Green City

Rafał Dutkiewicz

Mayor of Wroclaw (2002–2018)

 Rafał Dutkiewicz is a politician, businessperson, academic lecturer, and activist. From 2002 to 2018, Dutkiewicz was mayor of the city of Wrocław. During his presidency, Wroclaw has seen the highest number of public investments in its post-war history and has won numerous awards and distinctions in Polish, European and global rankings on knowledge-based economy and implementation of a “smart city” model. Wroclaw has also become an international city with over 170,000 foreigners from 124 countries. Further, it was the European Capital of Culture in 2016 and co-hosted the 2012 UEFA Euro Football Championship. Prior to his presidency, Dutkiewicz gave lectures on logics and introduction to mathematics at several universities for more than 10 years. During the martial law period, he was an activist in the underground movement “Solidarity” (Solidarność) in Wroclaw. In the years 1989–1990, he was co-leader and then leader of the Civic Committee in Wroclaw, which, representing “Solidarity,” won the first partially free parliamentary elections in 1989 and the first democratic local elections in 1990. He holds a master’s degree in applied mathematics and a Ph.D. in formal logics. Rafał Dutkiewiczs received numerous awards and distinctions, among others: Commander’s Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta (Poland, 2015), Legion of Honor (France, 2013); Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany (Germany 2017), National Prize of Germany (2017), and Honorary Membership Academia Europaea (2011).

Figure 1. Statistical information about Wroclaw. The population is actually much higher because in Poland many inhabitants do not register. The estimated number of unregistered “Wroclawians” is about 100,000–200,000.

Wroclaw is a city with a genuinely Europe mixture of successively Polish, Czech, Austrian, German, and then again Polish threads are interwoven during its history of more than a thousand years. After World War Two, the city that was physically damaged by 75% and whose entire population was replaced went through a process of a complete redefinition of its identity. Today Wroclaw is truly European and open. Milestones in the identity establishment process have included reconstruction from physical war damage, Polish German reconciliation, the revolutionary emergence of the Solidarity trade unions, the recovery of freedom, the establishment of locally elected authorities, and Poland joining the European Union. This is history. Wroclaw’s chief characteristics today are youth, dynamism, and openness. With a population of about 650,000, the city has more than 140,000 students, who are the main force shaping the nature of the city, enforcing and bringing about change.

A city is a work of art, occupying the space in counterpoint to nature, the most expansive phenomenon in the history of civilization. More and more people want to live in cities, and ever more people will. This is a result of culture. Future cities may shape ecosystems in accordance with the laws of nature. Culture may foster nature and cohabit with nature. In Wroclaw’s Application for the title of European Capital of Culture 2016, we wrote:

It is a cliché that people will always be fonder of the colour of trees than that of concrete. … We deliberately want to inscribe the Green Wroclaw programme into the agenda of citizen-driven development of our cultural community. The point is to emphasise that issues like low emissions, environmentally-friendly energy, or energy consumption involve more than just taking a position in the dispute over whether climate change is a reality or a phantasm. In fact, what is involved is the deeply human desire to control, control oneself too.

Figure 2a. Rędziński bridge, Wroclaw. Photograph by Krzysztof Szymoniak.
Figure 2b. Rędziński bridge, Wrocław. Photograph by Maciej Kulczyński.

During the 60 years of communism in Poland, we were losing time, and there was a growing distance to countries that were able to develop in peace, taking advantage of technological and scientific developments. That created a civilizational gap we had to make up for after 1989. And we did not have time to catch up with developed Europe gradually. We were forced to eliminate the gap in one fell swoop. When we compete for large European projects today, we can see we are assessed in the same “weight classes” as other European cities.

Figure 3. Events that have influenced the city’s development over the past few decades.

Inappropriate legal regulations have sometimes led to mistakes. Space has not always been treated properly. In the twenty-first century, we have finally come to utilize Brown fields both for residential and for cultural processes. It is precisely in such an area, in recovered buildings, that we have established Hydropolis, the Water Museum, unique on a European scale.

We want to increase the percentage of public green areas, and we want them to be continuous throughout the city. This is what is behind the Wroclaw’s Green Arteries programme, involving the establishment of corridors along the main thoroughfares and pocket parks, quiet and green oases. The new approach to the environment, making it as important as it should be in today’s world, is illustrated by sensory gardens, which we are establishing in the city. These gardens, whose plants affect the senses through textures, colours or smells, are places primarily designated for people with disabilities. Green areas already account for 58.5% of the city.

We have also changed our attitude about moving around the city. The Mobility Policy gives pedestrians and cyclists priorities. The Intelligent Transport System encourages people to use public transport. We also want to promote the use of electric vehicles.

In the twenty-first century, the City has made critical references to two areas that support development: a knowledge-based economy and culture. These have allowed making Wroclaw a dynamic metropolitan centre. Soon after Poland joined the EU, the city with a population of 650,000 became home to 150,000 new jobs.

In 2016, Wroclaw became the European Capital of Culture (ECoC) and the UNESCO World Book Capital. ECoC related projects have already been seen by five million viewers. Wroclaw is the first city in Europe that has made architecture a part of the ECoC programme, undertaking the development of the ECoC Housing Estate. The estate was jointly planned with the people of Wroclaw and is to show important roles played today not only by private dwellings but also by shared spaces, environmental thinking, and sustainable development.

All strategic decisions, supported by public debates, lead to the conclusion that both the recent rapid economic growth and the reinforcement of creativity and innovation through investment in culture are not so much the culmination but rather the start of the way towards a genuinely modern, shared city.

This is the key to understanding the reasons for our application for the title of European Green Capital. This is where our aspirations lie, where we discern possibilities for our further development and completeness. Everything we do respects the law: no administrative decision has ever led to proceedings before the European Court of Justice.

Figure 4. Water tower, Wroclaw. Photograph courtesy of “The Hydropolis” archives.

Water is one of the defining features shaping Wroclaw’s reality. In 1997, the city was hit by a flood, the greatest water calamity in more than a century. Since then, we have been through a complete process of Wroclaw Water Junction upgrades and rehabilitation. Today, we are able to turn to the river and enjoy it. We have managed to sewer 98.6% of the city, invest in the development of rail transport, and almost completely replacing the tram stock, whereas municipal public transport is being integrated with conurbation railways. The past 10 years have seen a 300% increase in bicycle traffic, and more than 250 km of new cycle paths have been developed, whereas 360 km of streets function as Tempo 30, or shared-space zones.

The residents participate in this effort. They have decided that more than 30% of the Participatory Budget this year will go towards green areas. Our projects are co-created by NGOs and urban movements (which have also determined the objectives for this application) and, of course, the city’s main research and education resource: its academia, led by the Wroclaw University of Environmental and Life Sciences.

We resolutely endeavour to change home heating habits. We have introduced a number of solutions and programmes to replace traditional furnaces with a view to radically improving air quality. We use legal regulations but also education to combat noise, especially in the city centre, which is still a residential area, unlike in many other European metropolises.

Figure 5. Wrocław’s location on the map of Europe.

Wroclaw is currently Poland’s fourth largest city, the first or the second in terms of growth (111% of Europe’s average GDP). The city’s image is associated with being European, with development, and with the future. “Wroclaw” is one of the country’s three strongest public brands.

We want to make green areas, clean air, and quiet a part of Wroclaw people’s thoughts and lives. The city of business and culture is seeking to have its identity complemented by a marriage with nature. We want to be a Green Culture city, and we will use this opportunity!

doi: 10.18278/aia.4.2.6