The pilot site of the Innovation in North Praga District
Eight-tier building, ca. 1800 m2
Four-tier building destroyed by fire in 2013, ca. 500-900 m2
Both buildings were built between 1910 and 1914 as integral part of four-building complex of furniture warehouses owned by Alfons Wróblewski i Spółka, localized side by side over elongated rectangular parcel ranged between Targowa and Inżynierska streets, divided by three yards and connected with gate passages.
Proposed pilot activities:
• Affordable workshops and studios for local craftsmen, designers and artists;
• Coworking spaces for freelance creatives;
• Fabrication Laboratories (FabLab’s);
• Exposition spaces and conference halls;
• Cultural centre for local community, NGO’s and individual activists.
Aim and method of data collection:
The goal of data collection was gathering of essential information enabling comprehensive and consistent evaluation of the pilot enterprise regarding its strategic premises and current state of undergoing measures. Apart from standard desk research the essentials of Design Thinking were engaged. Design Safari method was combined with twenty-six immersive user interviews, engaging 5 Why’s and Empathy Mapping techniques.Gathered User Stories were subsequently interpreted by researchers during two workshops by use of Affinity Diagrams and Dot Voting techniques.
Legislation, policies and strategic deeds:
(1) Recommendations for the program of economic and spatial development of Warsaw’s Praga developed by The Association of Polish Architects in collaboration with The Association of Polish City Planners (May 2015);
(2) City of Warsaw’s Integrated Revitalization Programme for the years 2014 – 2022 (Sept. 2015);
(3) Premises of “Revitalization – Common Cause” project (March 2016);
(4) Guidelines for the usability and functional programme of the buildings of Center for Creativity Nowa Praga (April 2017);
(5) Regulations for design competition for architectural and structural adaptation of property situated between streets of Targowa 80A and Inżynierska 3 as intended for the Centre of Creativity Nowa Praga (December 2017).
Other existing previous analyses:
(1) Summary of communal consultation conducted with stakeholders of emerging Centre for Creavity Nowa Praga (April 2017);
(2) Report of focus group interviews carried out among stakeholders of Warsaw’s creativity centres localized in district of Praga Północ (June 2017);
(3) Report presenting results of functional and usability evaluation of Targowa Creativity Centre (September 2017).
Conducted interviews were focused on attaining information uncredited in documents analysed over desk research. Based on consultations with local leaders and representatives of commissioning party, researchers determined over twenty representatives of stakeholders and potential users, including close neighbours, social activists (both groups and individuals), architects, city planners, craftsmen, designers, artists, gallerists, entrepreneurs and potential investors.
History of building:
Build between 1910 and 1914 as integral part of four-building complex of furniture warehouses owned by Alfons Wróblewski i Spółka both building served for decades as storage spaces. After the World War II the site continued to fulfil the same function being administered by public offices – first as repository of abandoned belongings and since the 60ties as warehouse for commodities. Since 1982 it is encompassed with care of the state and inscribed into register of heritage. In the 90ties it served as rental space leased to small shops, advert agencies and the like. In the second half of former decade – until the fire in 2013 – lower building (Inżynierska 3) became residence of popular youth club “Sen Pszczoły”. It also contained studios of few major Polish visual artists.
Analysis of the current state
The pilot consists of two buildings localized in the centre of Nowa Praga (“New Praga”) – the central part of Praga Północ (“Praga-North”), one of the most recognisable districts of Warsaw. Although the whole Praga district has been undergoing for several years visible modernisation, lot of inhabitants in the area struggle with unemployment or low-paid jobs and neighbourhood of the pilot site is perceived as underdeveloped and unsecure. Hence a great risk of gentrification must be considered when planning public investments.
Both buildings are in different physical conditions. The lower one (Inżynierska 3) was originally four-tier high, but it has lost all four wooden ceilings and roof during a heavy fire in early 2013. Only external clinker brick wall skeleton remained.The higher building (eight-tier Targowa 80A) wasn’t damaged by the fire. Its structure is similar – external and internal load-bearing walls are made of clinker bricks divided by wooden ceilings enforced with steel girders. Wooden staircase is well preserved and in good technical shape. The building however hasn’t been occupied for a dozen years and its interior became vastly devastated.
Heritage asset restoration:
According to heritage conservationist’s guidelines, the function of the site is to comply with its historical character and structure. The revitalization process needs to expound the original assets of the buildings by preserving maximum of their authentic substance and by restoration of all missing elements (floors, wooden doors, balusters or window frames). Also, the open character of interior warehouse spaces should be recreated by removal of all secondary division walls, hanging ceilings and compartments. All necessary devices and installations (electricity, air conditioning) may not interfere with general appearance of the building .Since the lower building has been destroyed by fire, some of its halls may become two-tier high (other than original four-tier division) and may adapted to needs of disabled. Courtyard between the buildings supposed to be revitalized and may be partly canopied.
