June 10 2014

Former Hellenico Airport : Checking-in at an Open Space in Athens, Greece

Almost fifteen years have passed since the last commercial flight departed from Hellenico International Airport in Athens, Greece. Covering six hundred hectares, there is abandoned infrastructure, leftover auxiliary facilities and expansive wide open space waiting to be re-purposed.

Former Hellenico Airport Olympic Airways, Athens, Greece

Nearly twice as big as Hyde Park or Central Park and with five kilometers of coastline, Hellenico is a huge piece of premium land. Its distance from the city center and accessibility by public transport contributes to the area’s great prospect as a metropolitan park. Towards this kind of redevelopment, local authorities and town planners are consenting.

The athletic venues, positioned there for the 2004 Olympic Games (Hellenico Complex), enhanced the area. During the post-Olympics years, several organizations, public services and sports clubs were stationed in several available buildings at Hellenico. Nevertheless, its overall picture is that of sub-functioning and abandonment, following the same trail like the rest of the neglected Olympic properties.

Hellenico olympic complex bridge connection between the venues, Athens, Greece

Presently, tall grass and other indigenous plants have started covering the asphalt and concrete surfaces of the airport. The fenced Hellenico site with its potential untapped has been slowly reclaimed by nature. This reminder of natures dominating power displays a possible outcome through the lens of architecture and landscape ecology.

Former Hellenico Airport, Athens, Greece

In March 2014 it was announced that the Greek Asset Development Fund (HRADF) granted Lamda Development with the redesign and management of Hellenico area. Previous to the latter proposal, Assistant Professor Nikos Belavilas and his team at the National Technical University Athens (School of Architecture) had been presenting to local people and authorities another version of Hellenico development. They suggested that a viable solution for the redevelopment of Hellenico would be a metropolitan park utilizing the existing infrastructure and facilities, hence lowering construction costs, with organized recreational activities embracing the surrounding communities and not alienating them. In a city that desperately needs more green spaces, Belavilas redefines Hellenico with the traits that could make an urban park successful.

According to Lamda Development’s proposed plans, the Hellenico site would be transformed into a tourist attraction with a casino, a luxurious tower hotel, shopping centers, marinas, recreational facilities and a park. The ambitious design is characterized as the biggest real estate project that has ever happened in Athens, and one of the biggest in Europe.

Lamda development Hellenico Project, Athens, Greece

Those against Hellenico as a tourist destination are criticizing the means through which HRADF came to this decision, and as they say “the land was cheaply sold to cover a little interest of the Greek deficit.” It is also mentioned that projects of that scale almost never reach as high as minimum profits, and in most cases continue drawing governmental funds.

On the other hand, parks are not goldmines either and rely on government funding but they are a foremost improvement of the built environment contributing to citizens’ well being and aiding local economic prosperity.

Where would you rather live, close to a metropolitan park or next to a huge tourist attraction complex with a hotel and a casino?

Credits: Images by Chris Christou or linked to sources. Data linked to sources.

Chris Christou

Chris has a Master's degree in Water Resources Science and Technology from the National Technical University of Athens. He started studying Mining Engineering and Metallurgy, but later on he concentrated his bachelor studies on Environmental Engineering, Waste and Water Management. During his late academic years he participated in environmental technology research projects. He is from Athens, Greece. His family, which consists mostly of civil engineers and architects, descends from the well-known stonemasons of the island of Santorini. Today he divides his time between Varkiza, a south-coast suburb of Athens, and Pagrati, downtown Athens, which he considers his home. Growing up in this central neighborhood he was able to witness the various changes in the city throughout the years. Observing his urban surroundings and influenced by his family, from an early age he became concerned about the urban environment. An inquisitive and creative person, he enjoys walking around the centre of Athens on quests for new or hidden details. Blogging for The Global Grid will be an opportunity to discover, highlight, and study the present state of environmental design in Athens, including potential outlets to improve the Athenian urban life.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, June 10th, 2014 at 9:49 am and is filed under Architecture, Chris Christou, Community/Economic Development, Environment, Environmental Design, Environmental Non-Profit, Government/Politics, Infrastructure, Land Use, Landscape Architecture, Transportation, Urban Development/Real Estate, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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