Urban Ecosystem of Ideas: is it reality, or is it utopia?
Several months ago, 15 thousand square meters of the former Tobacco Factory located at Dolnych Mlynów 10 was rented from the Spanish owners by the Tytano foundation. The foundation representatives announced their plan to renovate neglected buildings and adapt them into the Urban Ecosystem of Ideas – a project that would integrate start-upers, programmers, designers, interior designers, small-scale entrepreneurs and artists. There were more than 200 submissions for the competition prepared by those eager to open their business in the area. Submissions included ideas for approx. 20 restaurants, 15 concept stores, 4 CrossFit studios, 10 fitness clubs, nearly 30 design show rooms, 10 theaters, climbing walls, music practice rooms, workshop for children, offices, studios and many, many more.
"The only thing we want to achieve is for the space to be alive. After the closing of the Miraculum factory at Zablocie, numerous initiatives operating there will have to search for a new location or move to other cities. There is so much going on in Krakow right now that we do need a lot of space. The former Cygar-Fabryka* is one such perfect space"
said Anna Maria Kwiatek, the co-creator of the foundation, in a conversation with “Gazeta Wyborcza”.
And so it began. As DJ BoBo used to sing – “Let the dream come true”! Since the end of June, first eateries have been opened at Dolnych Mlynów. The entertainment and restaurant scenes have been enriched with new spots: an American-style diner, Tap Bar with craft beer, a place serving original alcohol-based cocktails, three restaurants including a vegetarian one with 100 seats, Design Forum, a night club and a summer movie theater. What will be next? We reveal the secret in a conversation with Tytano PR manager Magda Jabłońska.
Quo vadis Tytano?
I set up a meeting with Magda in the largest – and the nicest! – vegetarian restaurant in Krakow – Veganic. Location: Dolnych Mlynow, of course. It’s a lazy holiday morning, but the place is already crowded. What’s the key to the Tytanic success, we wonder, drinking – nothing else! – but a parsley smoothie.
PURO: How did it all begin?
MJ: The idea was sprouting in Ania Maria Kwiatek’s and Lukasz Kumecki’s head for a long time. Lukasz, a keen explorer of the area of the former Tobacco Factory fascinated with the place’s potential, invited Ania , an owner of Idea Fix brand and store with Polish design and organizer of numerous cultural events in Krakow, to cooperate with him. They’ve founded the Tytano Foundation whose aim has been to create the Urban Ecosystem of Ideas – a project that would integrate artistic environments, similar to La Tabacalera in Madrid or even Manufaktura in Lodz.
Tytano announced a competition for the ideas on how to arrange the space.
The competition that aroused great interest among the people of Krakow! We’d receive so many submissions we had to postpone the results day several times. We debated for a long time over each project because we did not want the place to resemble a simple cluster of pubs. Our idea was to build a city within a city, with all its diversity and – what comes with it – to satisfy its residents’ and visitors’ different needs.
Any examples of the ideas you got?
There were ideas to build a billiard club, shooting gallery, climbing wall, movie theater and a theater among others. Many of these ideas is now under construction which takes a lot of time for lots of funds, time and work have to be invested in the buildings. They’ve been empty for years and their condition requires them to undergo extensive renovations.
Next to all these commercial businesses – have you chosen any initiative devoted to culture?
Of course we have! We have a photography studio and a film studio. I will lift the veil of secrecy and say that a branch of non-commercial cinema popular among Krakow’s residents will have its opening soon. Also, there is a place being created where an art gallery and a bookstore will be joined with a café. Metka that promotes exclusively Polish fashion designers has been operating already and so have the Fashion Forum and the Design Forum. The latter gathers the finest brands from all over the world – the interior of their store is simply marvelous.
PURO: Everything in here is marvelous! Do you have one person overlooking the design of the places being created?
MJ: The only thing I can say is that we’ve lost control over it. When one place opens, the next one wants to be more beautiful, better equipped and unique. Tytano has given birth to a new competition in “being beautiful”. When we stare at the pictures from before the renovations we can’t believe how far the changes have gone.
