Rethink Athens

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International Architectural Competition
client: The A.S Onassis Public Benefit Foundation
date: 2012
location: Athens
architectural design: Prof. Yannis Tsiomis, Prof. Cristiana Mazzoni, Yorgos Andreadis, Michael Kantartzis, Kyriakos Giannopoulos, Prof. Bruno Gabrielli, Roberta Borghi, Kyveli Botsoglou

Project Details

Athens and its “style”. Innovation for rediscovery

Each city has its own immediately recognisable «style», created by dominant visible characteristics. As the style of a city depends on historic, social, aesthetic, cultural, economic, or poetic values, we need a innovative tools to «protect the integrity and authenticity of the attributes of urban heritage». (See Unesco’s recent recommandation on «Historic urban landscape», November 2011). It is an illusion to believe we can protect a historic centre without innovating. Athens, the capital of the Neohellenic state and a new city of modern times, has a style influenced by the neoclassical plan of the architects Kleanthis and Schaubert, or by architects like Leo von Klenze, Fr.von Gärtner, etc. While it was history that determined the choice of Athens as capital in the 19th Century, topography is also part of its heritage ; its streets and avenues almost always have vistas of hills or mountains. Thus it has been shaped by geography and history. Over the years, most of the Neoclassical buildings have disappeared and the town’s original spirit has been betrayed.

But the buildings constructed throughout the 20th Century in the original urban layout, which is still present, show an extraordinary stratification. The major axis of Panepistimiou Street is one of the most typical of these continuities and discontinuities. A project on the Panepistimiou axis cannot be a simple «beautification» of public space, but must also help to rediscover the city’s style. History is thus an indispensible basis for a project which will both innovate and reveal the city’s latent values.

‘Innovation for rediscovery’ is the leitmotiv of our approach. combining analysis and interpretation, in a project which aims to relate the scale of the historic centre to that of the whole city. This project for the public space of Panepistimiou Street will also serve to elaborate a strategy and a more general model for intervention, making it possible to read the original neoclassical space and its relationship to geography, and to differentiate the road system. The aim is to rediscover both the style of Athens, as a modern capital, and its relationship to the space of the whole metropolis.

Our goal is therefore :

  • To create a new urban landscape while at the same time uncovering the traces of the original urban structure
  • To highlight the remarkable buildings on the axis
  • To implement sustainable management techniques in regards to public space functions tramway, pedestrian zones, bicycle lanes, lighting, rainwater collection etc.
  • To apply the criteria of environmental design, in regards to shading, paving, tree planting and the overall handling of vegetation. Our ambition is to establish with this project a new typology of Athens’s public space and to create a new identity based on the fragments of the old one.

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