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11.30  The Heritage of Solidarity

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In 1996 the Gdansk Shipyard—a place associated with 150 years of shipbuilding as well as the birthplace of the Solidarity movement—went bankrupt. Three years later more than a half of its area was bought by two American private investment funds with an aim to transform it into a new waterfront city centre of Gdansk. Cultural heritage was the key term used both by business and politics during the whole urban planning process. However, despite this fine rhetoric, the practice and the upcoming reality proved the opposite. In the vacuum of public participation through the whole planning process, the new land-use plan approved by the City Council in 2004 was a failure to effectively protect the historical heritage of this famous place. As a result, since 2007 many relics of the industrial past and the witnesses of the Solidarity strike have been legally destroyed.

I have been engaged, in the form of action research, with the independent social process of reconfiguring the meaning, value, and role of the cultural heritage within the urban regeneration process of the former Gdansk Shipyard area since 2000. In my analysis I will focus especially on intangible aspects of cultural heritage such as people’s memories and oral histories as carriers of the historical knowledge concerning technology and rituals of shipbuilding as well as social memories of the Solidarity movement. I will explain the main differences in understanding the meaning of cultural heritage by all actors involved (city officials, developers, artists, activists, and the general public) and its practical application in the urban regeneration process of this famous place.

This paper will present independent and parallel (to the official) as well as informal social processes aiming at attracting public attention and raising its awareness toward the values associated with various aspects of the Gdansk Shipyard’s cultural heritage initiated and led by artists since 2000. The 2012 research contracted by the municipal authorities indicated that 98% of local citizens postulated formal protection of the Gdansk Shipyard heritage. I will also present some of the most effective public actions facilitated by city activists’ networks since 2012 and engaging thousands of Gdansk citizens in establishing networks for sharing information, debates, protests, petitions to the Minister of Culture and National Heritage, Prime Minister and the President of the Polish Republic, etc., all aimed at influencing and controlling official policy concerning aspects of cultural heritage protection in the process of the post-shipyard urban regeneration. Among the great successes of the city activists was a formal letter from the President of the Polish Republic to the Mayor of Gdansk sent in December 2014 as a quick response to the petition signed by almost 5000 citizens. This letter was made public and criticizes municipal policy toward heritage protection of the world famous birthplace of the Solidarity and strongly suggests its quick revision.

Finally, I will conclude by presenting my current Internet project called “Game of Shipyard,” which aims to dialogically utilize the wealth of the cultural heritage of the Gdansk Shipyard to project (in the public participative process) the future of this famous place. The users/players discuss issues around two fundamental and interrelated questions: what is the cultural heritage of the Gdansk Shipyard that we want to preserve and build upon and how are we going to achieve it while transforming this area into a modern waterfront district?

The ideas for organizing such an open, independent public discourse come directly from the experience and knowledge of the Solidarity movement (1980-1981) as a form of modern networked polis of free and equal people gathered together in an agora to democratically discuss issues of their interest to achieve agreement and make common decisions. We can see the model of ancient Greek polis (as a networked hardware) filled with the philosophical ideas of Plato and Aristotle (as a software) inherited by the striking workers of the Gdansk Shipyard in August 1980 and soon after by 10 million people in the whole Poland to make a great change. This is the great tradition that the “Game of Shipyard” follows…

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