Two very different projects have shared this year’s European Prize for Urban Public Space: The Przełomy Centre for Dialogue at Solidarnosc Square in Poland by Robert Konieczny and the Recovery of the Irrigation System at the Thermal Orchards located on the edge of the town of Caldes de Montbui in Spain, by Marta Serra, Elena Albareda and Jordi Calbetó. Both projects fulfil the prize’s goal in particularly successful ways: They open up and revitalise previously unused public space. Every two years a jury of architects and critics comes together to typically select two prize winners and several “Special Mentions” from the 25 finalists. The Przełomy Centre for Dialogue’s underground structure, which among other things will be used for exhibitions about the history of Szczecin, has an inclined urban plaza on its roof. The successful interplay of architecture and open space thus fills an urban planning and historical gap in the city’s centre while creating a new and vibrant public plaza that allows for a variety of uses.
In the Spanish town of Caldes de Montbui a dilapidated cultural landscape was developed into a publicly accessible space where the town’s residents are able to experience nature firsthand. The orchards in Caldes have always been irrigated with water from the Roman thermal springs located there. Due to a construction boom and consequent discharge of waste water at the end of the 20th century, however, the irrigation system fell into decline and cultivation of the orchards was discontinued. A restoration of the irrigation system linked to a redevelopment of the infrastructure system via a variety of bridges and walkways lead to the complete renovation of the canal system within a period of two and a half years.
With the help of fruit growers and architects, a basin for the purification of polluted water was built and previously private parcels of land were made publicly accessible through the construction of a bridge over the main canal.
In addition to the two prizes the jury also awarded four special mentions. These were awarded to the following projects: the Barkingside Town Centre Improvements in London, United Kingdom; the Multipurpose Hall in Molenbeek-Saint-Jean, Belgium; The Ring of Memory: International Memorial of Notre-Dame-de-Lorette in Ablain-Saint-Nazaire, France; and The Garden of the Heavenly Hundred in Kiev, Russia.
A special recognition was awarded to the city of Copenhagen in acknowledgment of its public policies for improving the quality of life in public open space.