The City Culture Institute in the city of Gdańsk, Poland has brought its Old City Square (also called The Coal Market Square) to life. Previously used as a parking space or occasionally for fairs or concerts, for ten days the square has been turned into a lively, public space designed for people and their needs. This is not the end. City Culture Institute is now conducting a consultation process with Gdańsk citizens, and is asking them about future possibilities and functions for the Coal Market.
How did the project start?
As decided by the City Council on June 24th, 2013, the Coal Market (Targ Węglowy) was closed off from road traffic due to an initiative of Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper called ‘Tricity — the Coal Market Should Work for the People’. Besides the occasional cultural event and St. Dominic’s Fair in the summer, the Coal Market has largely remained an empty, paved area. The Tricity initiative sought to open up a conversation with the public on what the Coal Market could be.
What was the concept for revitalizing the Square?
The City Culture Institute (Instytut Kultury Miejskiej) decided to transform the empty square into a center of discussion, debate, and recreation. For ten days (from the 26th of August to the 4th of September), the Coal Market (Targ Węglowy) would be transformed into a welcoming, green city area where people could meet their family and friends, have a meal on the grass, play a game of badminton, read a book, listen to the music, or just sit and relax. During that time, different individuals with ties to the Coal Market would be invited to discuss and share opinions concerning potential functions for such a city space.
How were the citizens of Gdańsk involved?
The aim of the initiative was to start a discussion concerning potential usage of the Square. The citizens had an opportunity to express their opinions and share their ideas at a special office for information and consultation located at the center of the Square. Surveys prepared by the Institute along with the Unit for Social Innovation and Research ‘Stocznia’ had been conducted by sociology students from the University of Gdańsk.
How was the space designed?
The ‘Gdyby’ (‘What if’) Group formulated the project and the arrangement of the Coal Market space. The square was divided into several “zones” (green islands of real grass) that provided different spaces for relaxation, games, reading, food, audience, and an office for information and consultation located at the square’s center. Lightweight cubes with patterns and cuttings divided the different sections, but could be moved around easily, therefore allowing visitors a say in the arrangement of the space.
What are the next steps?
The actions performed at the Coal Market concluded on September 4th with a public debate and the screening of the documentary ‘The Human Scale’ by A. Dalsgaard. On September 24th, the first meeting of the Coal Market Stakeholder Council took place at the Wybrzeże Theater (Teatr Wybrzeże) as organized by the City of Gdańsk. Future meetings of the Council are currently being organized. The City Culture Institute and the Unit for Social Innovation and Research ‘Stocznia’ will be in regular consultation with the citizens concerning their thoughts and opinions regarding the potential development of the Coal Market Square as a space for public use.
For further information, the project has its own, dedicated website, which documents all actions and consultations taken around the Coal Market place-making initiative: http://targweglowy.ikm.gda.pl/en/.