Young City of Gdansk was a major waterfront regeneration project involving 73 hectares of the former Gdansk Shipyard, adjacent to the Gdansk Old Town. The first records of Gdansk, a port on the Baltic Sea, date back some 1100 years. In 1980 the shipyard gave birth to the Solidarity Trade Union, which in subsequent years changed the maps of Europe.

The shipyard was divided into 27 parcels of land and 25 international architects were invited to design for them. We were allocated a 1,2 ha waterfront site in the Young City. Among the invited architects were Herzog de Meuron, Zvi Hecker, Peter Wilson, Richard Meier, Norman Foster, SOM, Claude Vasconi etc. CZWG from London were invited to design for an adjacent site and we put our sites together to create a 2,5 ha urban project, which we master planned jointly. Rather than developing a detailed design we proposed a strategy so that our site could cater for varying developer needs working within a uniting urban and environmental code. We had no imposed use type within the overall master plan and decided to leave the final use options open. Our final three-dimensional urban composition started from a playful re-interpretation of the urban matrix of a Hanseatic port city and its narrow streets. Our streets rise gently towards the north, run broadly north-south and frame distant views of the watercourse. A triangular piazza cuts in from the east and interrupts the regular street pattern. The broad side of the piazza opens onto the quayside. The floor of the piazza rises westwards, away from the dock, a frozen memory of the shipyard slipways. An urban scale perspective illusion results from the floor of the piazza rising towards the west and the height of the surrounding it gable walls buildings receding. A reference could be drawn to the illusions of Palladio’s Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza and the surrealist paintings of the British painter Patrick Hughes.

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