Nearly two years since it was first published online, a striking architectural project found itself going viral after being the subject of a Facebook post by social activist Jan Śpiewak. The concept of architects Patrycja Stołtny and Michał Sapko, Plac Oddechu (Breathe Square) visualizes the area surrounding the Palace of Culture being transformed from a concrete car park into a natural oasis.
“Previous projects for the square have always treated green areas as an additional or secondary element,” says Michał Sapko, “so we wanted to give them priority – the core idea was to create a complex green infrastructure that would attract visitors through its social function and events.”
The idea comes at a time when the future of both the Palace and the surrounding area hang in the balance. As things stand, a competition is already underway to pick a future design for Pl. Defilad with five international projects on the shortlist, while beyond that, much noise has been made regarding the potential demolition of the Palace itself. Though most view this as ultimately unlikely, an increasing number of politicians have jumped on the bandwagon.
“We need to look at the area with a fresh perspective,” warns Michał Sapko, “but we have to also remember our heritage and history. For us, PKiN isn’t just a piece of Soviet heritage, it’s a testament to history. Public discussion is vital so as to give people the chance to express themselves and find the right solution for this area, but the biggest challenge will be finding a compromise. Our fear is that the voice of the people will be ignored.”