Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.
Re-think Athens in Athens, Greece by PROJ3CT
April 21st, 2013 by Sumit Singhal
Article source: PROJ3CT
Acknowledging the great value of the cultural and architectural heritage that is present all over the site, overlapping time and space in such a meaningful presence, our quest is to create a quiet and cohesive urban environment that would not be over-imposing or disruptive but one that attempts to unify and add structure to the physical frame. From a distance this central zone is very clearly dominated by three major public spaces – the trilogy Syntagma/Panepistimiou Core/Omonia that are linked by a system of large avenues on which Panepistimiou has the greater role. It seems natural that these places should be considered poles of centrality, as they are focus points of historical relevance. Although these spaces are very diverged in terms of functionality and shape, it seems obvious that they are within themselves places of gathering on which all the flows and social expressions are related to.
Taking in account the prominence of some of the buildings built around it (especially in Syntagma and Panepistimiou) whether by it’s position along important axis of the city or it’s scale and proportions related to the surroundings, it seems important to establish common elements and guidelines in order to achieve some coherence and continuity in the urban fabric. Rather than emphasize on the diversity by creating a various number of typological approaches, our objective is addressing a common ground – one big surface that is moving in background to the street views.This common surface is fractal mosaic mostly covered with bright limestone cubes that moves along epicenters – the trilogy leading actors. From those points, patterns of stone advance in geometrical progression in every direction claiming a merged territory. The matrix of the progression is draw based on the Fibonacci sequence, which sets a rhythm to our wandering eyes. As we move along the trilogy, one should be expected to sense the proximity of an important urban episode. The concept of moving layers underlines the hierarchy perceived on the site and we feel that it might produce an interesting emotional link to the promenade.
The mosaic is a reference to the early days of the classical era (the…..) with its simple and geometrical patterns. Its material and color is thought to enhance the luminosity and provide a clear yet neutral ambience throughout the area. Although the fractal mosaic adds some complexity to the overall image of the public space, it will show itself on a low tone with a subliminal persistence. An array of different type of activities is set in specific locations according to the nature and character of those areas and their position along the major axis of the site, is defined by either by an alternation of mobility interfaces/transitions spaces with rest areas, or by complementary of use. Within those premises, most of the urban equipment such as tram stations, leisure park, pergolas, benches or street fair spots are considered as autonomous pieces and their design is thought to be place above the ground floor. For example, the tram station platform is uplifted from the floor enabling a continuity of the limestone pavement.
Likewise, the leisure park surface is lifted on a corner creating a void were public toilets are placed and at the other side by the wood pole a large circle was cropped providing the same view of the mosaic. Also, the design of the shapes was intended to have a light-weighted expression. Every element added to the urban landscape is conceived to avoid creating a physical and visual obstacle in the view field. Metal and wood are contrasting with the hardness of the stonework, reinforcing the notion of displaceable pieces. The vegetation along the streets provides shelter in the shade in close relation to the south and west façades. Along with the light poles and the pavement guides, the sequence of Liquidambar trees cuts through the fractal mosaic with precision, reordering the range of movements and flows. In case of the junctions and rest areas Liquidambar trees are replaced for oak trees endorsing a code for the primary areas. Both species have a large spread, which is well balanced with the scale of the public areas and are renowned for their transformation through the seasons.
The distinction between traffic lanes and the pedestrian sidewalks is made by replacing limestone for rough granite, maintaining the original patterns and proportions of the blocks. Two pavement guides also in granite stone guarantee the fittings on both materials and also define the curve and crosswalks on the junctions. The lower granite guide is also used to accommodate gutters and infrastructure.The tramway is constricted within trussed pavement guides in a safe distance, while the inner part is a continuity of the stone mosaic.On the other hand, bicycle paths are defined by two rows of inclined pavement lights.
PANEPISTIMIOU CORE (surrounding area of University, Academy and National Library)
It is a central point along the axis of Panepistimiou Avenue condensing recognizable historical buildings and benefits from a enlargement of the street section. By it’s position it is also important when linked to the existing gardens. With the removal of the traffic, Panepistimiou will have a wider perception of the public areas. Therefore, our major intention was to open up the view through the monuments sharing a vast common ground filled with vegetation. At the Panepistimiou side it would be a composition of small green areas (mostly small bushes and garden trees) disseminated on the mosaic patterns with preservation of the statues, fountains and important trees.The drawing of the green areas infiltrates the mosaic from the public garden on the west side and goes around the monuments in gradual transition. The formal concept to this major urban set lies on entwining the limestone matrix with the gradation of naturalistic elements, setting the pace of dwelling and serene contemplation.
Functionally acts like a rotating pad for various flows – an interface, place of transition. Because it contains an access to the subway and it is near to the tram station it is also a meeting place and entry room to Panepistimiou Avenue.So, our basic goal was to create conditions for people to meet while attempting to not disturb the perspective axis and the nature dissemination required to link the Panepistimiou trilogy with the public garden. The basic actions were to remove some of the visual obstacles, to impose a more consistent sequence of vegetation, adding seats with wide shades and a water surface along the primary axis.
In a small area along the Panepistimiou axis, Dikayosynis Square is intended to become a leisure park for outdoors activities and provided with fitness equipment. A wooden platform rises above the pavement enabling an informal and cozy atmosphere. The existing trees are mostly preserved so it does not change the scale of the public space.
The new design for the roads converging to Omonia Square changes dramatically the perception of the public space, shifting from an oversized roundabout with limited capacity to generate a pedestrian appropriation to a user-friendly proposition. Consequently it provides excellent condition to link on to the Panepistimiou Avenue, and the axis descending from Patisson Avenue. Our proposal endures to minimize even further the interference of the traffic on the surface by the means already stated. At a larger scale, Omonia expands itself through a system of pedestrian streets especially on the north side and towards Panepistimiou. This circuit of narrow streets with consistent vegetation to be preserved gave us the notion that the square could support large rest areas with dense vegetation providing shades for the southern façades. It will also mitigate the Metro accesses beneath the leafs and enable several seating spots. The central zone would be then reserved for seasonal events such as fairs, cultural and social happenings.We feel that it is important for Omonia to have a multi-task appeal because it embodies the spirit of casual meeting place for a wide range of identities, opposite to the institutionalized character of Syntagma Square.