Landscape Architecture Lab: The restoration project of the city forest in Iława, north of Poland, is constructed around the “forest narrative”. This unique, fragile sub-Atlantic oak-hornbeam forest becomes the main character of the story and hundreds of years old trees are seen as museum exhibits. Within that premise, the landscape architectural interventions are limited and “spatially delicate” with a focus on providing an opportunity for human contact with nature and introducing new channels of perception for the visitors.
The project is meant to revive neglected urban nature area through the safe usage of space provided for a wide range of users – walking, jogging, cycling and single-track biking. The interventions are tailored to be used by people of different age, regardless of the physical capacity – the path slopes are gentle, and the wayfinding system is designed to include the needs of people with disabilities.
Other than the landscape architectural interventions, that include a cycling and walking path system, a viewing platform, street furniture, a lighting and wayfinding system, the educational aspect of the project is crucial too. The signage system provides a whole narrative that invites forest visitors to experience the woodlands while engaging different senses. The story described on the signage brings to life issues related to ecology, nature conservation, forest diversity, as well as the meaning of death in nature.
This ecosystem-focused project becomes a political statement when analyzed in relation to the threat posed to the environment in Poland. Since 2017, following the green light granted by the Ministry of Environment and State Forests Agency, the forests of Poland have been ravaged, including even the most precious primaeval woodlands. Logging activities threaten the whole ecosystems – both plants and animals – as the harvesting is nonselective and enormous areas are destroyed producing ‘environmental massacre’ landscapes.
In this context, the project is seen as a unique example of environmental awareness accomplished after an intense investors engagement process – The City Council of Iława, environmentalists, local historians and a broad team of designers and engineers from different disciplines. Since the very beginning of the project it has been clear that the more subtle a design intervention is, the better for the ecosystem. Also, after a long process of encouragement the decision was made to change the character of the project to non-productive and natural forest, which resulted into a no-wood-harvesting policy and protection of the deadwood.
Short office name: Landscape Architecture Lab
Role of your office in the project: Lead design office
Other designers involved in the design of landscape: Marta Tomasiak, Paulina Rduch, Grzegorz Bojda; subcontractors: Aleksandra Matyas & Tomasz Miśtura (wayfinding system), MEEKO Architekci, Piotr Kowalik (construction engineering), BT Projekt (single track), Jan Kondak (lighting), Biuro Usług Inżynierskich Concept (civil engineering)
Project location: Iława, Poland
Design year: 2015-2016
Year Built: 2017-2018
Photography: Aleksandra Matyas