Instigated by the problems discussed at the Congress I would like to have a say in the discussion on „ Honey, I shrank the Space - Planning in the Information Age”.

I am in agreement with the statement of General Reporter, Mr. Andreas Schneider, that:

„ For important theorists it is quite probable that we are witnessing the early phase of a fundamental change of the socio-economic system, comparable to the agricultural revolution in 15th century or the industrial revolution in 19th century”.

I would even go so far as to say that globalisation and development of IT (Information Technology) is inevitable.


As an employee of a municipal spatial planning office, I would like to base my considerations on the example of Gdańsk, the city well known to me from my everyday practice. 

All kinds of city-planning problems that have to be coped with by a city can be observed in Gdańsk. Those are ascribed to economic, political, historical or social situation, the influence of globalisation on such problems being lost of sight. And yet, should Gdańsk be assigned the place it deserves on the map of the world, trends should be monitored, relevant conclusions drawn, problems met halfway and development fostered.   These are the issues I would also like to touch in my intervention


The paper has the following structure.

To begin, I quote a handful of economic, historical and legal data on the city, addressed to those unfamiliar with the place. The very brief presentation is supposed to make the reader aware how complex the urban organism actually is. 

Next point of the paper includes an analysis of the existing conditions, the above-mentioned city-planning problems and their impact being discussed.   

Further on, I make an attempt to take a look on world trends caused by globalisation and development of IT technologies.

Closing the paper, I try to draw certain conclusions from the said, concerning Gdańsk’s future. 

1. Basic economic, historical and legal information about Gdańsk

Economic background:

·        Gdańsk is the capital of the Pomeranian Province and the Baltic capital of Poland. Metropolitan Gdańsk, known as the Tri-City, forms one of the largest continuos urban centres in Poland with a million of inhabitants.

·        Gdańsk is a seat of international, Baltic and national institutions, representative offices of financial and insurance companies, specialist healthcare institutes, commercial and manufacturing businesses and managing bodies of various religious denominations.

·        The Gdańsk economy has always been tied to trade. Location of the city provides an ideal meeting place between West and East European countries, Scandinavia and Central Europe.

·        The most important industries are shipbuilding, fuel; & chemicals, food processing, electronics, information technology and transport.

·        The retail sector is in private hands, the retail network being dominated by shopping malls.

·        Gdańsk is supported by good sea, rail and air transport networks.

·        Gdańsk is Poland’s important academic centre with various higher schools of university standing  

·        The beautiful architecture of thousand-year-old Gdańsk, a large old town with waterfront, makes the city a major tourist destination.

Gdańsk is a city of a millennial history, a seat of various public offices and institutions, cultural and artistic centre, a city of many higher academic institutes, the birthplace of Solidarity Trade Union, a major centre of economic and tourist life, a metropolitan area with a population of about 1 million.

Historical background:

·        the establishment of a human settlement  fostered by natural conditions

·        in 997 the population of  the settlement gets baptised

·        Middle Ages: spatial development of the city  within the area surrounded by city walls, determined by a network of streets and the rules of division as stemming from the Lübeck law, colonisation of agricultural areas along water courses, drainage of swampy areas in the delta of the Vistula River

·        16th and 17th century  – a period of greatest prosperity with the city becoming surrounded by modern fortifications of bastion type and a system of suburbs 

·        188h and the first half of the 19th century – a period of urban stagnation, development of Gdańsk as a stronghold, construction of large military facilities 

·        19th and 20th century – a decrease in military importance, extension of suburbs, development of industry and commerce including Gdańsk harbour

·        the period between the two World Wars  – establishment of the Free City of Gdańsk, extensive construction activities

·        World War II  –  the city destroyed

·        Post-war period – reconstruction of the Main City, development of the city’s industrial functions, expansion of the city onto the moraine areas, development of the transport system  

·        1980 -  the birth of Solidarity

·        1989 – collapse of socialism, establishment of democratically elected authorities, the start-up of a programme of radical reforms bringing Poland again to the circle of independent and democratic countries with  market economic system

Gdańsk is a city that stepped on the way towards market economy only in 1989 (upon collapse of the communist system), a city with autonomous local government representing inhabitants and their interests, appointed under a system of democratic elections.