How long will you be here at Dolnych Mlynow?
We’ve signed an agreement until 2020. However, we hope for it to be prolonged because we have plans on how to manage the place in the future. In Krakow, there is no other place like Tytano…
What about winter? Now, the social life thrives in open-air cafes and restaurants; there is even a pool for children, an orangery, a playground and a basketball court.
The life will move inside. We already have it planned – a rich program of parties, concerts, cultural events, fashion show, lectures and exhibitions. We’ll guest music stars of great caliber. There’ll also be some winter sports.
Will it be an ice rink?!
It’s still a secret.
Does it happen that someone comes right from the street and wants to, for example, organize a happening?
Yes, it does. Once we had a musician with a harp pay us a visit. He just wanted to sit and play for an entire day. It was a unique experience for all of us, to be so close to this extraordinary instrument and music.
Is there anything you’d like to have here and you don’t?
More artistic studios, non-profit institutions, designer ateliers and creators from every branch of art. They create the atmosphere of places like this one, becoming their (one could say) residents. We also think about a co-working space open 24 hours a day, where everyone would be able to rent a working pace for themselves. We need a florist’s as well. But a real one, with unusual flowers and floral compositions. Perhaps it could be a small flower market?
What’s the Tytano’s guiding principle?
The system of ideas, a city within a city, an entrepreneurship incubator. These three phrases mirror the character of this place and its future.
*Cygar-Fabryka, the history of a Krakow’s shag
These days it’s hard to imagine that there was a time when the Tobacco Factory at Dolnych Mlynów played a pivotal role in the development of Krakow. At the beginning of the 20th century, the factory (Kaiserliche Koenigliche Tabakfabrik) was the largest manufacturing plant in Krakow with approx. one thousand employees, including nearly 900 girls and women – an exorbitant number for a poorly developed Krakow. The plant was opened in 1871, at the time of Józef Dietl’s presidency, as part of the president’s ambitious program aiming to reinvigorate the industry and to overcome the economic stagnation of the city. If we should believe local legends, employed in the factory was Manka from Czarna Wies, the “queen of suburbia” known for her Krakow vaudevilles.
Initially, Cygar-Fabryka [another Polish name for Fabryka Tytoniu, i.e. the Tobacco Factory] had been located in the so-called royal windmills and it was not until 1880 when a decision was made to build a new factory in the vicinity. Everything in the factory was organized according to detailed regulations enforced by the Imperial Royal Tobacco Monopoly run by a board and with the emperor himself as its head. Specialists and directors were required to wear uniforms and they had the right to carry a saber. As per the emperor’s guidelines, tobacco had to undergo a 2 years fermentation process before it could be used in production. Cygar-Fabryka produced cigars, cigarettes, various types of tobacco and quid. The building right by the street housed the cigarette paper factory and there was a storehouse for finished products on the other side of the plant. Kornel Filipowicz accurately captures the atmosphere of the place in his 1955 book “Ulica Gołębia”.
“The neighborhood was nice, busy: the nearby tobacco factory, known to the people of Krakow as ‘cygarfabryka’, diffused a sickly aroma of tobacco all around and, every Saturday, enlivened local taverns and shops. On a payday, long before the opening of a wide, fortified, prison-like gate of the factory, there already were people standing on the pavement: mothers with children, prostitutes, creditors, shoelace, mirror and condom vendors, shopkeepers and girls eager to go to the movies and for a walk afterwards. Everyone was waiting for a factory siren to announce the end of a work day – waiting for the gate to let out the people with money in their pockets.”
In 1958 the factory started its activity under the name Zaklady Przemyslu Tytoniowego in Krakow (ZPTK). What’s interesting, ZPTK produced “American” cigarettes. In 1973, ZPTK signed a license agreement with Philip Morris International for the production of Marlboro. Shortly after, the factory was sold to the Spanish company Immobilaria Camins which planned to adapt deteriorating buildings into a hotel-residential complex worth PLN 150 mln. However, the economic crisis in Spain made the company postpone its plans. Buildings at Dolnych Mlynow lapsed into silence until the coming of Tytano.