Athens By Hills
Athens is identified and represented through the Acropolis, majestically sitting on a piece of rock at the centre of the city. The experience of the city is overlooked by visitors who find it impossible to navigate the wider urban fabric. Homogeneous and lacking further icons, the city is used mostly as a quick pit-stop before sailing off to the islands.
The city is set in a valley with a continuous façade of mountains along three sides. The fourth edge of the city is defined by the water. The project aims to highlight the full range of unexploited mountains, hills and other natural remains that float in the city fabric and around the Acropolis; the Genius Loci of each is then highlighted and capitalized upon, through programmatic interventions that enrich the perception and representation of the city, expanding its experience beyond the center and the all too famous ancient remains, towards the periphery with exciting, new flexible monuments for the future.
A new artificial hill in the harbour showcases the potential of the waterside locale, currently perceived as a utilitarian zone for transport exchange. Athens, formerly divided into the routine urban mass and its glorious popular tourist exceptions, is flooded with both ancient and futuristic events on hills. (research project exhibited at London Festival of Architecture 2010, with Beth Hughes and Alexia Symvoulidou).
There is only 2.7 m2 of green space attributed to each resident of Athens making it the most deprived of all European Capitals. In the most densely built central areas the percentage drops to a mere 0.4 m2 per person. How much additional green does the city require in order to reach the European average of 7 m2? How can this be placed in the city?
The proposed imposition of this gigantic missing-green can undo another major urban dysfunction - the lost connection of the Acropolis to the sea. A kilometer wide strip of the city is demolished and replaced by nature, directly linking the Acropolis to the water. The Holy Rock, the polikatikias and the Athens neighborhoods suddenly coexist and are connected to the seaside through fantastic expanses of park, forest, jungle and lakes that return to the city the piece of Heaven that it had been deprived of.
Athens Unbuilt. The Legitimization of the undervalued
The contemporary Greek city, lacking any overall planning or vision, expands in all directions. It is materialised through the endless repetition of polikatikias (apartment building); in essence the realization of the domino house. Strict and precise urban planning regulations, the prevalence of the middle class, and the urgent demand for profit coupled with small scale investment, combined guarantee the homogeneity of the whole and a lack of exceptions to the rule. The generic model of the polikatikia has proven flexible enough to adjust to all possible conditions, effortlessly excluding any architectural rivals from the discourse.
The contemporary Greek city’s form is no longer theorized or represented. What remains recognizable and identifies one place from another are the historical and topographical features that distinguished (characterised) them in the first place - the contemporary Greek city is still represented and identified by what was already there. The goal is legitimize the undervalued, the polikatikia, to reveal its hidden potential, its unacknowledged capacity for further problem-solving at the scale of the collective. Its iconicity is extracted and its limits explored (research project exhibited at the Byzantine Museum of Athens).
Athens has lost its relation to green, water and nature in general. In Ancient times springs and rivers were sacred and Athenians considered water to be a supreme good, an inextricable part of daily routine. Combined with rich vegetation it offered citizens peace of mind and soul and encouraged contemplation, while natural running water was a prerequisite for the functioning of philosophical schools.
The exculpation and return of the aquatic element is proposed into strategic positions in Athens for daily refreshment and play. The Antonis Tritsis square, naturally leveled and with a slightly lowered center, conveniently framed by two central avenues and placed between the city’s two most accessed squares, offers an ideal opportunity for the introduction of the first shallow urban pool. (research, with Beth Hughes, Giannis Gio, Ralou Kondili)
Theater Square is dedicated to the magic of nature: an urban room realized as a ‘secret garden’. The tall palm trees create a landmark on at the scale of the city, while at street level the garden becomes a place for the imagination with local plants and flowers creating open and closed spaces of light and shadow. The surrounding office buildings are converted into contemporary housing with new balconies facing the gardent. The streets are cleared of obstacles and reoccupied with playgrounds. (Theatre Square Competition Honourary Mention, with Beth Hughes, Giorgos Pantazis, Giorgos Livanos, Jean-Sébastien Lebreton, Argyro Vassalou).