Best public space in Europe

16 sierpnia 2016

The Dialogue Centre “Upheavals” in Szczecin, designed by Robert Konieczny’s KWK Promes, was deemed the Best Public Space in Europe. It was awarded the European Prize for Urban Space as a joint winner with the project of the Recovery of the Irrigation System at the Thermal Orchards Caldes de Montbui (Spain), designed by Cavaa Arquitectes. This prestigious title has been awarded since 2000 in a biennial cycle. This year, over 25 works from the whole of Europe reached the final of the competition, and the total number of works was 276.

Szczecin belongs to those places in Poland which have been most affected by history. To 1945 it lay within the boundaries of Germany, then it suddenly became a Polish city. An instant exchange of its population disturbed its identity. Before the war, the space of the present Solidarity Square constituted a city’s salon - with a quarter of stately tenements, bordered by the Konzerthause building to the north. During the air raids of the Allies, this part of the city centre ceased to exist. A scar on the urban tissue appeared; even more afflictive, as it was cut by a new communication artery. In December 1970, this quasi-square became the arena for workers’ protest; pacified ruthlessly, with 16 protesters killed. Since that event, this place has been a symbol of the fight for liberty.
For years the Solidarity Square remained a square by name only. It had vague borders, open frontages, burdensome busy street neighborhood and the absence of a defined function, despite the dominating one – to commemorate the events of December 1970, with a monument erected in 2005. In the past several years the space has undergone architectural changes. In 2014, the former Konzerthaus was replaced with the new Philharmonic Hall, designed by Estudio Barozzi Veiga. The building instantly became a new symbol of the city, and won the main Mies van der Rohe Award in 2015.
Before that the square served only as a tribute to history. Thanks to the redevelopment, this part of the city became more attractive also for other citizens. An open-space form of the square encourages invention. Its topography facilitates the discovery of new perspectives and views, encourages walking and sunbathing. The sloping surface serves as a space for various activities, skateboarding, and in winter - sledding. At the same time, the square retained its symbolic dimension - it is still a venue for anniversary events, but it is not its dominating feature. Today it is a space used harmoniously by various age and social groups.