PRAGA DISTRICT WARSAW, POLAND

The Praga district, located on the right bank of the Vistula River is one of the smallest in size but the most problematic in terms of life quality areas of the Warsaw. Being the part of the oldest and most densely populated core of the city it has been labeled as the poorest, less developed, most dangerous but same time the most genuine (not destroyed during WWII).

Since second half of the 19th century its spaces have been shaped by peripheric role to the prominent left river bank districts. You can still find here traditional quarters of the tenement houses, smaller and larger factories and other elements of the multicultural and at the same time industrial past.

The district history till 1989 was very much linked to the production and industry. Since the collapse of the communism liberal economy forces started to reshape city structure. For many years of the transformation the oldest parts of the Praga district were left aside keeping the status of the urban reserve of “old-time Warsaw”. Last years brought new investments to the district as well public as private. The next ones are to come.

Having heavily stigmatized image, today it is an area with social deprivation and, at the same time, the scene of an interesting cultural revival which feeds on its specific status and identity. However the heritage identity have been often exploited as a branding tool rather than seen as an important value for the local community.

It is the target of the large-scale urban rehabilitation scheme of the city of Warsaw as well as several grass-roots and top-down activities and projects.

The main aim of the lab is to map, connect and empower all the actors interested in protecting heritage values and developing contemporary ones for the benefits of the local economic development.

Within the CHL we will create and test tools and models that will aim to empower members of the local community and NGOs in the redevelopment processes. We want to evoke consciousness of the special architectural and social heritage of the area, encourage economic activities based on the existing built and human capital (stores and craftsmanship).

We will confront the existing municipal resources that do not serve or badly serve the community and the procedures that seems to be ineffective in the adaptive re-use of that resources.

We will focus on the numerous vacant stores and neglected spaces lying in Nowa Praga area, close to Inżynierska Street, Mała Street, Wileńska Street, around the future Centre for Creativity.

In stimulating alternative investment ideas and adaptive reuse of space in cooperation with local communities, entrepreneurs, the municipality, and urban researchers we see an alternative to large, corporate investments. The CHL aim is not necessarily to create new activities but rather to help the already existing ones to overcome the bottlenecks and institutional barriers to be rooted in Praga and to empower its heritage.