Pole Mokotowskie Park Modernization / WXCA

Pole Mokotowskie Park Modernization / WXCA

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Text description provided by the architects. Pole Mokotowskie is one of Warsaw’s largest and undeniably most popular parks. The park itself is also a unique social phenomenon as its space has been shaped equally by the activities of its designers and a grassroots social process. This location has become widely accepted as the setting for the informal activities of the city’s residents. Thus, it is a carrier of deep-rooted practices, habits, and memories. Faced with such a sensitive ecosystem, WXCA architects proposed an approach that could be termed ‘design acupuncture’.

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Spatial Acupuncture – When French sociologist Michele de Certeau wrote his now-famous work on distinguishing tactics from strategies in the context of everyday social practices, one of the most vivid examples of unencumbered user practices of urban space for the thinker was pathways. Pathways that cut across, pathways going around, and shortcuts… In other words – the paths that we follow daily. Pole Mokotowskie, one of the most popular urban parks in Warsaw (also called Warsaw’s Central Park), is – not just metaphorically – a tangle of beaten paths: a true social and cultural phenomenon, and a field of daily, informal user activities and practices. This extensive urban park has been shaped as much by top-down actions of designers as by grassroots, spontaneous processes and social activities. Its form and function speak to its unique identity and, consequently, the popularity it enjoys among residents. Confronting such a sensitive and interdependent ecosystem has posed equally special design approach questions for architects. Believing that public space is inherently a process, not a single event, the WXCA architects adopted a time-spread, thoughtful ‘acupuncture’ of space as their design strategy. In this case, acupuncture is understood as an evolutionary, not revolutionary approach, a sensitive stimulation of the existing space with its rhythm of biological and social processes.

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Synergy between People and Nature – Pole Mokotowskie Park is located in the central part of Warsaw and is one of the largest parks in the city. However, the change that has occurred in this place is not only quantitative but primarily qualitative. Designed in the 1970s and 80s, the park had not been modernized for years. In recent months, the over 70-hectare area of Pole Mokotowskie has undergone modernization, making it even greener. For the WXCA architects, the starting point was a reflection on the park as a place of coexistence between human beings and nature, a place used and frequented not only by people but also by animals and plants. The biggest change and the most complex technological challenge was the naturalization of the water reservoir, which is the park’s biggest attraction and a popular recreation spot. The existing reservoir structure, built in the 1970s and lined with concrete, had to be refilled with water annually. In recent years, as the structure lost its watertightness, the reservoir was filled minimally to a level that allowed the amphibians living in it to survive.

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The WXCA project envisaged its conversion into an all-year-round pond where – thanks to naturalization based on hydro botanical filters and aquatic plants cleaning the water mechanically, chemically, and biologically – the high quality and purity of the water will be maintained. For functional reasons, the main water reservoir was also enlarged and deepened, and over 16,000 m2 of concrete at its base was replaced with gravel and lined with insulation layers. The crushed concrete was used to build mounds in the newly created biocenotic garden and the shoreline areas. The main reservoir was supplemented with mineral filters and reeds and water plants that clean the water and provide shelter for aquatic animals. The architects designed a new naturalized water system that will be additionally cleaned through technologies supporting natural cleaning processes, positively impacting the preservation of the stability of the ecosystem. A closed system consisting of a spillway, a stream, and the main pond will ensure that the water is in constant motion.

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The modernization also included the area around the naturalized water system. The network of existing paths was developed further and their surface was replaced with permeable material. New urban furniture was designed over the main reservoir in the form of a wooden deck with a terraced layout complemented by wooden bridges and small architecture for various forms of rest and leisure, including seating areas, lounger platforms, and picnic tables. In the northern part of the reservoir, designed as a recreation zone, seats were installed at three different heights, forming an audience area facing the lake. A separate regeneration zone – more natural and wild and reserved for plants and animals – was designated in the southern part of the reservoir. In addition to the modernization of the existing reservoir, connected stream, and spillway, the first phase of the project included the creation of ponds in designated zones – for dogs and naturally sealed ponds in the biocenotic garden.

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The biocenotic garden was created in the central part of the park on land reclaimed from a former municipal cleaning company base. The formed mounds and depressions serve as rain gardens, and a wooden platform meandering among the greenery and gazebos was also constructed. The designed biocenotic landscape of the entire park took the form of an arrangement of plant communities with a diverse profile: wooded nooks, flower meadows, orchards, reed beds, and sensory beds beneficial for insects. The selection of plant species was based on a combination of native species – arrangements of varied biotopes based on types of plant communities of a natural and semi-natural character, including plantings of trees, shrubs, and low vegetation. ‘We noticed that the park’s spatial structure has a network character comprising a water system, pedestrian paths, and social-functional networks. Our goal was to support these existing connections and safeguard them – sometimes by intentionally refraining from any intervention, as in the case of areas for wild nature, where our action was limited to establishing functional connections for animals between individual areas. The place we dealt with is, in fact, a living organism,’ explains architect Łukasz Szczepanowicz.

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WXCA studio won the architectural competition in 2018, and the project was preceded by extensive social consultations with residents. The revitalization was divided into stages. The first stage, which has already been completed, included the naturalization of the water reservoir along with the floodplain and stream, the partial development of the biocenotic garden, a small part of the modernization of the pedestrian path surfaces involving the replacement of the asphalt surface with a permeable, mineral surface, the construction of a part of the small architecture, including benches, tables, litter bins, bike racks, informational elements, park toilets, and gazebos; and some elements of playgrounds and sensory gardens, as well as skateboard obstacles. The partial revitalization also covered the fountain areas. The entrance areas to the park were also modernized, as well as the areas for dogs with new water features. Further elements of the competition concept by WXCA are planned to be implemented in subsequent stages, including the reconstruction of the Finnish houses and a water playground.

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