Difficult places are areas subjected to development, reconstruction, or revitalization which have the following characteristics — a difficult place causes problems in terms of urban-planning decisions, has a complex semantic structure, is tangled up in history and the return to the meanings inscribed in it. The attempts to decide about its development do not dissociate themselves from the past, from the political load inscribed in the area. At the same time alternative visions of the future paralyze the solutions proposed. This space is as much complicated as important in cultural and urban-planning terms, both in the scale of the city and the country. It is an area marked ideologically and politically, subjected to transformation, reconstruction, and revitalization, for which the spatial context (its surroundings) is also important.
DIFFICULT PLACES. MODEL
The research proposal concerns the action during which the decision-making groups which are to solve a problem concerning development of a similar area can form a transdisciplinary research team which, using a similar protocol (treated as a general framework encompassing several disciplines) can subject the given place to a multifaceted analysis.
It is key here to emphasize the essence of the process. For the analysis of ‘difficult places’ must focus on examining factors which determine the transformations of space inseparably connected with time, on examining the factors which determine the co-existence of stability and dynamism and of the actual and represented space.
To be analyzed:
requiring urban-planning decisions
(specific area or object which is to be transformed)
To conduct a multifaceted analysis to reveal the given place’s characteristic features.
Aspects to be examined: historical, cultural, identity, political, religious, environmental, social, technical, economic, legal, architectural, and urban-planning (including those connected with landscape architecture). An important element of the approach proposed is textual analysis (literature specialist-cultural), emphasizing the role of textual records necessary for pinpointing the essence of man’s experience of the given space, also in the past.
The idea is based on combining design actions with the engaged humanities (taking into consideration humanistic analyses, including literature-specialist ones, based on textual testimonies illustrating the ways in which man experiences space).
The essence is:
the SPACE-TIME and PROCESS of the transformation of space (factors influencing the transformation)
the THIRD SPACE — PHYSICAL SPACE and MENTAL SPACE
Adherence to the following principles:
BALANCE and CONTINUITY IDEA
New historism and the new humanities taken into consideration in the design action
Interrelation between the past, the present, and the future
The biosphere harmonizes with the physical matter and the representation sphere
Important research aspects:
language (including the type of code: verbal, pictorial)
a) the scholar’s language
b) the poetics of the texts describing the place
fluctuation of conceptions (dependent on the remaining factors)
a) the same verbal referent pertains to different phenomena, both physical and represented (polysemy is of utmost importance), for instance, the case of physical or mental void, as a trace, lack, silence, projected emptiness, etc.
b) the same phenomena are called differently
– vertical arrangement (a look from above, from the perspective of a window, from the ground level, from below)
– horizontal arrangement (from the inside, from the outside, from a distance or from up close, omni-directionality or concentration)
– of looking at the space (one of ours/alien, inhabitant/tourist/fighter, triumpher/defeated, invader/oppressed)
– of the scholar representing a given discipline
bios – logos – experience (society) – space
space – knowledge – power
space – society – power
space – history – society
legacy and continuity — the future and new solutions
space – society – record – space undergoing transformation
biosphere (including energy, climate, and circumstances) – space – society
physical sphere – space – society – spiritual sphere
real/mental space as interpermeating phenomena
Pathways for action:
a) formulation of basic assumptions and principles (see earlier points):
-substitution of research on space with research on space-time
-acknowledgement that space-time is a phenomenon in a process
-examination of space-time taking into consideration an analysis of physical and represented space understood not only as a mental map but also as a mental landscape (which overlap and interpermeate)
-the given phenomena and elements examined from various perspectives by representatives of various disciplines
-aiming at painting a picture of the place examined:
What subject matters have been inscribed into it?
What does their reversal consist in? (provided that there is a system of reversing meanings)
What factors affected its transformations?
physical aspects (making a list of aspects important for that specific case)
represented aspects (making a list of aspects important for that specific case)
What functions did the place examined perform, does perform, and will perform? (including alternative architecture)
b) drafting a plan
-a representative of a given discipline examines the selected issues, for instance, regulation guidelines, represented aspects and identity aspects (sacralization, identification), architectural law and economic factors, the social dimension (including the biosphere) on the micro scale (on the level of interpersonal relations and on the level of the way in which an individual experiences space — here and now) and on the macro scale (on the public and communal level and on the level of the role of space in identity construction, the community in the face of affectiveness of space — time axis), etc.
-different scholars sometimes discuss the same problems examined from different perspectives.
Presented here is only a model and not a material listing all research problems. The team is to select a set of important issues after initial examination and search queries. Next, it is to group and assign the issues for examination through the prism of the given discipline. Moreover, extremely important are also the observations and results which manifest themselves in action and not only the presumed one. Thus they are a set of characteristics which cannot be predicted at the initial stage and which emerge in the course of the work. Importantly, it is presumed that the research team looks for these characteristics of space and then arranges them into models of mutual relations. Examples of what might appear here are: center, order, border, points, layers, zones, greenery, memorial objects, movement and motionlessness, sacralization and desacralization, etc. The example words listed refer to various levels of meanings and they enter various categories.
-a collection of analyses in the form of sketches (text and image)
-an outline of the scheme of relations (cf. the point on interrelations) — which features of the space are repeated in various depictions and how they are understood (common, divergent, and parallel interpretations)
-specification of the characteristics of the given space, factors determining its transformations, and guidelines for its further transformation
-a land development plan for the given area (taking into consideration consultations with the authors of the sketches representing humanistic disciplines)
– a collective volume presenting the results of the multifaceted analysis of the place examined
– an urban-planning project of its transformation
Instrumental application of the research, combining humanistic analyses (including literature specialist ones) with technical ones and spatial planning, that is, an actual transformation of the place examined, taking into consideration the results of the research and the guidelines connected with maintaining that space’s cultural significance.