On 22-24 May 2015, nearly twenty architects, urban planners and researchers met in Gdynia in order to create new – alternative to the existing vision- concepts for development of Fisherman’s Pier (Polish: Molo Rybackie). Although held in workshop style, the meeting did not constitute a typical urban workshop. Unlike in case of other similar initiatives, this time the design process was preceded by a public consultation carried out in InfoBox Gdynia, and its results were subsequently used as a main guideline for designers. The event was commenced and organized by StructView, a manufacturer of StructView FRAME solution used to conduct the consultation process and present the final projects developed by the participants.

The task was to devise an urban design concept for the area of Fisherman’s Pier and incorporate the results into the physical and social fabric of the city. The Pier, currently undergoing revitalization, is a structure located in the waterfront area of Gdynia most desirable for investment. Four project groups tackled the subject, proposing their unique guidelines and ideas for the development of land in the wider context of the creation of the so-called New Downtown Gdynia.

The workshop began with an open conference panel featuring invited experts. The panel started with a videoconference with Grzegorz Buczek. Vice President of the Society of Polish Town Planners explained the legal aspects of conducting public consultations in Poland as well as their practical application. Marek Karzyński, Director of the Office of Planning of the City of Gdynia, presented a vision for New Downtown Gdynia (“Sea City”) on the background of historic and contemporary development of the city. Łukasz Pancewicz of the Municipal Urban Planning in Lodz elaborated on the topic of public participation in urban planning by providing international as well as local examples. The speakers’ talks were followed by an interesting discussion with the audience.

After the panel, workshop participants were divided into project teams. Each team consisted of a person who could read maps, a 3D modeler, a good communicator and an enthusiast of Gdynia. The second day began with a research walk covering the area of Fisherman’s Pier and its close surroundings. The participants then conducted a field research among residents.
During the intense process of developing projects, participants could benefit from the support of mentors or use the results of qualitative research conducted from mid-February in the area of Gdynia marina and the seaside boulevard by students of the Pomeranian University of Applied Sciences in Gdynia, a partner of the event. The design task faced by workshop participants was not easy. The designers understood that recognizing missing features, as showed in the consultation report, and simply making them available to users is not enough. Building a relationship of mutual trust and creating an identity by involving the residents in the design process as early as possible both form an important element of public participation on the way to plan a common space. All projects expressed confidence that the value of an investment is not determined by the investment alone, but above all, by the public space which is built around it. The quality of this space only to a small extent originates from the designer himself, simply because the activity of people using it serves as its most important catalyst.
The final presentations were evaluated by a jury composed of: Barbara Marchwicka (Spatial Planning Office of Gdynia, district councilor Gdynia-Orlowo), Agnieszka Jurecka (Laboratory for Social Innovation PSTP Gdynia, Initiative city) and Martyna Adamczak (StructView).

The four shortlisted projects interpreted the results of the consultation by responding to the needs of Gdynia residents on several levels: from comprehensive functional transformations and their incorporation into a framework for sustainable city development, multi functionality and social diversification in residential areas, to micro adaptation of all the results in more specific architectural forms. The winning project by Marta Fabijańska, Marta Fass, Przemyslaw Barszczewski and Piotr Żelaznowski was based entirely on the discovery, building and maintaining the identity of a place in the expanded participatory process.
“Sea City for Public Activity – Community Planning Workshop” was the first event in Poland that utilized StructView FRAME interactive 3D visualization technology dedicated to participatory planning space. How is the solution innovative, and how does it work?
StructView FRAME enabled consulting and field research via Internet, based on any group of participants, no matter the size of the group. All data was presented in a clear and graphically appealing form. The spatial development plan for Gdynia and several development proposals selected in competitions – that have not yet been materialized – were visualized on the virtual 3D model of the city. Residents marked their needs and spatial issues with moving markers. At the same time, they had an opportunity to familiarize themselves with the revitalization plan for the area. Data that were automatically collected in the consultation process were subsequently grouped and presented to the workshop’s participants in the form of a report.
The Gdynia workshop confirmed that the participatory process is a significant tool which forms a vital part of the discussion about public space. This is not just a trend, but universally recognized requirement for sustainable development of developing cities. The challenge that the designers currently are facing is not so much about giving the privilege of creating the city space away to its users, but about programming such a process where real residents’ needs will form the basis for work done by the specialist. A process in which the framework will be open enough to allow spatial negotiation between what is private and what is shared.

The event was held under the honorary patronage of Polish Town Planners’ Association and the Mayor of Gdynia – Wojciech Szczurek, the media auspices of Architecture and Business magazine, City Magazine, URBNEWS portal and Gdańsk Radio, with the support of DALMOR S.A. and Strefa Startup of the Pomeranian Science and Technology Park.

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