Legal planing tools  - the Act on Spatial Management, whereby:

·        the principle of sustainable development has been set forth 

·        the local spatial management plan has been declared a source of local law and the basis for making administrative decisions

·        municipalities have been obligated to execute  local plans 

·        private property has been respected and compensations to owners of grounds losing their value  as a result of  changes in the local plan has been provided  for

·        a mechanism of social participation in the adoption of local plans has been established  

·        types of planning studies required for conducting spatial policy in the municipality have been specified (these include: 1) a study of conditions and guidelines of municipal spatial development – a document of strategic importance to all the municipality, 2) a local spatial management plan being a local law on the specified area).

Gdańsk is a city that has been managing the common good of space under a sustainable development concept and has been enacting local law – local spatial management plans.

2. Analysis of the existing planning arrangements - Gdańsk – problems and their impact

Residential housing:

·        deglomeration of the city onto areas hitherto not managed and not supplied with technical infrastructure 


- the city is burdened with the costs of construction and maintenance of technical and road infrastructure 

- costs of providing city transport are borne by the city 

- heavier road traffic results in greater arduousness of the latter 

·        spatial management yields to the requirements of investors, new projects taking the form of scattered “archipelagos” 


- chaotic spatial management 

- destruction of spatial structure of cities

·        a competitive offer of building grounds, destined for residential housing, from neighbouring municipalities 


- satellite-type residential districts are created next to Gdańsk’s boundaries

- local tax revenues are lost by the city

- costs of construction and maintenance of road infrastructure are borne by the city 

- arduousness related to heavier road traffic keeps growing

·        migration of young households to satellite districts, downtown districts ageing  


- lack of a network of educational and healthcare services in outer districts of the city 

- social costs grow – the city faces a dilemma of either establishing new networks of such services or transporting people to the downtown areas 

- networks of educational and healthcare services in downtown areas lack users

- arduousness related to heavier road traffic keeps growing


·        outflow of services from downtown urban areas owing to shopping malls  being created along the Tri-City’s by-pass road  


- costs of construction and maintenance of technical and road infrastructure are borne by the city

- bottlenecks of the road system arise

- outlet roads do not meet the earlier assumed parameters required from road systems  

·        a competitive offer of building grounds for service-housing buildings from neighbouring municipalities


- location of large commercial-type projects next to the boundaries of Gdańsk 

- increased competition to Gdańsk traders, negative impact on the local labour market

- loss of local tax revenues

- costs of construction and maintenance of road infrastructure borne by the city 

- bottlenecks of the road system arise

- outlet roads do not meet the earlier assumed parameters required from road systems 

·        despite areas having been reserved in current spatial management plans for multi-functional district centres,  the  centres are not created, mono-functional (mostly commercial) centres being established instead along main thoroughfares


- free space filled with small-scale and sub-standard commerce 

- bottlenecks of the road system arise

- road systems do not meet earlier assumed parameters of road traffic 

·        spatial management schemes get oriented towards individual customers (motorists in the first place) rather than  communities 


-  gigantic concrete-paved parking areas, deserted and lifeless at night,  are created near commercial centres,

-  there is no street infrastructure (pedestrian walks, cycleways, green areas etc.) serving the needs of the public.  


·        a drop in industry’s importance in the economic system 


- huge post-industrial areas, oftentimes degraded, of substandard housing yet of perfect location, become vacant, in many a case in downtown areas  

- that type of spatial management proves arduous to the environment 

·        there are no investment strategies for the areas  in question


- devastation, waste of space and assets.

3. Analysis of world trends caused by globalisation and development of information technologies 

... In the times of Internet time goes faster and space shrinks ...

As it seems the trend towards deglomeration, the sprawling of cities, will be deepening. Distance between home and workplace tends to be ever less significant. Even today it is possible to communicate in the real time and the list of professions that can be practised at home, with no need to leave one’s desk (telework in a flexible way), gets ever longer. With lower prices of real property, greater comfort offered by living in a detached house, far away from the urban noise and close to the green, will lure ever more those choosing such a solution.  Perhaps we will not even be selecting the city to live in, but one’s place on earth, a unique place delighting us with its beauty, a place of our favourite climate, with our family and friends living in.  This can be a place noted for most convenient telecommunications charges, perhaps a favourite socio-political system, or a state where no taxes are imposed. There can be an immense number of selection criteria, with as many preferences as the number of people is.

We become ever more dependent on cellular telephones. At one time a cordless phone was all the vogue, now it gets replaced by computer-connected mobile phone. As the producers claim, the phone will become just as indispensable in the future as a door key is now. Using the phone we will send a photo, see a film, do our shopping and check the menu when passing by a restaurant. In just a few years’ time mobile phones will combine the functions of a camcorder, wallet, TV set, calendar, note-book and map. Mobile phones will become instrumental in determining the exact position we are in.  Basing on the power analysis of a signal transmitted by the phone to a network of base stations, we will be informed by the latter where we are, what lies behind the street corner and how we can get back safely home. Does life without a mobile phone seem possible in the future?  

