character’. As many commentators noticed, there are not enough plants in this space. D. Stryjewska (2015) showed that existing trees do not function in respondents’ awareness, hence the space seems unfriendly and exposed. There must have been many more similar comments, since City Council decided to introduce green walls to carpark pavilions. Each period brings new values corresponding to new needs and socio-economic backgrounds. It also presents itself in architecture, spatial order and small architecture. Stratification is an essence of city’s spatial development and natural order. Perhaps in few years, in line with eco-friendly movements, greenery will become ubiquitous, omnipresent in shopping centres, apartments, skyscrapers, sport centres and restaurants. Cities would then enter a new phase – a new dimension of garden cities - which will not be just an unrealistic eco-vision, but a reality2 In effect, the image of public space shall change again, as a part of a natural process.
Regeneration of Squares in Chosen Lower Silesian Towns
Founded in 1245, Lubin has a uniquely large square for the town scale (square: 100 x 57m, city: 300 x 230m) (Eysymontt 2009: 387) and its significance in spatial structure have been crucial for centuries. Post-war regeneration of the historic core of Lubin, similarly to Wrocław, is characterised by the overabundance of residential buildings and lack of commercial premises (Pietras 2016: 25). Casual building’s set-up, with large scale and contempt for history, took away the centre’s identity. The space became monotonous, featuring negative contrast between landmarks and modern buildings (Pietras 2016: 29), dominated by service pavilions. New regeneration project was supposed to change it. In 2006, it was decided to remove the pavilion acknowledged as the remnant of modernism and to implement architecture in reference to history, to map old tenement houses, illuminated fountain and greenery (Pietras 2016: 28–29; Photo 2).
The concept of Lubin’s regeneration included the reconstruction of historic old-town trackway reproducing of medieval parcelling outline and implementation of urban greenery, thus, targeting the main idea as being to compound historical conditioning with current needs (the space for art, sport, mass events and reunions) (Lokalny program rewitalizacji miasta Lubina… 2016: 44).
The inhabitants are satisfied with the change, particularly after 12 years of construction’s stagnation. Main criticism refers to the lack of sufficient debate and ignorance of town’s councilors toward public needs and suggestions (Tak będzie wyglądał Rynek 2017) despite the appreciation of the renovation works. The main worry points toward ‘concrete’ pavement and ‘emptiness’ (in line with visualizations available) as well as the insufficient amount of greenery (Tak będzie wyglądał Rynek 2017).
The urban structure of the contemporary Złotoryja dates back to the beginnings of 13th century. Located by the important, Silesian tractway, it functioned as a crucial trading town. The dimensions of the (original?) market square, amounted to 300 x 65m (nowadays: 65 x 180m; Photo 3; Eysymontt 2009: 604). The arrangement of the town center is an example of the transition from Strassenmarkt to classical, rectangular market (Eysymontt 2009: 602).
The market square has been one of the focal points of the first Local Regeneration Programme for years 20072013. Although it represents the most valuable ensemble in Złotoryja, it has degraded and depreciated over many years. Historic tenement houses, in its majority a communal property, needed restoration, especially the renovation of elevation, new roofing, windows and refurbishment of so-called common areas. Another problem of the Złotoryja was the lack of recreational space in the town where families and youngsters could relax, spend time or integrate with one another (Kropiwnicki et al. 2009: 139–143). The current Local Regeneration Programme for years 2015-2020, emphasizes the importance of introducing changes in the town center to exploit the cultural, social and economic potential of the Old Town, as well as to upgrade the standard of living by restoring buildings (Iwińska et al. 2016: 162). Amongst other priorities, the care of the visual side of the town – aesthetics, well-organized public space, and general improvement of the urban environment have been mentioned as well as an attempt to enrich the level of tourism attractiveness of Złotoryja (Kropiwnicki et al. 2009: 162, 173; Iwińska et al. 2016: 157).
The first regeneration project for years 20072013 wasn’t received with great enthusiasm from the locals. Surprisingly, the turnover and quantity of market shops and service points decreased rapidly during these years (Kanikowski 2011). Therefore the criticism concerned mainly the lack of gastronomic services, especially the demolition of eatery named ‘Grzybek’, which has gained the status of symbolic element on the square. Despite the mayor of Złotoryja’s opinion against the outlet’s presence in the town centre (Grzybek zostaje 2015), the pressure of residents inflicted the return of the outlet to its former spot, with petition approved by the majority of the Town Council members (Grzybek wygrał przetarg… 2017). Critique also targeted the insufficient number of parking lots, as locals complained about the difficulty to park close to the market square, highlighting the negative impact on the businesses therein (Kanikowski 2011).
In consequence, both regeneration projects focused on the standarisation of the urban space and introduction of greenery. Two old fountains were renovated and additional parking places designed. The overall image of this crucial central space of Złotoryja became more homogenous and orderly.
