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Remodeling of Koumoundourou sq., Athens
The study of remodeling Koumoundourou Square was assigned to Pavlides Associates SA, as a result of an open architectural competition called in 1998 by EAXA, in the context of remodeling several focal points in the city. The proposal, that was awarded first prize, provided for the integration of the Square with the route of access to the archeological site of Keramikos. The central idea, a determinant factor in the remodeling operation, relied on the exposure of parts of the ancient wall presumed to lie under the southern sector of the Square. The architectural finding affects the architectural development of the Square by causing a length-wise “rift” which entails the conclusion of two levels: the upper one, allocated to the expansion of the modern city, and the lower one, field of historical retrospection. The sideslopes formed between them display a free/casual geometrical shape and provide plantation grounds. Parallel to this, the semi-circular layout of the Square is emphasized through the suppression of a section of Dipylou Street and the emergence of a minor amphitheatre, allowing for the allocation of increased free areas to pedestrian use. The belief that the quality of a public open space is substantially prejudiced by the buildings defining it has led to the proposal for managing the building volumes surrounding the Square. It is proposed to emphasize the contrast between the modernistic character of the structures erected along the Square and the Neoclassical nature of the buildings at the head points. To this effect, the modern buildings are being renovated and any added structures are being dismantled therefrom, while special arrangements are provided for the semi-circular section, whose image lacks homogeneity, presenting several gaps over the eastern part and a disproportionately tall building on the western. More specifically, it is proposed to erect structures on the empty sites with volumes that would match the remaining neoclassical buildings, and also to reduce the height of the block of flats at the corner by two storeys.
More than four years have elapsed between the prize award and the commissioning of the design study. Developments both in general and in specific context have influenced the final form of the proposal. EAXA required that all existing plants, irrespectively of their worth and condition, be preserved. This was an extremely limiting factor, due to the abundance of trees, not always worth of preservation. Furthermore, the conduct of the archeological dig was revoked, for lack of funding. In the light of these new factors, the design team proceeded with the elaboration of the final study, aiming at preserving the morphology proposed in the competition with the necessary adjustments to suit new conditions and at emphasizing the specific character of the Square.
Koumoundourou Square is a prominent feature of the initial masterplan of Athens at the focal point of one of the sides of the so-called historical triangle. Compared with the other squares, marked by the convergence of major arteries, it has the advantage of bypassing the conversion into a congested traffic junction. Its location in the tissue of the city plan between Psyrri and Metaxourgio, traditional residential areas of the working class, has prescribed its function as a place of social gathering and communication. At present, the entire area undergoes the occurrence of significant changes, with the swarming of new residents, mostly economic immigrants, and the development of several poles of recreation of regional importance in its vicinity. The study for the remodeling of the Square takes into account these new factors and sets two targets: It focuses on the creation of a public area of high quality characteristics, to be used both by residents and by persons in transit and function as a point of reference in the area. In addition, it aims at ensuring the Square the quality of an integral part of the city centre, a place allocated to the conduct of open-air events, of shows and generally happenings concurring with the new dynamics of the area.
The design is based on the creation of two sectors, one central and one peripheral, separated by the casual geometrical form of the green area. At a slightly higher elevation, the peripheral sector is laid with flagstones and maintains the existing morphology-topography of the site. The central sector is flat with a surface of compacted earth spotted by the existing vegetation; the plants of the latter are confined within stone-built cone structures, constituting design components. The interim area is bare surface forming a connecting element between the other two. It consists of slightly inclined surfaces-slopes covered by earth and vegetation. The semi-circular part is pointed out by the formation of an amphitheatre suitable for the performance of open-air events. The line connecting the amphitheatre with the gallery building is marked by rectilinear water ponds along the axis of symmetry of the Square; the ponds culminate in the old marble fountain now replaced on the courtyard between the nursery and the chapel. In a direction at right angle to the one described above, the extension of the axis of Psaromilingou Street is emphasized, as it could be integrated with the wider archeological route in the area.
Over the periphery of the Square, the materials applied are mostly artificial, such as corundum slabs and fair-faced concrete, while at the centre materials are more or less naturally occurring, such as compacted earth and ignimbrite. The amphitheatre was constructed of exposed concrete, with the purpose of giving out the impression of a solid structure durable to the passage of time and hard use.
In spite of the limitations imposed, the final result is in agreement with the principles set in the course of the preparation of the study. Although the implementation of some considerable features of the study is still failing, such as planting and the installation of urban equipment (still entirely missing), the Square was positively accepted by the residents. An evidence of this is the great number of events that have taken place on it.