Urban areas
Krakow Pocket Parks (Ogrody Krakowian) Foto: The city of Krakow

Krakow Pocket Parks (Ogrody Krakowian)

Jury Award – The best project of the Adapterra Awards 2020

Pocket parks (called Ogrody Krakowian) are relevant small public spaces that give the opportunity to spend free time for all residents – regardless of age, interests or needs. They are not only the vibrant centers of the local communities, but also habitats for plants and animals improving wellbeing and biodiversity in the city.

Implementation of the project has proved that through comprehensive land development, abandoned spaces can become lively multi-generational centers of the local communities and a green and peaceful oasis in the concrete tissue of the city.

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The Adaptation Journey

The positive impact
Poland was named in 2013 by the European Environmental Agency as Europe’s third most polluted and in a country dominated by coal-based energy, with no systemic solutions to energy problems, bottom of the list of European countries concerned with air quality. There are also unsolved problems like: unchecked sprawl, dense urban living, increasing amount of cars, air pollution, heat waves, lack of green spaces etc.

The goal is therefore to create as many pocket parks as possible to batlle today´s urban problems and to allow residents the access to green public spaces no further than 15 minutes from their homes. It’s crucial to show that people have impact on what surrounds them now and how the world will look like in the future. What’s more, pocket parks ensure safety not only for pedestrians and children but also for disabled people thanks to new pavements and specially adapted pedestrian crossings.
How does it work?
The main goal was to create an ecological meeting place for local community, being a habitat for plants and animals improving at the same moment wellbeing in the city and the neighborhood itself. The plan was to create a first pocket park in Europe designed to attract not only curious people, but also different species of butterflies.

After less than 2 months the students cooperating with Krakow Municipal Greenspace Authority succeeded in collecting required amount of money. Then, a diversity of native wildflowers, trees and sedges friendly for different insects were planted and there, street furniture and educational playground were designed and implemented.

Each project of pocket park starts with an open debate where together with residents there is a discussion about their needs. A principle that motivates us is to make people feel like it’s their own garden. A place designed for and by the people.

Each pocket park (24 parks in the present) is different – not only because of their unique themes visible through different styles of elements or various plants, but also because of their size, from very tiny (300 m2) to much bigger ones (8 800 m2). An average cost of building a pocket park is approximately 100,000 euros and that amount allows to meet the requirements of residents which usually are: planting more trees or colorful flowers, creating meeting places i.e. picnic tables or swings, assembling outdoor gym and playground elements or designing educational signs customized to the theme of specific pocket parks.

Original state
There are many unattractive and abandoned places where, finally, after years of neglect and underinvestment in green space, Krakow has caught up: allocation of 3% of the Municipal Budget to green space set a precedent in Central Europe, coming from the unanimous will of residents, councilors and the Mayor.

It all started when group of students came up with an idea to create in grey and postindustrial area in Krakow a small and charming place to rest combining it uniqueness and biodiversity.
Operation and maintenance
Approximately 35,000 PLN per pocket park per year (including e.g. watering, fertilizing, weeding, replenishing, controlling, replacing).

Success of pocket parks increases awareness among the residents regarding the relation between well-designed public space and the quality of life in the city – not only for people in the present, but also for those who will live there in the future. More and more people are aware that greenery becomes a crucial factor in today’s world. New green public spaces compete being fancier, bigger or better-equipped from each other. Unfortunately, very often they meet the requirements of the richest residents or visiting tourists.

It’s not important how expensive or stunning the project is. It’s important to listen to people’s needs and it’s crucial to see a potential to change no matter where. Even the smallest actions can start a domino effect and lead to big changes. First pocket park was built at the end of 2016, one year later there were two more. After these 2 years, idea of creating pocket parks spread through the whole city and Krakow Municipal Greenspace Authority got much higher budget to create even more of them. Now, instead of one or two pocket parks in 2018, appeared 14 more. Right now Krakow has 24 already built pocket parks (at least one for each district) and plans for many more. Krakow’s green space, from pocket parks to the country’s largest green investments, quickly became a cause of for pride for Cracovians.
Why was the measure chosen?
There can be many variations of the park based on the location, the unique conditions of each space and the needs and ideas of the residents. It’s important to change the public spaces and devastated areas through participation and cooperation of the people living in the area. There still are people afraid of any change leading to unknown. It’s crucial to listen to their stories and understand their points of view.

During public consultations, people usually decide on a leading theme of the new pocket park – it may be linked with history of this place, local conditions, specific plant or anything else that comes to their mind. Having all that information Krakow Municipal Greenspace Authority is ready to channel the needs into different projects and their variants.
Obstacles and challenges
The biggest obstacle by far is to convince the residents who are skeptical about changes. Some of them are convinced that increasing the functionality and improving the overall appearance of the greenspace will increase crime and pathological behavior (broken windows theory). However, creating each of pocket parks proves the opposite.
How much did it cost?
Total cost: Over 13,000 000 PLN so far.
Financed by the city of Krakow.

Urban greenery Flood control measures Shading Biodiversity Heat waves and thermal island Floods and torrential rainfall Lack of water and drought 

Kraków, Poland
2016 – to date
Krakow Municipal Greenspace Authority
Various contractors
Krakow Municipal Greenspace Authority
Krakow Municipal Greenspace Authority

Filip Paruzel

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