Re-Think Athens: Towards a New City Centre Proposal
Second stage competition proposal.
Project made with team from abmarquitectos Madrid, Spain.
Not many times we have the chance to design an intervention big enough to make an impact
in the heart of such a historical city. Greece is the brain of humanity and Athens is the core of
that brain. It’s difficult to describe how exciting and stimulating is for an architect to
participate in such a project.

For this second stage we have made up a very strong multidisciplinary team with
archaeologist, engineers, bioclimatic consultants and cost control experts to deliver a solid
development of the initial proposal.

We have tried to condense all the spirit of Athens to bring back to life an area that in the old
times was a cemetery and in the last few years has lost its soul. An Athenian tale says that
when the Persians burned up Athens in the 5th Century B.C. an olive tree emerged the very
next day, just like a miracle… The olive, one of the main symbols of Athens, and also the
symbol of renovation and regeneration for the Greeks, is one of the main inspirations of our
project that will give to the entire area a very powerful and recognizable image and city
branding even from a large scale perspective.

Our main idea is to join the two parks at the end of the intervention (Pedion Areos and Lotos
Likavitou) with a green mass that will flow all along the intervention, bringing back the
greenery to an area that used to be a green zone in the outside of the old Athens walls and
creating a green corridor that joins the old Athens with the new Athens
That green corridor is formed by: (1) the existing trees preserved; (2) the new trees added; (3)
a continuous floor all along the project with a pattern that is an abstraction from olive tree
branches; (4) The artificial activity/bioclimatic trees we create.

We analyzed very well the case in all aspects: traffic, activities, buildings, borders, accessibility,
etc… From that analysis we found a way to reorder traffics and locate the different activities
that we found necessary to introduce following different themes of classic Greek culture linked
to specific spaces of the intervention: Concorde and Arts around Omonias, Democracy around
the Parliament, Body shaping around the Archeology Museum and Philosophy around the

