Apart from the economic crisis that they have been facing for the past five years, Athenians also have to re-think the city center of Athens. More precisely, they have to re-think one of the most prominent axes that unifies Sintagma (Constitution) and Omonia (Concord) central Squares, which are also attached to the famous neoclassical trilogy (Academy, National library, University) and secondary squares. We are wondering whether Athenians have spare time to re-think large scale regenerations, especially now, in a time of crisis, when the degradation of the city of Athens has reached its peak. Homeless people, a rash of small business closures, and empty buildings compose the ongoing manifestation of the partially present urban setup of Athens.
A European – why not urban?- architectural competition, a great sponsor, a bunch of official and unofficial debates among specialists and inhabitants of Athens, hundreds of articles in the local press, and a great deal of promotion for the first mega master plan for the city center of Athens since 1834. The idea of a broad pedestrian street, where Panepistimiou Avenue stands is not so new, nor that of the expansion of the tram line which has Sintagma Sq. as a terminal. The two-stage competition conferred among 71 proposals, a first and a second award, two special mentions, one commendation, 4 runners-up, one utopian proposal, four redemptions and hundreds of renderings for the future city center of Athens. The first prize was awarded to the Dutch office Okra. Okra’s green, quasi-apolitical proposal, for the most political space of Greece, easily elicited the prize and helped reach a consensus between green-starved Athenians.
The project time frame is 2016 while the funding, of the 80 million Euro construction, will be covered mainly by European sources. A very big and costly regeneration program for the Greek capital at a very inappropriate moment. Many architects and urban planners expressed the need for the money to be spent on smaller scale projects. Projects that would revitalize in a more democratic and pragmatic way throughout numerous vicinities of central Athens and that would address the current needs of its inhabitants.
What are some of the latest large scale regenerations taking place in your city?
Credits: Data linked to sources. Images are taken from the exhibition Re-Think Athens CD.