Athens City Centre to be reshaped through urban realm project, binding existing buildings to the streetscape and each other
On 27 February it was announced at the Onassis Cultural Centre in Athens that OKRA in collaboration with Mixst urbanism and Wageningen University had won the prestigious competition ReThink Athens, reimagining a new city centre. The team is supported by the Greek Architects of Studio 75 and Werner Sobek Green Technologies. Onassis Foundation has signed a contract with OKRA in order that the OKRA team will develop their ideas in the forthcoming months into a plan that can be realised on the ground in 2015.
The plan, called ‘One Step Beyond’ aims to bring contemporary ideas on climate control in cities, ideas on changing transportation nodes and on activating public realm a step further than already realised in many European cities. In Athens, on the large scale there is much to gain from a clear framework of green and urban spaces. The quality of the presence of the green hills and its connection to the sea will be linked to the urban network of spaces, since as the city grows it is not just about conserving these qualities but to discover a new layer of publicly accessible space at different scales.
The project starts from stating that public space is about creating space for people. It is where those masses meet the ground and interact with each other that is the binding element to a city. Therefore it is suggested to implement green public spaces linked to the urban network of public realm, and to retain and improve this space. The project ‘One step beyond’ focuses on creating a resilient city, accessible city and vibrant city.
The city centre of Athens will be transformed into a green network, and Panepistimiou will be the central green spine, providing shade and shelter. The resilient strategy includes specific attitudes towards reducing the urban heat and improving thermal comfort). A greening strategy for Athens is combined with a water strategy, since a good condition of plantings is crucial to contribute to heat reduction. Capturing rainwater in underground basins, on top of roofs or elsewhere helps to keep the water in the area.
The green framework will be treated as a coherent network of public realm in all directions and linking the adjacent neighbourhoods, having its highlight on Panepistimiou. Restoration of the continuities of the crossing streets creates continuity in the walking experience. By making the new tramline clear and present and part of the grandeur of the space it contributes to the aimed cohesion. In fact, Panepistimiou provides Shared space 2.0, a new balance between slow traffic and motorized movement. The design has three characteristic places: Omonia Square and Dikaiosynis Square will become a green urban squares, with prominent lush water elements. In the middle of Panepistimou Street, a green ensemble ties the university together into an urban park.
Panepistimiou will change from ‘street’ to ‘boulevard’, by adding inviting spaces to stay to the linear space. Occupying and transforming ground floors, we introduce the concept of the theatre of 1000 rooms towards vacant buildings, organizing cultural events and shift focal points who will create a new vibrant atmosphere. Small open-air podia for outdoor initiatives will be created in public realm. Programs are related to Greek philosophy, science, drama and art. An ‘encroachment zone’ will improve active frontages and create linkages between the built environment and public realm. Interactive decorative light in public realm will give the right atmosphere during evening hours.