Residential areas in the structure of the city: case studies from west europe and Krakow


  • Grażyna Schneider-Skalska
  • Paweł Tor



Once they adopted the sedentary lifestyle, humans set to building settlements which were to protect groups of families and give them the sense of belonging to a material and social community. The settlement unit which could be called a housing complex goes back thousands of years BC. The scale of problems related to housing environment grew considerably with the emergence and development of cities, yet truly distinctive quantitative and qualitative changes occurred in the early 20th century. Implementation of the programmatic assumptions of the Athens Charter resulted in the emergence of spatial and functional structures based on hierarchic dependence of components. The initial projects reflected the pursuit of a human-scale environment and the structural division into neighbourhood units. Undoubtedly, the second part of the 20th century brought about a change in the trends of development in cities. Large housing estates were abandoned in favour of a much greater diversity of housing complex forms – the revived form of city street, urban block or the classic form of a residential complex with clearly delineated structure, services and – most frequently –some recreational areas. The 21st century draws from well-known patterns, complementing them with new elements and solutions imposed by the requirements of the principles of sustainable development. Due to the limited availability of land in highly urbanized central city parts, contemporary housing development occupies more peripheral areas, often at the border between urban and rural neighbourhoods. The development process involves numerous participants, often with opposing interests – public authorities, whose concern should be sustainable growth of the whole city, and developer firms and investors, whose motivation is to maximize profit. This situation has led in most Polish cities to the emergence of disconnected fenced-away residential ghettos with no spatial order. Meanwhile, housing development in Western Europe continues to be built as planned urban complexes drawing from the experience of the past and satisfying the needs of the contemporary city dwellers. The article presents several urban complexes with dominant housing development (Orestad in Copenhagen, Monte Laa and Nordbahnhof-Area in Vienna, Ijburg in Amsterdam and Riem in Munich) built relatively recently.It discusses their functional, spatial and social characteristics, which make them examples of good practice in contemporary urban planning. They demonstrate clearly that only comprehensive planning in a broader scale guarantees creation of high-quality urban spaces, where the welfare of resident communities is a priority.