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The Warsaw Voice » Business » August 29, 2012
Business & Economy
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A Garden City Like No Other
August 29, 2012   
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Garden cities have a long history in Poland, with the most interesting chapter set in W這chy and Ok璚ie, two villages which today form the W這chy district of Warsaw.

Setting up garden cities became a trend in Poland in the first half of the 20th century, but then World War II interrupted their development. After 1945, some garden cities were incorporated into larger cities without much thought and others were left to their own devices as secluded villages.

This complicated history took an interesting twist in W這chy near Warsaw. The village was the property of the Koelichen family, who, in the early 1920s, came up with an idea of building an estate modeled on the world’s finest examples.

The urban planning needed for the project was entrusted to experts trained in England, where the idea of garden cities was originally developed.

W這chy was an ideal site for a new settlement, as the railroad which passed through the area would enable locals to get to the center of Warsaw in a quarter of an hour or so. Even today, the rail connection is a major argument for moving to W這chy. Former clay pits used by a nearby brickyard were soon converted into ponds surrounded by lush vegetation. The Koelichens decided to designate 10 percent of the land for public projects. As a result, schools, churches, a culture center, a library, a sports club and a fire station appeared next to houses along the town’s concentric streets, a distinctive feature of garden cities. The residents and the local government put so much effort into their garden city that even though the communist-era authorities almost completely abandoned the original concept for W這chy, the district still has a number of features that are typical of this kind of town.

As W這chy started to evolve into a community combining the benefits of living in the country with all the conveniences of city life, other villages in the neighborhood, including Ok璚ie, developed similar aspirations. Even though Ok璚ie soon became a center of Poland’s aviation industry, local land owners divided up their estates, selling plots for single-family homes and small tenement houses.

In the early 1920s, Ok璚ie gained a streetcar connection with Warsaw, which spurred further development with new houses, a church and a sports club. The community grew, as did the neighboring airport and aviation company, where Poland’s most famous aircraft were designed and built. However, what made Ok璚ie a success became its undoing as the airport suffered particularly heavy damage during World War II at the hands of the Germans. The socialist-era planned economy put an end to the dreams of a garden city in Ok璚ie as the communist authorities gave priority to the local aerospace industry. What is left of the former plans are quarters with quiet little streets, located just a short walk away from the city’s main streets.

W這chy and Ok璚ie, two separate villages which once aspired to become garden cities, are now part of the same Warsaw district. They still have quiet lanes and green parks, but at the same time modern thoroughfares cut across neighborhoods that draw corporations such as Microsoft and Mercedes-Benz, which have opened head offices in buildings along the main streets. To many Poles, the name Ok璚ie is synonymous with Poland’s biggest airport. The latter is a major asset for businessmen and their foreign guests, who also appreciate the local business centers and hotels.

The W這chy district of Warsaw proves that opposites can be combined to form a successful whole. An attractive, green place to live in can coexist with modern office buildings and excellent land for development. This could be the reason why growing numbers of people choose to live and work here.

More details at www.ud-wlochy.waw.pl
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