Internet-based retail trading (e-commerce) keeps expanding. Although the initial euphoria about Internet-based retail trading has shrunk slightly, great future lies ahead of that type of selling. A market of household appliances of new generation is being born. In future any household appliance will have a built-in computer connected to the Web. A smart fridge will check the level of food stocks kept in it and will order our favourite yoghurt it has run out of.  During the morning toilet the smart bathroom will put us to medical examination, find out whatever components our diet should be supplemented with and, the fridge having been consulted, we will be served breakfast best suiting our health. Will a visit to the grocery be needed any more? 

Commodity circulation on the Web (e-commerce) gets ever more popular.  As many specialists claim it, a real drive-wheel of the Internet revolution in business will be a commodity turnover on the Web, taking place at special virtual markets for the companies.  Will commodity exchanges, warehouses and other facilities of that kind disappear from the urban space as a result?

The model of business activity has been put to changes. In the past we would focus on internal processes in the companies, such as production, planning and financing. Growing consumer demands and competition result in increased logistical requirements to the companies, reflected in the chain of supplies (production assets, means of transportation, warehouses, distribution centres, companies and the surrounding suppliers, customers and intermediaries) and management of the chain – a flow of information, materials and services from the producer to the customer via suppliers.

How is it going to affect an average firm of the new times? 

The structure of transport keeps changing

In railway traffic the importance of transport of people gets reduced against the traffic of goods. Quite often the railway transport is more competitive than road transport.

In sea transport the traffic of packaged loads in one container or car, or part-load traffic becomes dominating.

Business distance, and not geographical distance is ever more at stake

In the fight for customer it is usually the larger and better-organised ones that win. As far as harbours are concerned, the winners are those that have distribution and logistical centres, perfect land connections with international road and railway systems or with international inland water transport routes.  Is it only the largest competitors that are going to remain on the arena? 

4. Conclusions regarding Gdańsk

In the past Gdańsk would build its power making use of the natural location on the Baltic coast, at the mouth of the Vistula River and the crossing of East-West and North-South trading routes. The same conditions are characteristic of the city now.

If the process of development is to be continued, new technologies should be employed under the unchanged natural conditions. 

1.      Starting to construct A1 North-South highway and improving the capacity of East-West route (a so-called Via Hanseatica) seem to be a priority in the situation.

2.      The Port of Gdańsk has to be extended, to include terminals for handling all kinds of goods: general cargo, bulk freights, chemicals, solid and liquid products

3.      The harbour infrastructure has to be supported by a large distribution and logistical centre. It is in effective supply chain management that reserves can be identified, allowing for reduction of costs.  In the sphere of production, specialists claim, we have reached the limits. 

4.      The logistical centre has to be connected to international networks of road and railway infrastructure.

5.      In order to achieve a full multimodality the construction of an inland water harbour should be considered again.  

6.      Gdańsk has to keep in mind the drive-wheels of economy, the development of science and technology. Conditions should be created for combination and development of the city’s major potentials: the scientific and the technical one.  .

7.      Increase of Gdańsk’s attractiveness should be kept in mind, so that further development of tourism and recreation could be secured. Thus the values of natural and cultural environment should be protected. 

8.      Another priority of Gdańsk seems to lie in the city getting included into global communication lines, fast links and phone infrastructure connections. Talking about communication networks, rich websites with extensive information about the city and a comprehensive business, tourist and scientific offer are necessary. A second, virtual existence of Gdańsk may depend on the Internet. 

9.      As the deglomeration processes are likely to deepen, Gdańsk should create a varied offer of building grounds, destined for residential buildings. The existing residential housing should not be neglected, either, but its standards be possibly improved. Easy access to green areas should be provided, to the network of services (educational, healthcare, commercial), to public spaces (footways, cycleways, water routes, squares), motor and public transportation and technical infrastructure. 

10.   It should be remembered that a big one can achieve more than a smaller one does and that Gdańsk is something more than a single city. Co-operation with neighbouring municipalities, Gdynia and Sopot in the first place, is needed, just as is common striving towards development of the entire agglomeration, the Tri-City as a whole.

Let me express hope that the remarks and conclusions contained in the paper are ones of universal nature and pertain to phenomena caused by globalisation all over the world, not in Gdańsk itself, and that the readers of may paper will find the thoughts inspiring.  

Anna Kostka