Nowa Ruda and its square date back to 1442, when fairs and markets officially began to be organized (Eysymontt 2009: 432). The size of the square (85 x 65m) dominates the town and is well depicted on the lithography from 1736 by F. A. Pompejus (Neurode aus der Vogelschau im Jahre 1736, n. d.). The town centre was destroyed by fire in the 19th century and later rebuilt, surviving mostly in this state until today. Unfortunately, after the WWII the process of stagnation and gradual destruction began. According to the inquiries made before the regeneration begun, the most important and most urgent task was the rearrangement of the Old Town through inclusion of public space, renovation of historical buildings and adaptation of the space for economic, social, educational, touristic and cultural purposes (Informacja o wynikach konsultacji… 2016: 80). The first Local Regeneration Programme for the years of 2008–2015 concentrated on the renovation of degraded area, restoration of the Town Hall, reconstruction of pavements, positioning of parking spaces next to Bohaterów Getta Street and illumination of the most emblematic areas in the Market Square ( program rewitalizacji dla miasta Nowa Ruda… 2009). When the first regeneration programme finished, it turned out that there was still a lot to be done. The results of public consultations that took place in July 2016, showed that the quality of life in Nowa Ruda is still limited by low aesthetics of the surrounding architecture and poorly maintained monuments (Lokalny program rewitalizacji dla miasta Nowa Ruda na lata 2015-2025 2016: 54–56). These factors have largely impeded tourism development. Therefore the main aim of the next regeneration programme was to convert the town (especially Market Square) into a main tourism attraction and to catalyse cultural activities in the strict center (Lokalny program rewitalizacji dla miasta Nowa Ruda na lata 2015-2025 2016: 61,62). In consequence, the pedestrian space was enlarged, new pavements in asphalt and natural stone were implemented, the car traffic was limited, and finally individual greenery has been introduced: mainly trees and bushes (Photo 4).
The image of the modernized square has been broadly spread through the internet by locals and tourists, already proving its success. Inhabitants of Nowa Ruda now willingly gather at the square, treating the area as a popular meeting place. An illumination plays a crucial role in square’s promotion and popularity making monuments visible at night and the area itself more inviting and safer (Lokalny program rewitalizacji dla miasta Nowa Ruda na lata 2015-2025 2016:102).
Środa Śląska (Neumarkt)
Środa Śląska was founded in 1235, along the main trade route between Wrocław and Legnica, and played an important commercial function since. The central point of the medieval town was traditional- the market square in a form of Strassenmarkt occupying 2,6ha (335m x 30-32m wide at the end and 58m in the middle; Eysymontt 2009: 519; Photo 5). The town survived WWII with its architecture and layout of the square largely intact, but later it gradually fell into disrepair. In such circumstances, the Local Regeneration Programme was received with great enthusiasm and hope. It is important to notice, that in this case, the idea to introduce changes to the Market Square came also from locals, as quoted by Katarzyna Raczyńska, the head of the Real Estate Management and Architecture department of the Municipal Office (Rewitalizacja rynku dolnego w Środzie Śląskiej 2016). Inhabitants urged for a friendly space for pedestrians and tourists, where cultural and thematic events could take place and where one could rest surrounded by nature.
Created in response to the demand Local Regeneration Programme for the years 2016-2022 hence includes an introduction of the overall coherency of the space, construction of new fountain, replacement of the pavement and elimination of car circulation (Lokalny program rewitalizacji dla miasta Środa Śląska na lata 2016-2022 2016).
The chosen project, proposed by Modern Studio unfortunately was not received with great enthusiasm from local population. Negative opinions concerned the fountain project that did not match the historical surrounding (Święto Wina w starym-nowym… 2017) and cutting down of trees and bushes, consequently leaving the square empty Quotes such as ‘There is too much granite’, ‘I hope that it won’t be so empty... it’s not Wrocław after all’ – appear in online commentaries (Święto Wina w starym-nowym… 2017). The strongest comments regarded the decision to remove the old willow tree from the square. The tree, on planted on the square after the WWII, became the symbol and important element of the main square. Online opinions suggested that the square without the willow ‘is sad and empty’ (Święto Wina w starym-nowym… 2017), ‘new tress look like chupa chups’, ‘it’s so bald right now’ (Profil Miasta i Gminy Środa Śląska 2017). Town officials, via the official Facebook page, explained that the willow tree had only sentimental value, neither aesthetic, nor functional one. They added that the new project was consulted many times with locals and 16 new trees are planned (Profil Miasta i Gminy Środa Śląska 2017). Further issue mentioned often by locals on the Internet fora is the lack of parking places or any alternatives nearby. Although the idea to widen the public space and limit traffic is a positive one, there should be more possibilities to park nearby.
