Attempts to refresh image of "Polish Prague" are finally bringing in results

Attempts to
refresh image of ?Polish Prague?
are finally bringing in results
Jakub Szufnarowski
staff journalist
Krakow is changing its image to being a city with the most expensive apartments in Poland, and where a square meter is frequently much more expensive than in Warsaw. All attempts to create the image of the ?Polish Prague? made in the past few years are finally bringing results; the city is reaching the long awaited time-honored European splendor. The result of such progress may instead make way for a truly revolutionary change in Polish architectural investments: Museum of Modern Art, Malopolska Garden of Art, planned skyscrapers and the Hilton hotel.
The heated discussion on the subject broke out soon after the opening of the Wyspianski Pavilion, whose shape continues to raise a great deal of controversy. The situation is reminiscent, however, of the 1994 opening of Manggha, the Center of Japanese Art and Technology — today Manggha is one of the few buildings in Poland mentioned in many international publications as amongst the most important architectural achievements of the 20th Century.
Defenders of the city?s historic city skyline claim that modern building development would destroy the unique atmosphere of the city in which architectural uniformity plays such an important role. They demand that all new buildings should be designed to blend with the city?s historic architecture and should pay special attention to height uniformity. The discussion of Krakow?s future architectural development is most ardent on Internet discussion forums. Supporters of ?the refreshing breeze in architecture? argue, ?Our fossilized and squalid city needs some kind of refreshing breeze. But no! The city?s grand architects will continue their laborious ?studies? over Krakow?s building development for the next 50 years or so. It makes me wanna laugh!?
The opponents of this idea are fiercely objecting it: ??in a city like Krakow nothing should be done without careful consideration. Here the space has the same value as every square meter of surface area. If we keep on building high? the traffic will finish off the communications, block the roads and streets and cause a considerable depreciation of real estate value.?
Skyscrapers are a good idea for adding variety to the city suburbs; it?s also advantageous for those looking for apartments. The developers are already setting the prices on the basis of a building?s planned living area instead of by the number of square meters. Higher means cheaper, it is simple. However, if we are to consider the city?s prestige, it is the quality of the developed buildings that counts most.
The Museum of Modern Art in Krakow (located in former Schindler?s Factory) is an example of a well-planned project, both in its spatial and functional development, with a good chance of being realized. At the same time, it needs to assume the continuation and further development of already existing buildings and show respect for its previous form. If we are to assess the city?s image from this perspective, then the art-related investments seem to arouse the least controversies and are generally well perceived by the residents of the city.
It may be best to rely upon experts? opinions in this matter ? writes one of the forum users: ?It is simply amazing how much attention we pay to the opinions of mere dilettantes and how great our contempt for knowledge (in this case ? urban planning knowledge) is in contemporary Poland [?] Today?s gems of Krakow?s architecture were build yesterday, tomorrow?s gems of architecture are being built? today.?
Why do we not invite such acknowledged architects like Liebeskind to design skyscrapers in Krakow then? Liebeskind is, after all, known for his projects that harmonize well with surrounding architecture. There is no use investing in, so-called, dull buildings either. Only building investments that stir emotions can have a long-lasting influence on the city?s image. Let?s make sure, however, that these aren?t the kinds of emotions that the infamous ?skeleton? at the Mogilskie roundabout usually evokes among the residents of Krakow.

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