TUL SKN Cirkula has been involved in urban regeneration projects. Which of them do you consider the most important one?
One of our flagship projects, strictly related to urban regeneration issues, is a series of national student urban and architectural workshops 'Roam ... the city' and 'Roam ... Polesie' ("Włócz się ... po mieście" and "Włócz się ... Polesie", respectively). The workshops focus on the problem of regeneration of the urban tissue of Łódź. They are organized in cooperation with, among others, Miejska Pracownia Urbanistyczna w Łodzi (the City Urban Planning Office in Łódź) and Biuro ds. Rewitalizacji i Rozwoju Zabudowy Urzędu Miasta (the Office of Urban Renewal and Urban Development of the Office of the City of Łódź). The workshops have been held twice so far. Each time, the participants were asked to design a renewal conception for a degraded urban quarter in Łódź and to plan potential redevelopment activities. The first edition spotlighted the first of the eight priority revitalization areas, namely, Włókiennicza Street. The second edition featured the area of the city that had been included in the program Zielone Polesie (Green Polesie). City officers as well as social activists engaged in city renewal were invited to participate.
What has been the impact of student initiatives?
The results of the workshops are to be used in local development plan of this area of Łódź. The conceptions developed during the workshops were also presented to the Ad Hoc Committee for Urban Renewal of the City Council in Łódź (Doraźna Komisja ds. Rewitalizacji Miasta Rady Miejskiej w Łodzi) and won Councilors' approval. Student ideas concerning the conversion of the former Pollena - Ewa factory and the so-called Green Market included in the conceptions developed during the workshops have been considered by the City of Lodz officers and designers. Such favorable reception of the results of the previous editions indicates that our activities have had a real impact on urban planning in Łódź. Right now, members of the Circle are working on the next edition of the workshops; however, their topic and the area of focus are meant to be a surprise. I can only disclose that once again workshop participants will face the challenge of conceptualizing renewal of a fragment of Łódź.
Which of your initiatives do regard as your greatest achievement?
'Łódzkie Białe Plamy" (Blank Spots of Łódź) has been one of our biggest endeavors. The aim of the project was to bring back the memory of the lost components of the city's identity, and especially, of the valuable structures that had once existed in the city but were demolished. The project was carried out with the funds from the Youth in Action European Commission program. The project included, among others, a debate with experts (the City Architect of Łódź and the chairman of the Foundation of Piotrkowska Street (Fundacja Ullicu Piotrkowskiej)), a location-based game and an accompanying exhibition of photographs and sketch drawings, and workshops for school-age children and youth. The project concluded with a national student conference organized by SKN 'Cirkula'. Our project was also recognized by admitting some of the sketch drawings into the 'hall of souvenirs of Łódź'. They were used in 'Pociąg do Łodzi' (Attracted to Łódź) products and in commemorative tickets issued on the occasion of the 85th. anniversary of the tram depot in Dąbrowskiego Street. We have also left our traces in the fabric of the city by placing information plaques in the OFF Piotrkowska area. You can still find them there today.
Based on your experience in 'SKN Cirkula', how would say revitalization projects change the urban fabric?
Revitalization changes the way we look at the city. Once, Łódź was regarded as dull and grimy; today, it is increasingly considered fashionable and attractive for tourists, investors and young people. SKN 'Cirkula" activities, engagement of the citizens of Łódź in the process of urban regeneration not only contributes to the beautification of the city but also enhances the sense of identity.
Our city has been a pioneer of urban renewal. Łódź has been involved in a broad pilot program the objective of which is the renewal of the historic core of the city. Łódź has also bid to host Specialized EXPO 2022 devoted to broadly defined urban renewal. Hosting the EXPO would make Łódź even more recognizable not only in Poland but also abroad.
Would you say that urban renewal is only of aesthetic consequence?
It is a common misunderstanding to conceive of urban renewal in terms of renovation and aesthetic improvement. It is only but a fraction of the whole process.
Apart from 'hard' actions such as renovation of buildings and their infrastructure, improvement of residential conditions/use of particular area, replacement of elevations with more 'aesthetically pleasing' ones that relate to historical divisions, a very important role in the renewal process is played by the so called 'soft' actions. Soft actions are supposed to counteract social exclusion by economic stimulation, education of people at risk of social exclusion and enhancement of their professional qualifications. They also include actions to involve members of the community in the process of revitalization planning in order to spur their activity and to minimize the risk of conflicts. In the process, activities aimed at improving their situation in the job market are also planned.
What experts are involved in the revitalization process?
Due to the interdisciplinary nature of activities, the process of revitalization requires involvement and collaboration of experts in many fields. Graduates with a degree in civil engineering, architecture, and urban planning will plan and design redevelopment of the urban fabric and public space; anthropology, sociology, and other social sciences graduates, who are able to cooperate with the local community during the planning process and throughout the proceedings, may also be involved in the process; economists will certainly be asked to contribute in order to support entrepreneurship in the renewed areas; whereas, graduates in an interdisciplinary field of study such as spatial economy and urban renewal which is just about to start at TUL will be able to coordinate all above mentioned activities.
It is worth being a student because ... ?
SKN 'Cirkula' members:
This is the time for us to explore and find out where we want to be, what we want to do. By studying we hopefully improve our chances in the job market, we build our character and personality. Studying means growing. We have passions, ambitions, plans and our studies enable us to develop them, win top places and achieve bigger successes.
Being a student does not only mean attending lectures. It also means being a member of science clubs, and other organizations which inspire you to become active in many different fields. That is how you gain experience and skills that you will be able to apply to your studies, to your work, and, simply, to your life.
The Student Science Circe 'Cirkula" operates at the Spatial Economy College and at the Faculty of Civil Engineering, Architecture and Environmental Engineering, Lodz University of Technology under the guidance of dr inż. Barbara Wycichowska. 'Cirkula' brings together students who not only wish to learn more and develop their skills but who, above all, by pursuing their passion, wish to create projects that positively change the fabric of Łódź. The Club undertakes projects that support improvement of the functionality and aesthetics of our surroundings.
SKN Circula addresses broadly construed spatial economy. It deals with issues concerning urban design, urban aesthetics, community participation, conservation of cultural heritage, landscape and sustainable transport system. Urban renewal is included in the Club's area of interest.