Intermediate 15: The Athens Studio
Unit Tutors: Ryan Neiheiser & Xristina Argyros
3rd Year Studio Project
Project Duration: 2016 - 2017
Location: Athens, Greece
Technical Studies Research Document
The unit brief called for us to develop an institution within Athens within a proposed master plan. The Illisus River in Athens is the site of my proposed master plan. Along it lies my research institute proposal. Athens is by no means a walk-able city, its sidewalks are overcrowded and congested, there is an enormous lack of green space, and a huge disconnect for pedestrians from the city to the waterfront.
Eudiamonia, is an ancient Greek term Athenians used to shape their cities around. It means human flourishing. What do we need to flourish? It can be found in the form of great public space, which is a kind of magical good, the humble sidewalk, the park, the bike path.
The overarching concept was to link the city to the waterfront with a pedestrian linear parkway, while bringing the river back to life. There is a 2021 master plan called Rethink Athens, to connect the city to the waterfront by a high traffic green boulevard along Syggrou Avenue, justifying a need for this connection. Therefore, I proposed a similar connection in my master plan. Athens is not only lacking green space but a presence of water in the city. I analyzed how other cities use water to its many advantages, such as reducing heat island effect, air pollution, and increasing biodiversity. Water is not only a source of refreshment, but it provides entertainment, and a pleasing aesthetic.
The Illisus River was once a vital source of fresh water for drinking, washing, cooking, and religious purification. As Athens expanded in the 19th century, the river became neglected and polluted. It was gradually converted into a rainwater runoff channel. The river is mainly visible, otherwise it has all be channeled underground and redirected. Due to droughts, fresh water is precious in Greece, therefore being sensitive to Athenian climatic conditions is essential. Athens has long dry summers and the first significant autumn rains can result in severe flooding. Due to these extreme weather conditions I designed a way to control the water flow through a series of locks. Taking into consideration of the contours, I mapped out 26 locks along the river. Since the water of the rivers are polluted, a water filtration system will be integrated and operated by renewable energy, through means of bridges operated by human interaction, acting as a pump to generate clean water and flush the polluted water out. Meanwhile, controlling the flow and water levels like a canal. The system leads up to the research institute to use the clean filtered water for various programs. Further explanation of this system can be found in my Technical Studies research book.
The focus of the research institution would be a “Study of Hydrology with a Focus on Water-Related Hazards and Water Dynamics” as well as the “Study of Agriculture with a focus on Sustainable Technological Advancement”. Becoming an extension of the Agricultural School and Engineering Programs of universities in Athens. It was important to map all the activity of schools, recreation, commercial, retail, parks, and abandoned lots, to find the best location for the institution within the master plan. The abandoned lot chosen for my research institute balances between city center and waterfront.
The form and shape of the building increases connectivity, while the pedestrianization of the streets create less congestion, and a safety zone for pedestrians. The form of the building came from firstly, looking into the site and its geometries, then playing with a landscaped form that mimicked a cascade of a river. It moved into a weaving of pedestrian circulation and the institute. When the program further developed it led to placing agriculture higher and hydrology lower. All the while weaving in the public program to tie everything together. I envision this institution invites the public in to engage with the students, to ultimately create a unique community within the context of Athens. A sense of community encourages neighbouring elementary schools to actively participate within the institution. There are two bike paths on either side of the institution, that weave together the university and the city, while being continuously animated all year through its sculptural landscaped form. It takes people down below the water edge, and above towards the public square, wrapping around and through the building.
The research institute is divided between agriculture on the west side and hydrology on the east. What links the two together is the continuous public circulation and program on either side. The circulation of the ground plan with the library and the exhibition space link the two by bridging across. By raising portions of the agricultural building off the ground plane, it allows for the freeing up of this space to connect pedestrians and bikers to gather while pulling the water as well into the space. On the east side, the building breaks open to the public elementary school and neighbours into this outdoor space that connects the library and the exhibition. Clean water is used to irrigate the agricultural institute, where they can use this green space to experiment, along with the hydroponic and aquaponic labs provided within. The Hydrology institute uses the two pools within to study tidal and wave energy, and hydrologists can use the water filtration system outside to study hands on.
Through programmatic organization, there are moments of transparency throughout, especially at street level. Allowing opportunities to see and understand what production is occurring. Putting significance on the importance of collaboration to gain knowledge and learn from one another, to further the growth of the institution and the city.