Our proposal for Rethink Athens has been nominated to go through to the final round of the Rethink Athens competition.
DESCRIPTION REPORT - ABSTRACT
Belvederes of Athens
The City of Athens' historic triangle is delimited on its northern edge by Panepistimiou Street. A continuous 2% downward slope along the street's 1km stretch between Syntagma and Omonia Squares serves the city's most beautiful buildings such as the Academy of Athens, the National University and the National Library which define the history of both the capital and the ancient country. Designed to be one of the most important urban axes in the beginning of the 19th century, Panepistimiou was transformed into one of the busiest vehicular traffic axes of the city, a situation that remains today. Vehicular traffic dominates the Panepistimiou experience for all who use it. Motorists are enclosed in a tense vehicular corridor, the dense traffic and fast speeds disabling them from a visual experience of the surrounding landscape. Pedestrians are submerged in the subsequent emissions and noise, unable to truly experience the street's beautiful buildings and sights. Athenians recognize the value of Panepistimiou Street but ultimately avoid it as they are isolated from existing public spaces like the Trilogy, Justice Square and Omonia Square. The city's automobile-centric urban strategy creates this disconnect, and results in Panepistimiou lacking the urban anchors, equipment and sufficient vegetation necessary for pedestrian attraction.
The linear form of Panepistimiou Street and its continuous downward slope towards Omonia Square create a high velocity urban corridor void of anchors or rest. By structuring the street space into a series of terraces, expressive belvederes define individual urban spaces along this perpetual slope. These spaces slow down the spectator and encourage him to interact with the city, its buildings and functions. Each terrace strengthens a connection to this portion of the city, reminding locals of its significance while introducing visitors to beautiful new spaces, teaching them that Athens is more than just the Acropolis.
Terraced belvederes following the street's slope will organize it into specific zones corresponding with adjacent buildings, streets and neighborhoods and define usable areas for leisure, play, entertainment, cultural activities and markets. Program element ideas are derived from adjacent vertical street names which represent Greek history, with design elements complementing specific program. The belvederes occupy the center of the street with specific edge treatment and heights depending on their length and program. The adjacent hardscape on either side retains the street's original downward slope for pedestrian paths, tram lines, bicycle lanes and service vehicles.
In the Shared Space approach public spaces form the heart of society. They are areas where you stay, where you meet others, where you observe, where you undertake something with or without others, where you relax, where you become familiar and part of the living environment. Staying in a public space enables us to remain up to date with the world and the environment in which we live or stay. The layout of the public space tells us what society looks like, who forms part of it, how people deal with each other and what they consider important. It is a window on and a mirror of society. Shared Space views public spaces first and foremost as spaces for people. Public spaces should facilitate people's activities – not restrict them. The design and layout of public spaces should therefore do justice to the various functions and meanings these spaces have for people.