The building plot belongs to the city of Warsaw. Since 1989 the organ of administration is Zakład Gospodarki Nieruchomościami Warszawa Praga Północ (Institution of Properties Administration Praga-North). The whole idea and project of Center for Creativity Nowa Praga was conceived and designed by Centrum Przedsiębiorczości Smolna (City of Warsaw’s Centre for Entrepreneurship – city of Warsaw’s unit) and the investment is being executed by Stołeczny Zarząd Rozbudowy Miasta (Metropolitan Administration for City’s Development).
Other actors and initiatives:
The neighbourhood thrives with public-spirited initiatives undertaken by various formal and informal collectives, including private activists. One of the crucial actors is Stowarzyszenie Otwarte Drzwi (Open Door Association) administrating an open house for homeless young men (below 35-year-old) conjoined with ceramic works (Lepię.to) and small restaurant (Kuchnia Czerwony Rower), which render cheap food services enabling the homeless residents to acquire basic job skills. All the facilities are localized in the buildings directly adjacent to the site.Out of array of other nongovernmental initiatives in the neighbourhood one shall enumerate Grupa Pedagogiki i Animacji Praga Północ (Group of Pedagogics and Animation of Praga-North), Konsorcjum Centrum Młodych (Youth Centre Sindicate), Fundacja Zmiana and Towarzystwo Przyjaciół Pragi (Society of Praga’s Friends) – all providing ministrations for local inhabitants, especially youths.Significant role for animating local culture is played also by Muzeum Pragi (Museum of Praga) which organizes tens of meetings and events a year (about 8 minutes away from the site).The whole district hosts significant number of initiatives animating artistic community in field of music and performative arts including Sinfonia Varsovia (one of the most reputed Polish symphony orchestra), Teatr Powszechny (popular socially concerned theatre), Teatr Baj (puppetry theatre) and Fundacja Zakochana Warszawa (Warsaw-In-love Foundation). Due to the low rental stakes in the whole area there is also several dozen studios for visual artists scattered within few kilometres from the pilot site. In recent years several business clusters emerged, including Centrum Kreatywności Targowa (Centre of Creativity Targowa 56 – coworking space for small technological startups), Soho Factory and Centrum Praskie Koneser (Praga Koneser Center hosting Google Campus Warsaw). Also, main campus of Uniwersytet Humanistycznospołeczny SWPS (SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities) has been extended 2,5km away from the pilot site.For last several years the whole Praga district has been undergoing significant modernization tending to become fashionable area vibrant with modern culture. Vital part of this process was emergence of private estates and settlements designed to attract thousands of wealthy residents.Some of these ventures are being developed these days and going to be fully functional before the Centre for Creativity Nowa Praga will be open to public in 2022. One must enumerate in this regard Port Praski (Praga’s Harbour), Osiedle Bohema and Osiedle Fabryka – all localized in radius of 1,5-2 km away from the pilot site.
The emergence of Centre for Creativity Nowa Praga in 2022 is expected to have significant impact on the surroundings by stimulating its socio-economic growth. If administered efficiently, it will attract new groups of users, including several dozens of permanent residents (craftsmen, artists, designers, freelance specialists, social innovators), hundreds of guests and thousands of visitors online.In result, popularity of whole area will grow, rising the interest of potential investors and new residents. This will affect all actors inhabiting the area, especially those who rent their living or working space. Hence the risk of gentrification must be considered and effectively managed.The neighbourhood of the pilot site is diversified and unhomogenised. The closest area is inhabited with few hundred residents living in tenement houses or apartment buildings. Most of neighbours are either elderly people who own their flats or alluvial citizens renting it from private owners.Some of inhabitants are struggling with low pension or low-income casual jobs, living in social houses with affordable rent paid to the city. Ground floors of surrounding buildings are occupied with few minimarkets, small grocery stores and service undertakings. The expectations most frequently expressed by these actors regarding emergence of the Centre for Creativity Nowa Praga was lack of noise and need for parking space.Socio-economic diversity rises within radius of 1 km away from the pilot site – in area of Stalowa Street and Plac Hallera (Haller Square), which both were undergoing significant modernization in recent years.Apart of refurbishing of public space (exchange of signboards, planting of trees, new street lighting), new groups of tenants has been settled.Emergence of small artisan workshops, modern office premises, youth clubs and cafeterias has been accompanying influx of middle class citizens – families of young professionals, academics and expats, often with small children, expecting high standard of public services and cultural offer.
-Great localization near to several bus and tram stations, 300 m away from Warszawa Wileńska railway and subway juncture, 2 km away from the Warsaw’s Oldtown (20 minutes by walk across the bridge over Vistula river);
-Pilot site belongs to the city of Warsaw – same as approximately 80% of other properties in the neighbourhood, enabling the public administration to execute local policies effectively;
-Strong neighbourly bonds in the local community, high sense of belonging and local identity;
-High level of engagement of local leaders (NGO’s, social activists, artists);
-High level of activity of small trade (stallholders, flower vendors);
-High proportion of experienced handymen and qualified craftsmen living within local community (roofers, plasterers, bricklayers, welders);
-High demand in Warsaw for affordable studios and workspace among craftsman, artist, designers and other freelance creatives;
-Increasing popularity of lifestyles related to arts & crafts, contemporary art and design, permaculture and new technologies (promoted by such weblogs like Dezeen or Inhabitat);
-Rising demand on services related to FabLabs, courses of robotics, carpentry workshops and the like;
Lot of artists and craftsmen already lives or rent studios in the district (due to accessibility of relatively cheap venues);
-Widely established image of Praga as “artistic district” as well as characteristic, palpable genius loci.
