The history of the border town of Gołdap founded in 1570 documents the impact on the structure of its urban space brought by the recent socio-political changes on both the home and international scene. In this case, the changes concerned relations of various kind between the bordering countries such as their shifting frontiers, anomalies in their political systems, legal existential conditions, and population transfers. What changed in Gołdap over the centuries was not only the form of its buildings and their functional characteristics as well as its residents, but also the directions of its expansion and land-use structure. Today the town shows few traces of its past, some surviving only in old maps and chronicles. After World War II, the town took a long time to adapt to the new circumstances and was slow to built its social and spatial identity. The contemporary socio-economic background of its development has rendered it similar to many other small towns in Poland. Consequently, both the structural defects and developmental trends typical of this group of towns are visible in its spatial layout: this is most clearly visible on the map of its land use. It reflects the characteristic process of sprawling development coupled with deurbanisation of the town’s structure. Gołdap is an example of the weaknesses of Polish spatial planning, especially when confronted with the spontaneous processes of space management that have occurred in the last two decades.
Keywords: Gołdap, small city, urban sprawl, land management