Human dimension of urban spaces: International Biennale of Architecture Kraków 2015 and the polish awarded competition entries


  • Marta A Urbańska



“Jan Gehl, an expert in humanisation of cities, is convinced that the enhancing of quality of our life in the cities is a derivative of the image of public spaces […] where people meet “in order to exchange ideas, to trade or simply to rest” (Jan Gehl, Life between buildings)’. These words hail from the Regulations of the International Biennale of Architecture 2015 whose motto was “Human dimension of urban spaces”. Its idea was to inspire the debate, both at the civic and self-governmental level, on Polish public spaces and their accessibility, through the presentation of architectural and urban designs. It was considered vital because of the colossal means from the EU cohesion funds which are being spent in Poland on urban revitalisations. Due to her involvement in the Biennale’s organisation (commissioner, juror, moderator), the authoress raises the issue of the mentioned and awarded Polish designs. All the entries (over 200) were competing in one of the three categories: of the realised designs, hypothetical ones and interventions-manifestos. They provide the perfect comparative material. As it was stated in the Protocol of the Jury, ‘In the competitions A i B , the Jury has mentioned and awarded completed projects in various scales, from small architectural scale through an urbanistic one to landscape, both mobile, temporary and permanent, yet always fulfilling the criterion of shaping urban spaces in human dimension’. The article, analysing the recent solutions and observations proposed by Polish architects, mostly for Polish public spaces, shall discuss whether one may observe positive tendencies towards the return to urbanity and to human, communal character of city’s public spaces.