Praga, Warsaw Webinar
The Praga Lab Webinar was conducted 21 April 2020 online to substitute what would have been a task force visit.
During the meeting the Praga Lab presented their team, their aims, and the projects they are currently working on. The meeting was divided into three sections, each focusing on a unique aspect of the development: heritage reuse, community and territorial integration, and resource integration.
At the bottom of this page are slides and Q & A session notes.
Praga is a unique district because it was not destroyed after WWII.
Praga is on the right bank of the Vistula River that has traditionally been the industria area of Warsaw. They suffered from a strongly stigmatized working class image. Today it is a socially deprived area and simultaneously a scene for cultural revival. Within this area it is important to note: the new metro line, several developments such as the Koneser Centre, creative centers, Sinfonia Varsovia, and Soho in Praga South.
Projects Planned for 2020
- Made in Praga
- Living Memory Exhibition
- Research papers
- Lower bureaucratic barriers for communities and individuals that want to engage with the city through creating networks and models for interactions
- Create models and initiate spaces for circular economies
- Provide tools and solutions for the municipality to approach heritage values and create spaces for entrepreneurs working with and around heritage
This is a bakery from the early 20th century and part of the network of bakeries that used to exist
an example of what used to be a norm
- today there are new buildings around but the bakery is still there
- they can see what used to be this tangible heritage with red brick and small production enterprise and proximity of living quarters
- it was part of a heritage
- the interior is preserved in terms of elements of the baking process
- there are still furnaces and this is also heritage
- abandoned and underused heritage
Working with People Paces Workshop
- there are a lot of barriers but bakery was empty for 6-7 years
- there was an attempt for a private cultural enterprise that failed
There was an open call:
- Teams were asked to provide different models, one for profit, commercially oriented with heritage values in tact, the other team was asked to provide more socially oriented models that focuses on local communities and socially oriented uses and not solely financed by the public sector to have their own legs to stand on
- They are in the final stages for the teams to provide the models
- They have switched to online meetings and it worked out
- 30th April they are expected to have final proposal for two models, both teams were given complete freedom; they went to serious lengths to find out local expectations, very rooted in Praga and important in their selection
- They did research and their knowledge is up to date in terms of local communities
- They work more closely with jury and experts to see what is feasible and what can be done in existing legal framework and what would need to change in municipal regulations and if they see this as politically possible and what can be supported
- They will in the late summer provide the recommendations which will consist of the specific case study and provide a model that could be applied to other heritage sites
- Teams provide the methodology like what to cross check and what values can be altered in tangible and intangible terms
- two aspects important to the project are to build relations w stakeholders
- connecting various stakeholders
- workshop itself was a way to approach relationship building
- seek to find cooperation
- models involve various stakeholders and cannot be based on public funds nor simply commercial
Made in Praga
- She is not Praga based but chose Praga because of the creative community, her work is local and in a municipality building
- Done in cooperation with local producers and providers and also working with community to open workshop to kids in her building to show the value of Praga and the history of producing on site
- Important to uplift this person and that creative and pride could be created in Praga
- this is a vintage shop that also buys things and commission local crafts people to make repairs
- self made artist
- help reshape and make it more Praga made and something that could be identified as Praga and put her products in museum of Praga
- missing Praga made artifacts but a lot of things are made in china and trying to reverse this process for herself to see if products can be made again on site and be sold on site
Working with these participants and the results will be available at the end of the year
1) Heritage reuse
The special significance of the Praga district in terms of the heritage of Warsaw lies in its authenticity, in this context referring to the original material structure of the buildings compared to the other side of the river where the city was bombed in the Second World War. However, compared to that area, the buildings in Praga district are relatively more recent. The problem identified by the Lab stems in the recent and contemporary economic and social changes: with the deindustrialization process, many buildings lost their functions, and, though developers discovering Praga provide new functions for some of these, it does not fit the historical profile of the district and leads to a business-led gentrification. A typical example for this is the Konoser Center. Though there are initiatives by the local municipal government to mitigate this process in favour of the local population, and several NGOs, mostly with a social profile, also work towards this goal, these activities are not coordinated, thus, not as efficient as they could be. The Praga Lab sees its role as a facilitator, to promote cooperation and communication between the various stakeholders. They offer a specific narrative centred on heritage which could be in the axis of such a cooperation. The Praga Lab has put intangible heritage in the focus and identified the most relevant element (value) as “work”. They see economic activities as the key to revitalize the built heritage of the district, and they propose the concept of circular economy to promote local, small-scale, sustainable solutions.
