Warsaw Central Square
Challenging the monumental emptiness of Warsaw’s socialist city planning
Architects for Urbanity
The design of the Central Square is based on the idea to create a ‘mosaic of activities’ that can generate urban vibrancy and attract all kinds of citizens and age groups of Warsaw. The square becomes an accumulation of different smaller public spaces that facilitate unique uses and break down the immense scale of the intervention into more human proportions. Challenging the monumental emptiness of the socialist city planning and the post-modern alienation of commercial crossroads, our approach introduces the notion of public space as an active and ever-changing apparatus that provokes the participation and interaction of the urban dwellers.
The design of the square receives the programmatic excitement of the surrounding cultural buildings and extrapolates it into the open and flexible realm of the street level, thus performing both as an extension of their interior activities and as an independent initiator of events. The Central Square of Warsaw is inevitably a ‘Theatre Plaza’ that has to be able of hosting the outdoors exhibitions, events and performances of the TR Warszawa Theatre, the Museum of Modern Art and the various cultural institutions that are based in the Palace of Culture and Science. Therefore, as a response to the need of hosting all those diverse cultural events, the square is developed as a flexible patchwork that can easily change and adapt to any curatorial demands.
The proposal refers back to the historical roots of the old Plac Defilad and introduces a new symbolic value to the creation of the new Central Square. The notions of memory and the collective imaginary that has been connected to the Plac Defilad over the decades, as well as the central location of the Square, have been the driving forces for the openness and the inclusive character of the new design. The project preserves and reintegrates the Grand Parade Stand on the South-Western side of the new Square as an ‘Agora’, a place for political thinking and contemplation.
The materials used in the project are specifically selected to fit with the character and serve the activities of each area of the Square. The diverse combination of materials such as natural stones, polished concrete floors, wooden decks, ceramic tiles, prefab elements etc leads to the creation of a rich mosaic of elements and a high level of aesthetical appearance. Most of the natural stones and wooden elements come from different corners of Poland and all the custom materials and construction systems express the local craftsmanship of the country. As such, the Central Square becomes a material representation of the natural resources and a common place of unity for all the Poles across the nation
At the same time, the New Central Square adopts a set of new significations that transform it into a lively and accessible public space. Such new values are the focus on the different uses and activities that the Square can host, the variety and the diversity of atmospheres that are offered to the users, the fragmentation of the enormous size into smaller programmed areas and the flexibility of the design for future temporary or permanent changes.