It is fascinating that I can tell you about my city and my big dream to revitalise it. But also about a dream of all Łódź residents, which is organizing the EXPO 2022
.The modern history of my city began in the 19th century, as trade with the Russian Empire energised its development. That is when Łodź had reached a growth rate comparable only with Chicago: within 100 years the population of Łódź grew from 800 people at the beginning of the 19th century to 500,000 people at the beginning of the 20th century.
Łódź grew out of hard work of people of several cultures and religions, out of ambitious dreams of those who, like Baron Haussmann in Paris, decided to redesign and rebuild the city from scratch. Thanks to this, in the early 20th century Łódź became the Art Nouveau gem of Central Europe.
However, as a result of two tragic world wars, a part of our heritage – the most important one, cherished in people’s hearts – was lost. For the Art Nouveau housing buildings and palaces, the Communist era was a time of contempt and oblivion. The collapse of the obsolete textile industry in the early 1990s, when Poland was under transformation towards the market economy, left our city with high unemployment and huge former factory buildings falling to ruin.
We entered the 21st century with a strong need to find a new way for the city, and a new philosophy. What proved to be the answer to these challenges was revitalization, encompassing architectural and economic aspects, but also social and cultural ones. As a result, Łódź is becoming a nice place to live, to work and to spend free time.
We decided to launch a large programme of reconstruction of the historic city centre and to revitalise public spaces. Residents are invited to re-settle in the centre, while former factory complexes are turned into offices, residential premises and service outlets, and thus take on new functionalities. One of the giant factories was overhauled into the biggest shopping and entertainment centre in Poland, another became a venue for creative industries and alternative art, and yet another in now home to the Łódź Special Economic Zone. Another example is the EC-1 power plant which was redeveloped into a science, technology and culture centre, offering unique exhibition opportunities.
For me, the most important thing is that residents are again proud of Łódź, they want to live there, start families, study and work. They are proud to live in “the last undiscovered city”, which has its own unique charm and character.
Restoration of the city is not only changes to urban space, but above all a mental makeover, a change in attitude towards the city, in the way it is perceived, with the emergence of new ideas and concepts, increasing creativity and entrepreneurship.
.And that is the story I would like to present at the EXPO 2022, a story about a changing city. I would like to share our experience and invite other countries and cities to share their problems and solutions. I am convinced that such a discussion would be inspiring for many places in the world.
The text of speech delivered before the General Assembly of the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE), presenting the candidacy of Poland and Łódź for organization of EXPO 2022.