The misunderstandings and negative attitude toward the regeneration project can be explained by the lack of sufficient public consultations. It turned out that most of the consultations (the main one held only once on the 13th of October 2016, between 14-15:30) were held during working hours, thus limiting number of citizens able to take part. Obviously, introducing changes in an urban space is often associated with objection but if the initiative to restore the town centre is undertaken by locals themselves, it means that a permit for changes is given. The difficulty though lies in the proper information, consultation and recognition of needs.
The regular, medieval town square (56m x 93m) at Ścinawa, traditionally relates to the important trade route from Głogów to Wołów (Eysymontt 2009: 517). At the end of WWII (1945) significant part of Ścinawa’s urban fabric was destroyed, including its historic architecture. In the 1960s a new Town Hall was erected, with square frontage in socialist style (Photo 6). Unfortunately, the gradual degradation of the area has continued (Ścinawa bierze się za remont rynku 2017). The regeneration program was focused on the restoration of the square’s beauty – as highlighted by Krystian Kosztyła the mayor of Ścinawa (Ścinawa bierze się za remont rynku 2017). The Local Regeneration Programme was based on the pre-war image of the square and aimed to restore its representative and integrative function (Lokalny program rewitalizacji dla miasta Ścinawa na lata 2015-2025 2016).
The project prepared by JS Architekci considered cleansing of the space, upgrade to pavements, creation of boulevard, introduction of street furniture, multimedia solutions, greenery and construction of the fountain (Rewitalizacja rynku i obszaru śródmiejskiego 2015).
The project is not finished yet but its scale is surprising for such a small town (6,000 inhabitants). Yet another question is concerning the way the pre-war character of the place is to be restored as the current visualizations does not seem to allude to the historic layout3
Recent regeneration of public squares in Lower Silesia showed diverse attitudes and contradictory opinions regarding future forms and functions of squares. These can be crucial in understanding the architects, planners and inhabitants’ points of views and their ‘feeling’ of the space in historical context. Initial analyses of several regeneration programmes of market squares undertaken for the purposes of this research, have displayed the necessity to organize broader public consultations with councils and architects before the conclusion of the project.
The most common issues encountered by investigated squares are: degradation, negligence (of pavements, architecture, and street furniture), inappropriate lighting, traffic circulation and presence, lack of identity or/and character of the area, insufficient number of services, gastronomy - and greenery. The ideas suggested by architects presented different approaches towards working in historical context, e.g. an attempt to partially reconstruct the square and its architecture (Złotoryja and Środa Śląska); to introduce new concept (Wrocław, Ścinawa and Lubin); to rearrange the space (Nowa Ruda).
The majority of regeneration programmes reviewed in this study, listed the conversion of the area into the ‘showcase’ of the town, meeting place, main destination for tourists, popular tourist product, a place to be in and an oasis to relax as main aims. Other intentions leaned towards the redefinition of square’s function and an introduction of new activities for residents and visitors. In several cases, the idea of renewal inspired by pre-war image of the square, was planned, yet not always accomplished. In declarations the desire to merge the historical aspects with the contemporary trends was visible.
Summarizing recent, completed projects and the ones currently in progress – the following changes were applied:
- new pavements were implemented, helping to reorganize and rearrange the area, additionally creating a more spacious pedestrian area;
- car circulation was limited or eliminated;
- historic buildings were restored;
- regarding fountains - two options were noted: historic fountains were restored or new ones were installed (reconstruction of the existing fountains or construction of modern ones, sometimes quite controversial in form). The analyses of Lower Silesian cases show that the construction of fountains was the most popular way to improve attractiveness of the market square;
- new greenery was introduced and the existing one was partially left in place.
The difficulty in all regeneration projects lies in the facilitation of all stakeholders, involved directly or indirectly: residents, architects and planners, city government. The main questions of the regeneration is: who should benefit from it: locals or tourists? Should it be representative or integrative, functional or cozy? Should it be empty or filled with small architecture and greenery? Another important though problematic aspect is the correspondence (or the lack of it) with historical layout and architecture. Those points seemed common in nearly every case during discussions regarding ideas for squares. It is understandable, as for centuries the public space has been the most valuable area for city/town and its inhabitants. It was also its most vibrant, crowded and active element, showcasing the human factor as essential for its existence and development. As A. Wallis (1990: 45) expresses, a city is composed of two organically related but at the same time, autonomic subsystems – urban and social ones. The correlation of two subsystems leads to the success of a public space. The presence of people in public spaces attracts others (Gehl 1987), therefore, the proper design of the public space should respond to people’s needs. Taking into account people’s voice, ways of life and needs is the only way to complete regeneration program correctly and successfully. People must feel they can enjoy and benefit from the changes that occur (Grodach & Ehrenfeucht 2015: 6). In the discussed Silesian case studies, this aspect was treated superficially, or seemed ignored. Złotoryja and Środa Śląska exemplify lack of sufficient dialog and agreement between stakeholders. In both cases residents’ voice was not taken into account.