With these themes and our design strategy the result is an urban park‐like intervention that
creates a global green aspect and fills with life and activities the heart of Athens.
Based on the results of a deep analysis of the area we have obtained a series of outputs that have guided the formal and functional proposals that we are developing: flows analysis, sun-incidence studies, building uses, full-empty contrasts, demand-offer of activities, existing vegetation mass, existing and foreseen public transportation, transportation and communication nodes, natural-artificial light, etc… 
Main site problems and solutions
Sustainable integration is the key concept at this point. We propose an actuation that integrates the analysis’s outputs with the new actuation proposals. We try to respect the area as much as possible and at the same time we try to economize in the final solution.
By respecting the existing vegetation everything will be more attractive from the beginning as we’ll not have to wait for years until the brand new trees grow up to have a considerable vegetation mass.
The same way, if we are defending that our Project connects green areas and parks, we can’t take for granted the importance of the existing trees in the area, that can be just completed where needed by planting brand new natural trees or artificial “activity trees” (the big attraction of our proposal).
Main project idea: a green corridor joining the two parks
Relation of the actuation with the Acropolis
Activity zones connections
The liberation of the space occupied until now by traffic leads us to reconsider how the urban space is used today. After the before mentioned analysis we identified the location for those existing activities
In parallel we have thought and consider which uses and activities are needed to be incorporated to the actuation to make it an attractive, alive and a nice area.
The analysis of these needed activities has not only been made from the visitor point of view, but also and mostly from the local Athenian, the accidental tourist, the casual walker, the citizen that walks to work, the students, etc… All these different profiles have different needs and demand different elements that have to be combined in a, harmonic and unifying proposal. 
The resulting activities from the analysis of the different profiles have been grouped by affinity, proximity or functional needs:
BIG GROUPS: body shape – arts – university/philosopy – parlament/democracy
SMALL GROUPS: music – theater – literature/library
The location of the activities comes in one hand from the selection of the optimum location for each activity and in the other hand the groupping of different activities to empower each other. This criterion has helped us to set the different uses in the locations that are indicated here below:
Position of different activities
In such ambitious project as this, the proposal cannot be limited to just re-order and re-organize the traffic to give the space back to pedestrians. A project like this requires to address many other aspects: the environment, the activities that take place in that area and the ones that are missing, the heritage, the real estate, the functionality of the zone, the cost... It’s a unique opportunity to stop and think how we can have a better city.
The city belongs to the citizens, not to the institutions or to the architects that design it. We want this to be a project created by the people, we are launching a starting idea that will have to be enriched by the inputs of all the stakeholders, specially the citizens of Athens, that’s why we have also designed a participation strategy that will take place during the different project phases and will collect the citizens and stakeholders needs, preferences and demands. Greece is the cradle of Democracy and this is a project with a deep democrat aspiration.
Our start-point idea is to create a green corridor connecting the two green poles (Pedion Areos Park and the National Garden of Athens), located at the two extremes of the actuation.
In order to create this corridor, the first thing to do is to liberate the actuation area from traffic and give back to the pedestrian the spaces that right now are using the cars.
All the traffic in this area will be divert to the adjacent streets.  Actually this was one of the competition rules to follow.
In our proposal, we show in detail how these streets are going to work with the traffic, how lanes are going to be assigned, how we are going to integrate the crossroads of traffic and pedestrians and finally how are we going to integrate all the public transportation network.
Our project, although having a very powerful image, is driven by three very simple elements, all of them based on one of the main symbols of Athens, the olive tree: (1) A unitary floor designed as the abstraction of olive branches; (2) a group of shelters distributed in specific places all along the intervention that we call “activity trees”. These elements, apart from been the shelters that host the activities, have been designed as an abstraction of a tree, trying to offer with them all the benefits of trees but in a much more advanced and controlled environment and with a series of very advanced devices that allow them to collect water, energy, information and later offer it to the environment around them; (3) finally a series of “activity leaves” that very light constructions easy to assemble and dismantle that have a leave-like shape and are used as cafeterias, libraries, kioks, meeting rooms, etc.. supported by the activity trees.
Grouping up different activities around the activity trees and giving them a common shelter, will make it more sustainable and will create synergies and mix enrichments.
At the end all these elements are used as tools to reach our project generation-idea or main goal of creating a green corridor of natural and artificial trees and vegetation. All the actions of our proposal have tended to empower this main idea.
With this Project the small scale is just super nice and fresh and the big scale is just amazing as everything will make even more sense from far away, so the new aerial view of Athens will show now some new branches of the old city olive tree as a symbol of renovation and a very strong city-branding. 
General plan
Omonia square from bird view
Omonia square plan
Omonia square sunlight analysis
Omonia square with bioclimatic/activity trees
Street view with tram and pedestrian communication
The variety of communication possibilities
Korai street 
We needed to find an element that could give coherence and unity to all the intervention and also keep the sense of green corridor that connects the ends parks.
Treatment of the pavement was a major opportunity to address all these points, so it has been carefully designed the strategy by which this pavement is responsible for resolving this double demand.
The research for this global solution was an opportunity to establish a link with Greek mythology. We propose an abstraction of the symbol of Athens, the olive tree. The origin of Athens according to mythology is related to the plantation of the olive by Athena (in fight with Poseidon for supremacy in the protection of the city). Poseidon was already savoring the victory when Athena began to explain the extraordinary properties of the olive tree: a strong plant that could live for many years and produce tasty, delicious fruits, of which men could extract an ideal liquid for seasoning food, give strength to the body, heal the wounds and illuminating the night. The victory of the goddess was overwhelming. Zeus decreed Athena as the winner by donating citizens the most useful plant and was granted sovereignty over the region.
All this tale seemed to us perfectly conceptually connected with the activities ideas and with other ideas of our proposal: time resistant, attractive, with strength and unity, which heals urban wounds, and enlighten the night. 
Pavement pattern idea
To translate the olive tree light filtering effect to the floor we have chosen a hexagonal pattern that adapts to almost all geometries and situations. The final solution is a continuous olive tree abstraction floor that tights all the intervention together and acts as a Green connection and a Green flow between the two parks at the ends of the actuation.
General floor design plan 
Panepistimiou Street with "Trylogy" (Academy of Athens, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, National Library of Greece)
Many activities and public infrastructure as tram stations, metro exits, bus stops, etc need a protection roof. To cover these needs and trying to group up the activities at the same time, we have designed what we call the “Activity Trees”. These trees have a triple function:
1.       To give a shelter to the activities that requires a certain protection from the weather elements, that means protection from rain, sun light, etc… casting shadows or illumination spaces where needed by giving more or less density to the materiality of this shelter.
2.       To offer a shadow and protection to the urban environment in general, creating spaces to stay, sit down and watch the people and the life pass.
3.       To be an advanced bioclimatic device able to capture energy and water, producing and improved microclimate by means of the bioclimatic boxes explained in our panels. 
These activity / bioclimatic trees are a design strategy easy to be adapted and customized to serve the different needs that each group of activities could have, specially the need of a bigger or smaller weather protection, according to the nature of the activity.
General design approach and structural analysis
Box construction process
Activity tree construction process
Korai Street view
In a second level, some of the activities not only need weather protection, but also some functional control that means that they can open or close according to their working times and the needs of each specific element. For this intent, we have designed small constructions as mini floating buildings with a tree leave shape. Modules can be grouped if the activity requires bigger space (cafeteria, kiosk, study areas, library…). We offer a catalogue from which citizens will chose during the project phase which ones they decide to be implemented in which places. Also, new modules and uses are very easy to be incorporated following the same design principles. 
Different types of mini buildings
Mini building construction elements axonometry
Dikaiosinis Square 
Distribution of 'bioclimatic boxes' at 'activity tree'
Different types of bioclimatic boxes
Panepistimiou Street with "Trylogy" (Academy of Athens, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, National Library of Greece)
Panepistimiou Street model
Omonia Square model
Re-think Athens Competition exhibition 28/2 - 10/3/2013
Architects: ABM Arquitectos
Location: Athens, Greece
Design Team: Luis A. Alvarez Alfaro, Alejandro Blanco Callejo, Fernando Morugán Lucas, Mar Agra Rolán, Agata Gryszkiewicz, Łukasz Ekwiński, Fiorella Schiavo
Support Architects, Support Landscapers, Cost Control, Project Management: AECOM
Civil Engineering: Valladares Engineering
Bioclimatic Research Consultants: ABIO-UPM
Design Consultants and Parametric Development: LEM3A
Structural Engineering: 2a+i
Bioclimatic Implement Consultants: Green Globe
Archaeologist (University of Thessaly, Greece): Manuel Arjona
Competition Status: Finalist
Re-Think Athens: Towards a New City Centre Proposal

Re-Think Athens: Towards a New City Centre Proposal

Main idea of the Rethink Athens Competition proposal is to join the two parks at the end of the intervention (Pedion Areos and Lotos Likavitou) w Read More