Plant-it-bau | Urban Design Studio

Urban Design Studio: Urbanism After Extraction — Housing, Landscape, and Infrastructure in the Katowice Agglomeration, Poland

Associate Professors Rafi Segal and Marie Law Adams

Spring 2017


Two flows shape the Silesian region: soil and people. Soil extraction once promoted the construction of coal mines and rails; however, these polluted areas are becoming abandoned as fossil fuels approximate the deadline established by the EU. Simultaneously, population that originally immigrated to work in the mines is now emigrating, consequently depopulating the plattenbau apartments that were erected to house them. In addition, these plattenbaus have surpassed their 25-year lifespan. The Silesian region is in transition, but design can boost emergent opportunities.


Plant-it-bau is a process designed to use the flows (soil and people) to mobilize the elements that are being abandoned (plattenbau, coal mines, rail and energy) by utilizing the infrastructure that is on site (rails, roads and industrial heritage). Flows and elements become interdependent again through the design of intertwined cycles for soil remediation, food production, waste recycling, sustainable-energy production and rightsizing of shrinking cities. The plant-it-bau process resembles a gear system; the dynamism of one element is the impetus for the movement of other elements. For instance, city rightsizing disassembles a plattenbau, which generates concrete-slabs that can be used for bed-raised horticulture; planting improves the post-industrial soil to hold plantation of biofuels; the sub-product of bioenergy, called biochar, nurtures horticultural soil. After completing the soil cycle several times, farms of raised-bed horticulture acquire land tenure and building rights.


Plant-it-bau addresses transition as a cycle for continuous improvement by designing a dynamic process rather than a permanent building. Nevertheless, the project recognizes the industrial heritage protected by UNESCO by protecting the garden city of Giszowiec with the rightsizing strategy. In addition, the project promotes safeguarding former connections through a memorial, which is constituted by containers of pollution buried along the abandoned rail.