European cities architecture is unique, because it represents centuries of history. Buildings are often old or rebuild, they speak about wars, good and bad times and just like people that lives in them, each has own unique story. In structure like Warsaw that was demolished in 30% in post war operations1. Further politics and processes were not always focus on bringing back the old structure. Complicated fate of Warsaw, made it modern centre not the well organized, friendly and useful place. Marszałkowska as one of the oldest and main streets, that was called and defined around 17702 has actually huge empty parking loft on almost half of one side length, and almost 30% of it services ground level structure; are banks and mobile operators.
The problem is not only the empty surrounding, but the city that is unable to make any decision. While term of office in Warsaw’s city council last four years, term of unregulated situation of Plac Defilad last already more than twenty3. In daily newspapers, and websites are many articles dedicated to this problem. It is unequivocal that all of them, and internet users comments beyond, shows that Warsaw wants and needs this part of centre.
The structure of street on it own has changed as well, it services, atmosphere, even scale and width, what caused lot of differences. There are few important elements that are already user friendly and full of live; Plac Zbawiciela, Mokotowska and Chmielna streets, that are connected with Marszałkowska and successfully support shopping and food services. Wars and Sawa Junior department stores – that are original parts of post war retail programme on Marszałkowska street. There are also factors like competition investment – Złote Tarasy, which is well organized railway
transport oriented retail4 – located just 10 minutes walk from Marszałkowska.
Retail on it own as well evolved, it is no longer a solution to put regular shopping mall inside town, not only there is often not enough space, but there are much more solutions that can be implemented instead. Shopping malls like Złote Tarasy – above railway station or airport, with strong offices complex – are the last type that we can still build in urban structure with no regrets. But other retail investments should be much more user and habitants friendly, focus more on everyday needs, and atmosphere. Because in times when everything can be ordered without going out of bed, architects should offer much more than just retail function in their designs. The other problem is decision making process – with often complicated structure in city council offices, it is hard for investors to close a deal for bigger or representative
investments. In those kind of design there is much more responsibility than just user interest and fulfilling function, especially when it comes to areas than nobody made a decision in 20 years. Habitants are not the only focus group, in times when whole Europe is in reach of less than 3 hours flights, it is natural that people travel more and more. According to tourist institute statistics5 in 2009, when 27% visits was for business purpose, 25% for tourism, and 8% for shopping. With increase in 2012 of shopping visits to 11%, while business and tourism decrease to 25% and 24%, it just proofs that Poland builds it position in retail focused travellers awareness. It is a pity when one of first naturally chosen destinations in Poland – the capital – Warsaw, has unregulated city centre structure, and poor retail system in it.
As Peter Coleman writes in his book:
„Shops generally form the heart of a town or city centre. They affect our environment and become the places we identify with, serving as backgrounds to our social and leisure lives. They often form the memories we grow up with and look back on as pleasant parts of our lives.”6
It is obvious that in modern city, the role of architects and urban planners, should be searching for harmony and implementing existing net with innovative, but often simple solutions. All this with city office support and respect for historical values, should prevent further degradation, of city retail structure, that comes from lack of decisions and ideas. Now in XXI century we are smart, not only we reused or analyzed with detailed, every existing solution, but also we have technologies, that 30 years ago, nobody even dream about. Our money are represent by piece of plastic, or electronic device, same device can save us a trip to grocery or shopping mall, thanks to online stores with direct home delivery. Besides all the benefits, there are many threats, especially in time of crisis, when people spend less but at the same time – care more – about the quality of life. Although prices in shopping centres are often competitive, atmosphere they offer will never go beyond some level. This is why it is such a great moment for cities downtowns, to fight for their customers, and earn their position in habitants conscious.