ULI Poland PLACES + SPACES: Arts and the City

The Polish Council of the Urban Land Institute launched a new edition of PLACES + SPACES on 6 March. Held in Warsaw, the first meeting this year attracted nearly 90 experts in the real estate market, including property developers, architects, urban planners and members of the art world. The main theme of the meeting was art and its impact on the quality of life in cities.

Whether you associate it with public investments in impressive museums and galleries or private projects that are somewhat smaller in scale, the slogan “Arts and the City” causes excitement no matter where you stand. And what about artistic initiatives of those who directly shape the evolution of urban space, namely property developers and the collaborating urban planners? As illustrated by a lively debate at PLACES + SPACES, art and business are inseparable, helping build a positive image of cities, creating an attractive space to live and work, attracting the attention of new investors and consequently stimulating economic growth.

In the research project entitled “Quality of Living” by Mercer – a ranking of attractive destinations for mobile talent –  entertainment, culture and art are equally important as safety, access to healthcare, a well-developed public transport system and air quality. Speaking at PLACES + SPACES, Slagin Parakatil, Principal at Mercer, pointed out that the city’s “after-hours” scene is a vital factor that office employees take into account when deciding to relocate to places that often are thousands of kilometres away from their home country. This is all the more important for employees migrating together with their families. In addition to the very existence of cultural and art institutions, it is also important for the place to be easily accessible, both economically (price of entry) and in terms of transport (e.g. central location, easy access by public transport).

According to Mercer’s report, the assessment of Warsaw from the culture and entertainment aspect improved by nearly 9% over two decades. To compare, Prague and Bratislava saw an improvement of 10% and 19% respectively. The perception of other cities in Central and Eastern Europe has improved as well, with Ljubljana, Zagreb and Belgrade recording a 13-18% boost, although any comparison should take into account historical and socio-political challenges characteristic of individual countries in this part of the continent. The all-European ranking reveals no surprises in the category, with cities such as Paris, Berlin, London, Vienna and Amsterdam in the lead. Warsaw ranked somewhere in the middle, along with cities such as Lisbon.

Hala El Akl, Director at PLP Architecture, talked about embedding culture in development, ensuring cultural engagement strategies are explored at the very beginning of the architectural or urban design project. Drawing on best practice examples from her studio, she illustrated the array of possibilities for different scales of interventions and different moments of the development timelines. In her presentation she touched upon the definition of culture and the inclusion of creative industries in general, not only limiting the cultural offer to the reception/consumption of art, but also to the production. El Akl showcased some of the key initiatives led by the Culture and Creative Infrastructure Team at the Greater London Authority to guide the built environment community in their efforts. El Akl stressed on the importance of building public/private partnerships, of involving the local community in determining the cultural offer and of developing tools to measure the impact of these initiatives. El Akl, along with the ULI UK Urban Art Forum members, is developing a step by step guide to embed culture in development, to be launched and shared with ULI members later in the year.

During a discussion panel Malwina Pawłowska, Marketing & Communication Manager at Skanska Property Poland, presented interesting examples of activities engaging current and prospective users of buildings developed by the company, including the “Uśmiechaj się do Woli” campaign featuring the photographer Katarzyna Marcinkiewicz, creating pavilions next to Rondo Daszyńskiego in Warsaw which served as a free local venue for cultural and arts events as well as murals created in collaboration with Dawid Ryski, Tytus Brzozowski and Marcin Czaja.

Gerard Schuurman talked about the ambitious regeneration project for Gdańsk Imperial Shipyard, including the cooperation with the renowned studio HenningLarsen.Although construction works have not begunyet, it is already home to some initiatives by Morska Fundacja Historyczna and WL4 Przestrzeń Sztuki. Among many other uses, the regenerated shipyard is also considered as a site for a museum of modern art.

Speaking at the discussion panel, Maria Prokop, an advisor at Your Art Maison Gallery, pointed out that private projects developed in Polish cities, including modern office buildings, are an excellent place to display art. However, it is paramount to always carefully consider the purpose that an artist’s work is supposed to fulfil in a given place.

Click here for photos of the event.

The PLACES + SPACES series is supported by Skanska, Colliers International, Dentons, Echo Investment, Ghelamco, Greenberg Traurig and Immobel.

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