2) Community and territorial integration
The building of a former bakery is in the focus of the activities of the Praga Lab. Owned by the municipality, it is appropriate to serve as a good starting point for the team’s work. On a heritage level, it is a building complex that is typical of the architectural solutions characteristic of many buildings in Praga, where numerous small-scale enterprises operated once. On a symbolical level, it embodies the concept of WORK, an overarching theme that connects the different activities of the Lab. On a practical level it is an ideal point to start working with the local community, to think about possible uses and also about the territorial effects of any innovation carried out here.
The Praga area is changing – rapidly gentrifying, getting a lot more integrated into the other parts of Warsaw as a result of the new metro lines. Additionally, there is a large urban development program going on, which is financed by the municipality, and targets Praga specifically. And finally, businesses are booming, there are a lot of activities in and around Praga, bringing about a major change in the neighbourhood. The plan of the Praga team is to create reuse models that halt a bit the gentrification process, that allow the oldest inhabitants to reclaim their heritage and on a larger, territorial level to keep something of the Praga they defined as original.
To achieve this, they use the Bakery as a point of departure, to develop a concept that is applicable elsewhere in the city, which combines business use with inclusion in a sustainable way. To achieve this, two teams have been engaged and are working on competing visions – they were selected in the frame of an open call. These teams, while working on their concepts have also begun to reach out to the locals. The locals themselves belong to three distinctive groups: 1) the former inhabitants – people with low income and typically with low economic/social status; 2) the activists, who work to save the „old” Praga and 3) and the newcomers, typically with a higher income and educational level.
The aim of the Praga team is to connect people with places, find the barriers and develop ways to overcome them. What the team needs – and the discussions partially focused on it – are some guidelines on effective processes and tools that can help their work. From the discussions it emerged that on a territorial level the Praga Lab needs to define better their narrative of the entire neighbourhood. (For this the work of the two engaged teams is a great tool). Further steps could be the design of a place-based policy (this is now in the making) and then getting the project connected to other similar ones. Actually, the crisis – which has also likely put the current tenant of the complex in a difficult situation – can be an opportunity to redesign and reuse the space. The Lab has been intent on involving the current tenant of the complex, which is an additional opportunity. Later on, one possible instrument could be using specific EU Funding from the Urban Innovative Actions.
3) Resource integration
- The Praga LAB is currently a research-oriented platform that is looking for the best way to ‘make synergy between places and people’ based on the heritage values in the Praga district.
- The objective is to help combine the assets in the Praga neighbourhood (area based approach) with combining energies of the people (people centred approach)
- The key value that is identified is ‘work’. Most activities, research, workshops etc. evolve around concepts of ‘craftmanship’ ‘artisan’ ‘creativity’ etc.
- There are still many vacant spaces in the area that need to find a new function. The Praga Lab wants to support these spaces in finding suitable functions that fits in the values of the neighbourhood (no more air bnb’s)
- Jumping between scales. Sometimes unclear where the focus of the actions lies: on building level, on street level, on neighbourhood or district level.
- Overall: the ideas are worthwhile, but there is a lack of concrete projects and quantifiable results of the Praga Lab. It is an adaptive project, still in the initiation/research phase. It would help to have a spot on the horizon and/or a clear view on the end objectives of the project.
- Is there a danger, that, after the OH-period stakeholders rise the accusation, that there has only been talks, workshops and conversation, exhausting their power and lowering their cooperativeness to participate in future processes?
- The Bakery project seems interesting. This could give the chance of a long-lasting sign that inhabitants of Praga are willing to change the quarter according to their own needs and with own power and engagement. Maybe even with their own money.
- The Bakery could be a future a longstanding place for meetings and exchange, giving the platform for further projects and being an evidence of successful civic activity.