Parklet on Jagiellońska street

by Marcin Chruśliński, Oswajanie Miasta

The 20-hour weekend intervention in the heart of Szczecin’s downtown aimed to challenge conventional parking practices and reimagine these areas as vibrant public spaces accessible to families, cyclists, and groups of friends.

For June 17-18, 2023, Jagiellońska street in Szczecin, typically congested with parked cars, witnessed an inspiring community effort to reclaim and repurpose public space, organized by the Owajanie miasta association, Mozaika cafe, and the ŚRODEK project. The weekend intervention had a dual purpose. Firstly, it served as an objection to incorrect parking of vehicles in the city center of Szczecin, which disrupts safe and comfortable movement for pedestrians. Secondly, the event aimed to introduce a fresh, playful perspective on the use of public space and, in doing so, ignite a discourse about the diverse expectations people hold for public areas.

With minimal resources and a lot of creativity, participants in the intervention embarked on their mission. Cardboard boxes, styrofoam, plants, artificial grass, and various props supplied by attendees became the building blocks for the transformation. The cardboard boxes were versatile building materials that allowed each participant to arrange them according to their unique needs and preferences.

At the outset, the response from residents was somewhat reserved. Only a few took part in the initial parklet prototyping, with many merely observing and inquiring about the concept. However, as the event progressed, the situation evolved. On the second day, residents eagerly joined in the endeavor to freely configure the parklet, including three elderly residents of Śródmieście district. A mobile playground also found success, attracting families who joined the process while strolling along the street – even the heavy rain didn’t stop the children from having fun!

The weekend intervention featured a diverse program, including engaging discussions, workshops on creating ‘seed bombs’ used in the research walk investigating public spaces’ adaptation to the needs of plants and animals, a screening of “Sisters of the River” (Siostry Rzeki) by Cecylia Malik, a mobile playground on the parklet, and a concluding evaluation meeting. The event was part of the “City of All Species” initiative, organized by the Studio of Social Film of the Academy of Art in Szczecin, with additional discussions and workshops in a nearby vacant building.

Over the two days, approximately 100 people utilized the parklet, with around 20 actively contributing to its transformation. Notably, 10 individuals from Jagiellońska street and the city center expressed their support for the concept. The parklet’s dynamic and adaptable nature enabled the testing of various spatial arrangements, providing valuable insights into the final design for this urban space. Architect-owners of Mozaika cafe attested to the wealth of conclusions drawn during the event that can be used for the future development of this area.

This weekend intervention showed that streets can be more than just parking spots; they can be hubs for conversations, gossip, rest, workshops, and a safe place for kids. Moreover, the creation of a designated bicycle parking area allowed for eight vehicles to be parked simultaneously, contributing to the accessibility of parking spaces in Śródmieście. A mobile space, tailored to individual needs, proved to be a powerful tool for experimenting with different solutions and aiding in the formulation of the final concept for this urban oasis.

Photos by Grażyna Iłowiecka