Friday, December 18, 2015

Hard Hats and Sculpture

Hard Hats and Sculpture

This post focuses on two disparate events in recent days, and could address a good deal more. Given the time, I would post every day to report the many activities and discoveries that define our days here. However, you don’t have the time to read all that, and I’m finding, just as in the U.S., work tends to cut into my day significantly.

Protective Gear Required

It’s not often that teaching public relations requires hard hats, safety vests and work boots, but last Friday was one of those days. Something I never thought I’d have to ask from students is their shoe sizes, but it was necessary in preparation for a visit to the construction site of what will soon be the largest shopping mall in Poland. Dubbed “Poznania,” this behemoth boasts 300,000 m2 (3.2 million square feet) of total surface area and 100,000 m2 (more than 1 million square feet) of leasable area. It will have 220 boutiques, 40 restaurants and 40 medium and large stores, and will be equipped with 4,000 indoor parking spaces.

I have become acquainted with Philippe, the project director for Poznania, through the church we attend here (appropriately called Poznan International Church). Philippe graciously invited me to bring my students for a tour of the site. Because the project involves a French company, Eiffage (Philippe is from France), undertaking this massive project employing almost exclusively Polish construction workers and navigating Polish bureaucracy for permits, approvals, inspections, etc., I thought the idea of a briefing and tour had merit. I was not disappointed.
Philippe begins our visit with a briefing on the scope of the project.

Philippe and his leadership staff began our visit with an explanation of the scope and timeline of the project. The cornerstone was laid in July 2014, and construction is on target for an August 2016 completion – just over two years of construction. Philippe says there are roughly 2,000 employees and contractors working now, and that figure will reach 4,000 as work intensifies in the coming months.
Philippe points out features of the mall.

The interest for my students was double-faceted. For my Internal Communication students, they focused on the efforts by Eiffage to build a sense of community and identity among so many workers with varied backgrounds and responsibilities working on a project of massive scale to a looming deadline. For my International Public Relations students, they took notice of the challenges of building that sense of community across cultures. Philippe described in detail the difficulties in conducting critical meetings when emotions can run high, trying to convey those emotions through interpreters. Philippe said he and his French leadership team had developed a comprehensive organizational plan before departing for Poland, then found they had to make extensive adjustments in the actual circumstances in Poznan. For example, job titles were easily translated from French to Polish, but there was not always shared meaning regarding the parameters of responsibility for those job titles. The discussion between my students and Philippe made for a most interesting interchange.

We then donned our protective gear: hats, vests and boots – all provided by Philippe. On a chilly, damp Friday morning, we trudged through the rough construction site and into the labyrinthine, cavernous interior of the structure. All around us, workers scurried up and down ladders, operated construction vehicles, welded, bolted, drilled and hammered as each activity moved the project slightly closer to completion. It’s hard to see appreciable progress as it’s underway, but Robin and I pass the site frequently as it’s near our apartment, and we have watched as the mall steadily takes shape.
The interior of the mall is taking shape, and we can discern the layout of walkways and shops.

The students pose in what will become one of eight movie theaters in the mall.
I must stress that this visit was voluntary for the students; it was outside normal class time. In fact, it occurred on a Friday, traditionally a free day for the students when they can catch up on their demanding course work or perhaps travel. Nevertheless, about 25 of my students elected to participate, and I believe they found it to be a fascinating and valuable experience. That's a reflection on their commitment to professional development.
The design includes sweeping balconies that will feature coffee shops where customers can enjoy a beverage while observing mall activity.
Disappointingly, the mall is slated to open about a month after we return to Charlotte, North Carolina, but I’m sure we’ll return to Poznan in the years ahead. It will be interesting to walk the marble floors (huge boxes of marble tiles were scattered throughout the interior of the construction site) and recall the skeletal beginning of the mall.

Chipping Away

An unusual event in Poznan this past weekend was an international ice carving competition. National teams from around the globe converged on the Stary Rynek (Old Market Square) to vie for recognition as the best in the world in several categories of ice carving. With temperatures hovering just above freezing, carvers used tools that shaved, shaped, melted and re-froze their ice blocks. In one competition, carvers were briefly shown a drawing of an object (typically a Disney-like character) and had 25 minutes to recreate the figure in ice in 3-D. The crowning event lasted several hours on Sunday evening when each team created the sculpture of its choice. Of course, such an event draws crowds, and the attraction was amplified by an outdoor Christmas market in the square along with concerts and displays.

Here, without further commentary, are photos and links to short videos of the event.

Crowds brave the chill to watch the carvers at work.

The team from the Philippines in action.

Japan's team.

A beautiful setting for the Christmas market.

Nearly finished.
Creative lighting enhances the effect.

And here are links to three short videos of the event, each less than two minutes long:

That's it for this edition of my blog from beautiful Poznan. Thank you for your virtual visit. Do widzenia!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Alan, it's great that you have a second trip to Poznań! The new mall was near our apartment too, so we watched the clearing and excavation before we left last December. It's neat to see the progress. Thanks for sharing!