Imagine the City

Imagine the City

imaginethecityA platform for interaction on what the City could be. A place where the public and both students and professionals of design and particularly architecture can discuss, propose, how the city they live in should evolve.

Imagine the City is a run by a group of young like minded professionals here in Athens. They have for 2 years been creating a platform for exchange between the public and professionals. Previously they have looked at a number of cities:

  • Volos
  • Chalkida
  • Saint Demitrios (Athens)

We were invited by one of the organisers if we wanted to include a proposal for the Saint Demitrios here in Athens. Saint Demitrios once a village sits close to the old Airport, disused since 2002. It was outside the City of Athens but like so many of the rural places once outside the city is part of the suburban sprawl when Athens expanded eastwards down the coast.

The area was made up of farmlands. Mixed farming was common. Much of the agricultural production that time was pastures and groves. Urban development replaced much of the farmlands in the 1920s and the 1930s.

The city was also once home to the Athens Broadcast centre.

The most famous street in the municipality is Dionysiou Solomou, where the Livanis Family lives. Agios Demetrios has had some very notable residents, chief among them Stylianos Mavridis, the University Professor of Philosophy and Greek, and the author of History Ekaterine Mavridou-Livanis.

We looked at the various sites listed by the local community as areas which had problems. The community play areas, the market, the disused weather station and the site of our proposal.

The “Island of Weather Fields” is a way to turn the empty site of the Weather Station into something useful for those who live in Agios Dimitirs.

By initiating 3 moves the space is turned into a place where marginalised and disadvantaged individuals can help themselves in a time of great crisis.

  • The division of the site into parcels of land, called “allotments”, for the growing of fruit, vegetables or flowers.
  • The formation of a new square for a weekend market where growers can meet, discuss, show off and perhaps even sell the things they grow.
  • The refurbishment of buildings on the site; the existing cafe to open out onto the square and the existing building to be made useable to the administration of allotments and market.

An allotment is normally a piece of land subdivided into smaller plots of around 50 sq meters. Each plot is cultivated by individuals or families and not collectively by a group. Individual gardeners are part of an organised allotment association, which borrows the land, in the UK it is leased, from a private or public owner. The plot may only be used for the growing of plants and flowers; fruit, vegetables and flowers. No livestock. In the UK gardeners pay a very small membership fee of say 10 pounds per year. This money is used by the association to administration and arrange events, etc. The Association is responsible for looking after the fields.

The Market square would be a space run by the Council.  The council will organise the spaces on the square and administer how the space is used; keep it clean and work with the users of the Association to arrange events and weekly Farmers Markets on the square. They would also provide expertise in setting up the association and helping them manage the by-laws that ensure that it will function in a positive way for the community. They will also be administering the cafe which could be a source of income and jobs for the site, which could be used by the council to improve the site and pay for other administration costs of the site.

The existing buildings on the site should be refurbished. The existing cafe building should be allowed to open out onto the new square and become a focus for the community, public and association. At weekends there will be people from elsewhere outside Agios Dimitirios who will visit and refreshments can be served. These could be offered at a lower cost than elsewhere and become another reason for visiting. Some building should be made available to the association for events, meetings and annual general meetings. They could also become usable for lectures on growing plants, sustainability, cooking and other informal educational events by the association and/or the community for other events. We would hope that annually event like the Royal Horticultural Society show might take place where flowers and vegetables are exhibited and prizes given to the best ones.

This space will never be used without the intervention of the council and it has a lot to gain from making sure it does, including the following:

  • Encourage Sustainability
  • Encourage Environmentally friendly activities
  • Give something back to local community voters and tax payers
  • Make use of an unused space in Agios Dimitrios which is not about developers
  • Encourage healthy eating and diet through fresh fruit and vegetables
  • Create income and jobs for local community

The community has to gain the following:

  • A space to help themselves through their own energy and behaviour
  • Healthy food
  • Fun activity
  • Eat what you grow
  • Flowers
  • Entertainment

The users / Association would gain the following:

  • A space to grow fresh fruit, vegetables and flowers in
  • Self-sufficiency of Administration of Association without need for cost to Local Government
  • Small rental income from use of land by the users to administer the association
  • Self-organising by volunteer members of the Association

Source: Architect Athens

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