The last few days in Warsaw have been eventful. Thursday morning we met with Warsaw’s Vice Mayor at Pałac Kultury i Nauki [Palace of Culture & Science] and one of the town architects from the Department of Architecture and Spatial Planning. It was useful to hear their perspective on what is happening in Ursus, and in Warsaw, as well as their intentions for the future. We learnt a lot about the political structure in Warsaw where the City Hall effectively governs everything but much of local planning is governed by each of the 18 districts in the city, of which Ursus is one. Surprisingly, there doesn’t appear to be an overall City Development Strategy document that this level of government use to guide planning decisions – whereas local governments seem to develop the equivalent of a LDF [Local development Framework] almost in isolation. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like we will have opportunity to meet anyone from the local authority in Ursus.
On Thursday afternoon, we met with some more entrepreneurs from our site who showed us around their factories and offices. The first was Korurs, a company who manufacture components for Ursus Tractors which are then distributed to garages and mechanics for use in repair of the thousands of Ursus tractors that remain in use. On the Ursus site, they have their head office and distribution centre, while production is off-site in two other locations. They also have close ties with Asmet [the aluminium fabricator on the site] who manufacture some components for them. They are particularly tied to the site, not only because of the historic connection with the former Ursus Tractor Factory, but because of the integrated transport, utilities and communications infrastructure available to them.
We also met with Giovani, an entrepreneur who owns one of the largest plots on the site. He rents space to numerous businesses who use the space for a variety of activities – glass manufacturing, warehousing, offices, gym, bar, steel component/element fabrication… The building itself was constructed during the time of the Tractor Factory for use by the military to construct and assemble military tractors, tanks and so on. It is an extremely robust and complex structure – designed to withstand attack and to work 24 hours. One of the most interesting features was the removable ground floor which allowed for the vehicles to be lowered to a bomb proof basement! There is also a nuclear shelter on site which we were able to visit!
On Friday, we had opportunity to reflect on everything that we had done so far in a short workshop which challenged us to think about the layering of networks in which each of the actors on site are situated. We considered networks where the actor could be compared to an islands [with bridges to other islands/actors] or states where networks are more like fields – ie.with intangible, shifting and adaptable forces/dependancies. With so many actors on site, this proved to be quite a helpful and revealing way of considering not only the dependancies that exist between the actors on site – but also how each actor sits within the local/state/global context.
Friday afternoon, we at last had some opportunity to wander around the site in smaller groups! We then attended an event that evening in Warsaw’s Museum of Modern Art – a discussion between Krzysztof and Fran Tonkiss on the Post-capitalist City. On Saturday morning we woke up to a snowstorm! Saturday was a ‘free’ day with most of us wandering into the city centre in small groups for a bit of exploration. Unfortunately, the freezing wind and snow was really not ideal for aimless wandering around the city – but it was nice to see the city being slowly submerged under a blanket of snow. Last night, the former tractor factory was almost unrecognisable under 3″ of snow – which will make mapping and surveying perhaps a little more challenging. The next two days are forecast to be dry so a good time to get those woolies on, and sketchbooks and cameras out!