Ursynów Escarpment Linear Park design in the scope of a system of linear parks of the southern areas of left bank Warsaw



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This article presents the concept of the greenways (linear parks) system in the southern region of left-bank Warsaw. This system is based on linear environmental structure of the terrain.

The methodical basis for the study is the project interpretation of natural landscape features, on which the city’s urban composition should be based.

Natural lines and border zones, such as edges of high plains, river valleys, etc. should present the fabric to city planning. Those natural landmarks should be the places where important visual symbols will be located. They also may play the role of recreation areas or ecological corridors, as well as key elements of urban composition (Wejchert, K., 1974; Forman, R.T., Godron, M., 1986; Lynch, K., 1990; Searns, R.M., 1995; Walmsley, A., 1995; Wolski, P., 2000). In the contemporary urban planning of Warsaw, the linear layout of natural elements was exposed in a project called “Functional Warsaw” - designed by Chmielewski and Syrkus (1935). Yet nowadays, the value of border regions is not always valued. This potential was not utilised in Warsaw for over two hundred years. It was being destroyed, through locating of chance and mediocre architecture in the border areas. Such policy prevented continuation of rules of urban composition, which was developed along the escarpment strip since the middle ages till the end of the 18th century. These rules included locating of important culture objects along the edge of the Warsaw Escarpment (among others: the Citadel of Warsaw, the Royal Castle, the Ujazdowski Castle, the Royal Łazienki, Królikarnia (Rabbit Warren) Palace and Park, Ursynów Palace complex, Natolin Palace and Park). They were often accompanied by extensive landscaping. Urbanisation pressure endangers natural lines and border zones, leading to their fragmentation. Ignoring composition in the urbanisation process is one of many reasons of observed progressive degradation in these regions and the cause their potential is hardly ever used – especially in the last few years.

Frederick Law Olmsted is recognised as the originator of linear parks (greenways) idea. His 1865 project of Piedmont Way, as well as of Boston Park System from 1867 named Emerald Necklace are considered as the first objects of this type (Little, C.E., 1990; Searns, R.M., 1995; Fabos, J.G., 2004). In the second half of 20th century the “greenway movement” expansion in the USA has been resulting from the recommendation made by the President’s Commission on American Outdoors in 1987. These recommendations postulated the creation of the greenways network,

which was based on natural landscape structure, especially the river systems and shoreline of the oceans (Fabos, J.G., 1995, 2004; Walmsay, A., 1995). Up to 1960s ancestral greenways were created (axes, boulevards, parkways), generally for communicational and recreational purposes. During second generation (1960-1985) their objective linked the need of the introduction of the green areas to the city with the automobile free communication. Both first generations of creating greenways had a priority to satisfy the human needs. The third generation (since 1985) has put the need to protect natural resources at the same level as the human needs (Searns, R.M., 1995). Nowadays, greenways’ distinctive feature is their multipurpose character (Ahern, J., 1995; Searns, R.M., 1995; Fabos, J.G., 2004). One of the key functions of greenways planning is to indicate a combination of compatible uses with sustainable land use and to separate discordant ones. There are three main types of greenways (Fabos, J.G., 1995, 2004; Ahern, J., 1995): 1) Created for ecological purposes to protect the natural systems, especially along rivers, for biodiversity protection and facilitating the species migration; 2) Linking the different type recreational objects and recreational areas - for recreational purposes; 3) Created for historical and cultural resources protection for recreational and educational purposes. Also, creation of greenways could link all these goals together or any given combination of them (Ahern, J., 1995, Fabos, J.G., 1995, Searns, R.M., 1995).

Warsaw is located in the area of two main geomorphologic forms: the plain moraine plateau (Wysoczyzna Warszawska) and the Vistula Valley (Dolina Środkowej Wisły). In result, we find an asymmetrical pattern of different plateaus, presenting natural border zones, with five distinct elements of the lie of the land: moraine plateau and at its edge - Warsaw Escarpment, upper terrace and its edge and lastly the lower terrace of the Vistula Valley. The two distinct border zones are the Warsaw Escarpment and the edge of its upper terrace. This is most clearly seen in the south terrains of left-bank Warsaw. The Warsaw Escarpment is a focal point of the city's landscape. The southern section of the Escarpment’s slope (the so called Ursynów Escarpment) is largely overgrown with trees and is accompanied by three nature reserves: Kabacki Forest Nature Reserve, Natolin Nature Reserve and Ursynów Escarpment Nature Reserve. Natolin is a historic palace–park complex. At the edge of the upper terrace another historic palace-park complex is located – Wilanów - the former king’s residence and an element of a historic complex, which was designated in 1994 by the President of the Polish Republic as the National Monument. In the area of the upper terrace, housing construction is implemented. On the lower terrace, numerous old river beds are found, situated along the edge of the upper terrace, together with a small valley of the Wilanówka River, flowing in the old river bed of Vistula River. Besides Vistula wetlands, located in the flood land area, one dense forest complex can be found in this location - Morysin Nature Reserve. Except for that, a mosaic of fields and meadows dominate the region.