4.163J / 11.332J
Urban Design Studio: Urbanism After Extraction — Housing, Landscape, and Infrastructure in the Katowice Agglomeration, Poland

4.145, 4.162 or permission of instructor
Required of: 
MArch students, SMArchS Urbanism students

Joint Urban Studio & Practicum

Poland had been a world leader in coal production until its transition to a service economy and the restructuring of the industry in the 1990’s, which led to population decline and unemployment in many cities across the Upper Silesia Region or what is referred to as the Katowice urban agglomeration. While Poland’s economy continues to grow and the Katowice urban areas have been establishing new cultural, educational and employment opportunities, affected areas in the region still face issues of serious environmental degradation including subsidence, landfill, and water contamination. 

Despite the general decline in the industry, increased operational costs in old and deep mines, and an aging power plant infrastructure, Poland continues to be heavily reliant on coal for energy today. As the European Union and much of the world set targets for transitioning to renewable energy, Poland and the Katowice agglomeration in particular face a twofold challenge: how to reclaim a highly degraded post­‐coal landscape for the future, and how to transition to a new energy paradigm.

This urban studio addresses both the environmental and social aspects of this problem. We seek a comprehensive approach that calls to combine design projects and landscape strategies with processes of policy, zoning, financing and investment structures. Focusing on selected sites and re-­occurring urban conditions within the Katowice agglomeration we ask — can the reclaiming of this post coal-mined landscape be combined with new urban development practices in a way that one supports the other? Can we imagine strategies for environmental reclamation and landscape cultivation that carry ambitions for social reconstruction? Can new models of housing — citizen led collaborative developments — for example take an active role in this project? Can we envision new models for integration between public efforts for environmental cleanup with market driven projects (housing and commercial spaces)?

This urban studio will engage students in both group research and individual design projects.  We will work in collaboration with students and faculty from the Silesian University of Technology, and in partnership with the Association of Polish Architects (SARP – Katowice branch), and the city of Katowice planning department.  

MIT students will travel to Germany (Berlin) and Poland (Krakow, Katowice and Gliwice). The trip will include visits to emerging housing projects in Berlin (Baugruppen), and a drive across the German landscape into Poland, where students will visit several coal-­mining towns.

The studio’s emphasis on existing and new housing typologies ties into the Leventhal Center for Advanced Urbanism’s biennial affordable housing theme.

Projects in 4.163