The Association of Polish Architects has launched an open international ideas contest to rethink connections between the River Vistula and Krakow Old Town (Deadline: 4 September)
Open to everyone, the competition seeks ambitious concepts to create new links between Krakow Old Town and the River Vistula in the area surrounding the historic Wawel Royal Castle where public spaces are severely limited.
The call for concepts is part of the International Biennale of Architecture Krakow 2019 which aims to promote debate around new approaches in ‘understanding, participating and creating’ public spaces. Alongside the design competition additional contests will broader invite ideas for a seminar and multimedia installation.
Wawel Royal Castle, Krakow
Source: Image by Tomrollauer
The competition’s commissioner and moderator Marta A Urbańska said: ‘The Old Town of Krakow is still dominated by the mighty Wawel Royal Castle, towering over the river banks. The surrounding area, known as Planty, was turned into a lush urban park in the early 19th century.
‘When this encircling park reaches the north side of Wawel and it is close to the river, for some reason it lacks any public connection. Could this area along the northern bend of the river be ‘the missing link’, where the Old Town could meet the new recreational resources of the river and enhance the historic significance of the castle?’
Krakow is one of the oldest cities in Poland, and the country’s second largest settlement with around 770,000 inhabitants. The thirteenth century Wawel Castle occupies a prominent position next to the river and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978.
The latest competition aims to enhance the public experience surrounding the landmark 0.7-hectare citadel which features an imposing Italian-styled main courtyard. Connections between the river, castle and wider old town are currently severed by a busy road and poor public realm.
Judges will include festival curator Peter Butenschøn; Belgian architect and urban planner Oana Bogdan; Lennart Grut, partner at Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners; and the founder of Germany’s Kleihues + Kleihues, Jan Kleihues.
The overall winner will receive a PLN 50,000 prize while a second prize of PLN 30,000 and third prize of PLN 20,000 will also be awarded. The seminar and multimedia competitions will also feature cash prizes.
How to apply
The deadline for applications is 4 September
Association of Polish Architects
Szczepański Square 6
Tel: +48 12 422 75 40
Visit the competition website for more information
Q&A with Marta A Urbańska
The commissioner and moderator of the competition for the International Biennale of Architecture Krakow 2019 discusses her ambitions
Why are you holding an international ideas contest to rethink the historic centre of Krakow?
Marta A Urbańska
Source: Image by P Czornij
There are three competitions in question – Competition A, design; Competition B – seminar / live manifestos and Competition C – multimedia. They are organised within the framework of the International Biennale of Architecture Krakow 2019. The biennale is an event which has been taking place since 1985, organised by the SARP Association of Polish Architects and since 2015 also by the City of Krakow. It has always focused on the most crucial spatial issues in the city. The title of this year’s edition of the biennale is ‘CONNECTIONS – The Town and the River.’ The inspiration for the main subject came from the biennale’s curator, Peter Butenschøn, a renowned Norwegian architect and planner who will also be jury president. He noticed the current striking lack of connection between the perfectly laid out medieval Old Town and the River Vistula. Architectural competitions are obviously the best way to both find fresh ideas and to promote new talent, serving the city and the participants, helping them to promote their work.
What is your vision for how connections between the town and river could be improved?
As the role of the historic European city centres changes, the situation of many urban rivers changes as well. It is also the case in Krakow, whose architectural Old Town is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The Vistula River, running through Krakow, was once the central artery of transportation, but, along with its many tributaries, it also repeatedly posed a danger of flooding. The first role has changed and the river now gives the city a major recreational quality, with calm waters and green banks. Could this relationship between the city and its river now be reinterpreted, be given a stronger connection, a boost with new facilities and some new significance for the whole urban environment?
The Old Town of Krakow is still dominated by the mighty Wawel Royal Castle, towering over the river banks. North of the Wawel Hill, the town centre, with the grand public space Rynek as its centre-point, is contained within the boundaries of the old fortifications. The surrounding area, known as Planty, was turned into a lush urban park in the early 19th century. When this encircling park reaches the north side of Wawel and it is close to the river, for some reason it lacks any public connection. Could this area along the northern bend of the river be ‘the missing link’, where the Old Town could meet the new recreational resources of the river and enhance the historic significance of the castle? Could this area be where the impressive number of 13 million annual visitors meet new and exciting facilities and experience a complete urban narrative?
Wawel Royal Castle, Krakow
Source: Image by Fotocavallo
This area squeezed in between the Old Town, the castle and the river, may provide the starting point for find some answers – through the uses of urban design, architecture and design in competition A (design) – to some of the challenges that are raised. With growing concerns for the environmental balance, with more frequent river flooding and also more emphasis on green and blue recreation, the connection between the town and the Vistula River could challenge a new generation of architects and designers to rethink their roles in historic urban development.
What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?
All competitions are international and open, including to non-architects. As the biennale is an ideas competition, not only practicing professionals (emerging or established), but also students, artists, art historians, sociologists, urban activists and many others may apply. That said, the competitions B (live seminar) and C (multimedia) are intended to be interpreted freely, and to show the general problem – also demonstrated in many local cases and solutions elsewhere – of connections (or the lack thereof) between historic towns and rivers.
Which other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects/designers be procured?
The biennale has always been tackling important spatial issues in the city, as inspirations for improvements and even a far-reaching ones. We hope that the City of Krakow and / or the Małopolska Region will be interested in their gradual implementation. Recently, there were tenders for new pedestrian and bicycle bridges across the River Vistula. The SARP Association of Polish Architects, as the main organiser of architectural and urban planning competitions, unceasingly attempts to persuade the City and the Małopolska Region to implement this most public and most rewarding form of procurement.
Aker Brygge, Olso
Source: Image by Dyroe
Are there any other recent historic waterfront regeneration projects you have been impressed by?
International examples of urban regeneration of waterfronts may be found all over Europe, to name but two:
The regeneration of the Akerselva River in Oslo, also the project known as Aker Brygge, waterfront promenade by LINK Landskap and others, 2015; and the urban redevelopment of the confluence of the Saone and Rhone Rivers in Lyon, by Lipsky+Rollet architectes, Herzog & de Meuron, Coop Himmelblau, Jakob + Macfarlane, Odile Decq, MVRDV and others, since 2003.