Rethink Athens competition has set a very ambitious goal with the selection of the subject and also the extent of the area of intervention. Through the redevelopment of the most significant city axis, attempts a radical change in the Athens image. The achievement of such a goal cannot be based only on pedestrianizations, change of traffic flows and materials selection. On an architectural and urban level, an intervention of bigger scale is necessary, with a philosophy and additional elements that will make possible the scale expansion on the urban structure.
Following this line of thought, our proposal focuses on two basic elements. First, the intervention on Omonia Square through the creation of a powerful “landmark” serving as a reference point of metropolitan scale and a compelling attraction, to counter balance the existing importance of the other focal point, Syntagma Square. The second is the formation of the Panepistimiou pedestrian way with the emphasis and symbolism of a sequel of “iconic events”. These consecutive “events” reinforce the recognisability of the public urban setting and enhance the character of the new Panepistimiou pedestrian street as an aesthetically integrated set.
These two elements are connected by an architectural element that borrows qualities from a fabric ribbon, traversing the entire Panepistimiou Street, and ending at Omonia Square. Pedestrians strolling along the new Panepistimiou walkway will encounter nodes in the “ribbon” which will form, operationally, part of the main footway and will feature info points, seating areas, fountains, stopping points etc. The “ribbon” may also appear in other boulevards of the city, setting a direction towards Omonia Square, which is the focal point of the city flows. This centrality is materialized in the urban area of Omonia Square, as a landmark taking the form of a “resurgent sheaf” that consists of architectural elements converging from the periphery to the centre rising and terminating at the same time on the perimeter of an virtual circle.
Other focal interventions are the Dikaiosinis Square, which is is dedicated to younger ages and culture. Key elements for its remodelling include a Children’s Museum in the building of the former National Mint, the creation of a small open-air theatre and the installation of games and activity facilities (carousel, street chess, etc.)
A new urban opening is created in front of the University building at the intersection with Korai str., with the formation of an integrated paved surface thus interupting the linearity of Panepistimiou str. Tree planting and several green areas will be provided to achieve cooling during the summer months, and an overall improvement of the urban microclimate.
The change on the function of the center of Athens, as a place of cultural activities development, and as a catalyst in the creative potential of the city, can be achieved through a range of interventions that necessarily go beyond the limits of the urban design. The architectural proposal can support and contribute towards that direction, through the materialization in space of the vision’s philosophy.