Participating in The Grid for the past year was a fascinating experience. A virtual internship in which I had to write and transmit news for one of the cities that I love most, Athens, Greece. Not only did this opportunity intensify my interest in urbanism, but also transformed the way I perceive urbanism. Cities are shaped by people, buildings, streets, parks, empty lots, networks, cars etc.; but they are also shaped by words, paragraphs, and texts that form arguments and opinions to help fresh ideas emerge. For me, this clear understanding was one of the most important “assets” that I gained through my collaboration with The Grid.
Parallel to my writings for The Grid, I also had the opportunity to submit proposals for several urban competitions with a group of young professionals from Athens, with whom I share common worries about Greek cities and contemporary urban settings. The effort of deciphering current urban realities through various readings and personal observations and the incessant labor to produce new ideas worked as a catalyst for me. This tactic of going from theory and observation to practice and vice versa was an enlightening procedure that, within the blogging platform of The Grid, would only be possible for an urban planner that is working outside of university.
The topics covered during the past year were an overview of the most important transformations currently occurring in Athens; including the regional and urban level dynamics that have been developed within its current crisis. On one hand, blogs like “Mega-Projects Explosion at Faliron Delta in Attica,” “What Athenians in the Greek Capital are Rethinking” and “Pop-up Initiatives in Athens, Greece Shed Light on Economic Crisis” explored top-down aspects of urbanism. On the other hand, blogs like “Square Camps: The Squares that Cultivate Democracy,” “Happy Birthday Navarinou Park” and “Greek Nationalist Party Chrisi Avgi Jeopardizing Public Spaces” presented a bottom-up perspective of current urban issues.
In addition, via The Grid, I had the chance to meet new people and belong to a global community of passionate young planners and scientists that critically expose their ideas and thoughts via Twitter chats, sharing information and video meetings. By reading their blogs, I also developed a strange habit of reading hot urban news from all over the world on a daily basis. This kept me constantly informed on all sorts of urban transformations and developments.
In my opinion, decisions are taken individually but results are always produced with the contributions of many. At this point, I would like to thank all the people from The Grid that I co-operated with: Renée Van Staveren – an enthusiastic and inspiring urban planner and entrepreneur, and my two editors Meg Ryan and Elizabeth Bastian. All of them were excellent professionals that made things flow in rapid and tense rhythms despite all location and time disparities. I would also like to send special thanks to my friend Vassiliki Karali for always having time to look through my writings and generously offering me her invaluable help; and my friend Petros Alexandris, whose journalistic experience and his scarce but rigorous guidelines helped me to advance.
I will devote my last lines to a make a special call for those who would like to participate in this community but are reluctant to do so, by telling them that this is an opportunity to bloom and that they shouldn’t let it go!
Credits: Images by Alkisti-Eleni Victoratou. Data linked to sources.