Kraków to convert decrepit old cavalry barracks into centrepiece pocket park
Known the world over for its architecture, history, cultural life and, even, it’s wild party scene, the city of Kraków is in the process of carving a new reputation – that of a green, innovative town committed to safeguarding its environmental future.
Seeking to nourish its forgotten urban corners and revive them as ‘pocket parks’, around 25 such projects have already been realized. Few, however, crystallise the city’s direction as clearly as the latest to come under construction.
Found a stone’s throw from the Schindler Factory, the new park is set to utilize not just a patch of overgrown scrubland, but also a historic building contained within.
Once home to a unit of cavalry pioneers, the structure at the heart of the plot has a place in musical folklore, having once served as home to cult 80s bands such as Republika and Maanam.
Allowed to fall into disrepair, it subsequently found itself swallowed by nature, degrading to such an extent that demolition had been recommended.
Now though, its shell is to be harnessed as the centrepiece of the city’s next pocket park, and its hollow insides in-filled with swings and benches.
In accordance with the plan, the building shall again vanish under a sheet of greenery, only this time under more controlled conditions: “The concept assumes that the building will gradually disappear amid the greenery,” outlines the investment plan.
“From the side of ul. Dekerta, part of the building will be reconstructed for social purposes, while in the other parts only the external walls will be restored. The roof will be accentuated in the form of a pergola which will be covered with vines.”
As part of the development, pathways will also be laid out, as will a “nature zone” and flowerbeds thick with pollinator-friendly flowers.
Since being announced, the project has garnered much public and media attention, and in the process helped spotlight the city’s pocket park phenomenon.
Though pint-sized parks are by no means new (the very first is thought to have been established in New York in 1733), pocket parks as we know them first appeared in America in the 1960s in response to worsening social conditions in the major cities.
Now, with more and more municipal authorities focusing on green issues, they are again in vogue, and particularly so in Kraków.
First debuting in late 2016, the city has since displayed a voracious appetite for them with the Mayor, Jacek Majchrowski, a firm fan: “Contemporary cities learn every day that green connects,” says Majchrowski. “Kraków’s pocket parks are a socially equal project, implemented in every district of Kraków, showing that changes in urban space are needed everywhere.
“Every – even the smallest part of the city – is important and should serve the inhabitants. Inventive, engaging, and developed to the highest level, pocket parks are places where the local community also has the opportunity to integrate and build mutual relations.
Certainly, the thinking behind them has been sound – while it is unrealistic to ensure that every citizen is within a short walk of a big park, pocket parks have proved that it is possible to create more modest enclaves of peace with the potential to increase wellbeing.
Likened by green activists as a form of “urban acupuncture”, they have become havens of biodiversity, injecting often heavily built-up areas with an energizing pop of much-needed nature.
Filling a gap in more ways than one, they have also served to re-engage entire communities while building on ideals of local identity.
With each offering their own unique set of peculiarities, completed projects have thus far been themed around such diverse topics as maths, literature, magic, art and technology.
Fundamentally inclusive and multi-generational in their appeal, their absorption into the city’s daily life has been underlined by the number of events – concerts, picnics, educational walks and suchlike – that have already been successfully conducted.