In contrast to the plethora of public-private architectural and urban competitions concentrating on museums, opera houses, and prominent public spaces, during the last three years there has been a shift towards a range of areas around big Greek cities. One can say that the rise of interest in cities that tourism doesn’t reach was inaugurated with the launch of a series of urban competitions focusing on neighborhood problems and the welfare of the many.
Three big cities of Greece have called on young architects under forty years old to submit their proposals: Athens in 2010, Thessaloniki in 2012 and Herakleion (Crete) in 2013. At this moment, other cities wait in the queue for entering future versions of the same competition.
The X4 urban competitions are principally funded by the European Union and the Green Fund. Their name stems from the idea of the cross that is formed at the conjunction of four typical Greek city blocks. The most important urban cell of Greek cities is the post-modern block of flats that in just a few decades proliferated in every possible version all over Greece.
The acquisition of an apartment in the city combined with a car still appeals to many, and not unreasonably so. But what about the space that rests between the city blocks? This space has been left unattended, to the mercy of cars and parking spaces in detriment to free pedestrian circulation and social gathering. The existing urban design does not promote life in the open air; on the contrary, it restricts it indoors. And one may think, what a paradox for Greek cities that are bathed in beautiful sunlight throughout the year!
Competitions like X4 do not set as a primary goal the implementation of the awarded solutions, but the reflection of the future Greek city by the new generations of architects and urban planners. The majority of the proposals that have been submitted and awarded were based on traditional neighborhood design and intent to:
- Deal with walkability and connectivity issues in combination with the gradual decrease in car use;
- Proliferate mixed-use areas on a neighborhood level;
- Recuperate human scale;
- Emphasize aesthetics for the urban realm;
- Promote low energy and eco-friendly solutions; and
- Encompass governance matters so as to activate public interest on public space.
Is there a similar competition focusing on everyday quality of life in your city?
Credits: Data and Photos linked to sources.