Market squares are often the only sizeable public spaces within towns/cities where inhabitants can gather and spend free time, but for such space to be attractive for inhabitants, it need to include greenery, illumination, street furniture for sitting and relaxing, and services. Surveys held in respective towns showed the local community’s desire for attractive, aesthetic, green space. Emptiness, dullness and severity (e.g. Lubin or Wrocław) were highly criticized by locals. On the other hand, in Nowa Ruda, were the voice of residents was taken into account, the project turned out to be successful.
Comparison of the content of regeneration programmes, architectural and urban projects displays similar points. The problem lies in the process of project’s completion and misunderstandings regarding the shape of respective elements. Extended dialogue between inhabitants and designers/architects is needed in order to achieve compromise. Public discussions on the possible urban solutions seems to be condition sine qua non for projects of public space. It is impossible to achieve effective regeneration without cooperation. Only when all the entities interested in the area (public authorities, investors, users) participate in the vision of future urban concept, and their needs are equally recognised, the results can be satisfactory (Ziobrowski & Domański 2011: 36, 37). P. Lorens (2010: 88) suggests the application of preemptive participation, unfortunately municipal authorities are afraid of such discussions and its unpredictability]. R.M. Loegler (2011: 122) emphasized, that there are no identical determinants, needs or reliance that would lead to identical urban results. Hence it is crucial to treat each market square project differently. Nonetheless, when comparing visualizations, finished renewals and modernisations of squares, one notes that similar ideas and solutions are being applied. Recommendation for further programmes would be to relate to the method of ‘Project for Public Spaces’ (PPS), an organization that helps creating public spaces that built communities (Project for Public Spaces…). In times of social isolation and lack of security, such attitude is more important than ever before.
The relation between the historical and new has emerged as a significant issue. In some of the analysed cases, the regeneration projects do not correspond with the old and historical layout, nor with the architecture. It even ignores what is visible, e.g. by implementing pavement surfaces considerably contrasting with architecture. Such partial improvements risk overlooking many other, crucial aspects, with C. Balsas (2004) highlighting social and economic ones. The same applies to street furniture, where more emphasis is put on the aesthetics than functionality. Instead of bringing people together, artificially implemented street furniture make the place uninviting.
Among the most significant controversies that appeared in the process of squares’ improvement is the aspect of greenery and its suitability for historical square and its surrounding. Despite green elements being uncommon in the historical squares of Lower Silesia, its broad injection after 1945 was noticeable. It turned out to be an important element for residents who identified themselves with it, while greenery was rarely acknowledged by urban administrations, nor by the architects. Residents showed a clear and strong desire for nature in the city/town center, especially in Wrocław, Lubin, Środa Śląska and Ścinawa. Changes in the way humans live and work, huge development in technologies, increase in pollution and industrialization starve and deprive us of nature, therefore green, ecological solutions, together with green squares, perfectly accomplish new vision for the city/town centre. A balance between the historical and traditional functions of the square and introduction of new architecture, street furniture, and urban greenery should be maintained. Many examples where urban greenery is problematic can be found in Lviv Oblast (province). In the second half of the 20th century, urban greening was widely introduced in dozen of towns (Kaplinska 2015: 63). Nowadays, foliage covers architecture and impede functioning of public spaces. In comparison, in Upper Silesia, numerous projects of public spaces with greenery willingly introduced are in place. One of the main squares in the center of Katowice - Plac Kwiatowy [Flower Square] - has been filled with trees, fountains, modern benches and vertical garden during the regeneration in 2015. Despite these efforts, urban greenery level is still insufficient for many citizens (Nowy Rynek w Katowicach… 2015; Przebudowa Rynku… 2015). Similar attitude is visible in Chorzów, where identical elements are planned, incl. 3,000 bushes, 40 trees, fountain and places that allow relaxation (Będzie pięknie!... 2018) Multiple green elements are introduced to the main square in the Orzegów district in Ruda Śląska (Czas na rynek… 2017). These urban projects, apart from being an example of public success in the introduction of urban greenery, also serve as benchmarks regarding the incorporation of diverse architectural elements together with commerce and services. Undermined importance of services seems to be one of the weaknesses Lower Silesian projects, where services are rarely considered and housing function often outweighs services (e.g. Wrocław and Lubin).
Case studies of urban/public squares presented in the paper reveal the complexity hidden in every project. The words of P. Roberts (Roberts & Skyes 2000: 3) describe it perfectly: ‘urban regeneration is a widely experienced but little understood phenomenon’. Close examination and comparison of plans and projects, may help to understand and further implement solutions for better practice. It is crucial for public urban spaces to be treated as symbols of contemporary cities and as tools in the revitalization process, recreating the lost identity of a given city (Ramlee et al. 2015: 364).
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