Re-claim Silesia

A strategic proposal for an urban remodelling of post-mining economies and landscapes

Re-claim Silesia is a strategic proposal for an urban remodelling of post-mining economies and landscapes. Research led to a spatial intervention of a reclaimed material community center as a key building of the new long-term, allotment gardens inspired masterplan for living-working community on a model site in Bytom, Upper Silesia, Poland.

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The Upper Silesian area in Southern Poland is a cradle of formerly prosperous industrial legacy. The coal mines have not just been a center of work but also a place of friendship and shared celebrations. Along with their fall, the whole community lost its prior identity, putting it in need of new models of labour and living. At the same time, most of the former miners are still alive, adrift in the post-industrial spirit and landscape. The project puts the aspect of the "post" into question. It draws from the current limbo to reinterpret traditions and roots to form new urban systems, contemporary, but embedded in the atmosphere of the past.

The study investigates the idea of reinterpretation by reclaiming the labour identity, building typology, construction material, energy, land and as a result - community. Silesian romanticism together with rediscovered allotment garden planning let nostalgia create new urban value. The research lead to a strategic proposal for an urban remodelling of post-mining economies and landscapes, based on the case study of Bytom - one of the most problematic cities of Upper Silesia in terms of social and economical issues that result in spatial chaos. Building of a community center would determine a starting point for the phasic masterplan. It is located in the center of the model megasite next to the buildings of a former mine, being a spatial manual on how to build with reclaimed construction material in 1:1. A key of the program is to provide a flexible, multifunctional space for users to access an experimental building laboratory - with areas for the demolition material marketplace, workshops, small studios, canteen, municipality information market, roof allotment gardens... Reinterpreted local typologies as industrial hall, greenhouse, shed or row of garages - are used as a diverse and adaptable framework for the different purposes. Moreover, being connected by a valuable in-between space and making use of the internal paths and border situations between the particular functions, they represent the idea of ‘alloting’ - spatial organization inspired by the allotment gardens. The next phase of the project is a gradual implementation of the reinterpeted allotment planning for the new living-working community. The general rules and frameworks would be imposed - roads, paths, infrastructure, maximal sizes of the plots and buildings. At the same time, users would have a lot of freedom defining shape of their settlements. However, there would be one general requirement - to be able to rent a cheap municipal plot, one should register a business activity. In this way, a new community where work and living is not divided, would grow. At the same time, this planning approach would trigger the local economy.