-Lack of clearly defined mission of the emerging Centre for Creativity Nowa Praga, especially in relation to other city’s projects already administered in Praga (Centre for Creativity Targowa 56) or being under planning (Młyn Michla);
-Lack of efficient communication policy – some of key stakeholders and potential tenants aren’t even aware of the pilot planning or they learn about it from rumours; they do not understand goals nor premises of the project and they haven’t been engaged in process of its development;
-Low level of social trust among stakeholders and potential tenants – sense of exhaustion and lack of agency; frustration with ineffective actions of city’s administration;
-Poor image of public initiatives in the area being administered by the city (Centre for Creativity Targowa 56 and Museum of Praga);
-Lack of clear criteria determining standards by recruiting future tenants, establishing scope of future tenant mix and consistent line-up (programme of events);
-Omitting of UX perspective – lack of guidelines regulating implementation of new technologies into pilot’s future communication policy (website, social media, apps etc);
-Dissection of both revitalised buildings from a larger architectural complex consisting of four-buildings forming integral whole since its beginnings.
-Economic and social revival of the whole site’s neighbourhood;
Enhancement of quality and prestige of surrounding resulting with uplift of local community’s level of satisfaction and sense of belongingness;
-Vocational development of Warsaw’s traditional handicraftsmen, contemporary artists, designers and other freelance creatives;
-Integration of community of Warsaw’s freelance creatives, social activists and entrepreneurs;
-Development of new city’s landmark – site with any precedent nor comparison in all-Polish scale, creating attractive image of whole neighbourhood, attracting Warsaw citizens and tourists;
-Development of integral institution – organically integrated with its surroundings, absorbing local specificity and evoking climate of “old Prague”;
-Development of inclusive institution – implementing well defined social policy, adjusted to real needs and expectations of various local minorities (youths, seniors, unemployed, kids, foreigners etc.);
-Development of “user-friendly institution” – pursuing its policy with maximal level of simplicity from perspective of its users (tenants, guests etc.);
-Development of attractive appearance and communication of emerging institution by means of consistent visual identification online (website, social medias) and offline (wayfinding, guerrilla marketing etc.);
-Development and trial for innovative model of collaboration between institutions of local government, representatives of private sector and creative industries.
-Unrecognition of full scope of potential stakeholders and tenants of emerging institution or incomplete recognition of their full needs and limitations;
-Superannuation of institution at the point of its opening – lack of functionalities required in year 2022;
-Overinvestment or overesthetisation of the revitalized buildings – commission of rental space with inflated standards, with high exploitation costs, which won’t be affordable for creative individuals demanding support from the city;
-Gentrification of neighbourhood – creation of a venue deepening social inequalities, perceived as unfriendly or inaccessible for various groups of potential users;
-Bureaucratization of procedures and scattering of competencies resulting in ineffective management or repelling most valuable users;
-Lack of consistent line-up (workshops, trainings, conferences) or programme being reduced to purely commercial or entertaining events;
-High density of car traffic on the site resulting in eminent threat for pedestrians and cyclists;
-Management focused on purely economical archievements, omitting social and cultural factors;
-Unstable condition of tenancy or poor communication with future tenants.
Programme & content recommendations
Institution of Policy Council – a permanent brain trust gathering experts from various fields (designers, architects, urbanists, sociologists, social innovators, local leaders and activists), experienced in designing or managing of similar institutions, willing to elaborate a mission and detailed profile of emerging institution, including its social priorities, line-up and strategy of development;
Institution of Steering Committee gathering representatives of (a) Policy Council, (b) city’s government and (c) private sector (including potential investors) whose task will be development of effective model of management of emerging institution and implementation of postulates introduced in its mission;
Detailed determination of institution’s mission and profile in clear relation to other city’s projects in the area, especially (a) Centre for Creativity Targowa 56, (b) Młyn Michla and (c) Museum of Praga;
Successive monitoring of needs, abilities and limitations of potential stakeholders and users of Centre for Creativity Nowa Praga regarding eventual future modifications of institution’s programme, social offer and usability features;
Balancing of real operational costs of the emerging institution regarding factual needs, possibilities and limitations of its potential tenants, expectations of potential investors and the social policies of the city;
Determination of mutual obligations and commitments between potential tenants, investors and city’s administration regarding realisation of social programme of the institution;
Execution of essential economic and legal analyses enabling to prepare further development of the institution according to regulations of public-private partnership;
Development of consistent visual identity of the institution providing logotypes and way finding;
Development of user-friendly (simple, intuitive and responsive) website containing information about emerging pilot (in Polish and English), design to function in future as platform of integrating local community and exchange information about current cultural events.