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Dutch to take up the renovation of Athens

27 February 2013 / 20:02:56  GRReporter
3958 reads

Victoria Mindova

The Dutch OKRA company has won the architectural competition "Re-think Athens", which the Onassis Foundation announced a year ago. Under the project, Panepistimiou Street, which is one of the major metropolitan thoroughfares, will become a pedestrian zone that will link a number of significant archaeological sites and shopping areas, which will shape the face of the urban environment. The central thoroughfare will be transformed into a modern green area that will meet all European environmental mobility and modern design standards.
"The Commission believes that the proposed project has all the necessary prerequisites to make Athens a dynamic and modern city again. The proposal is simple, but by no means elementary; it is fully feasible and gives a new spirit to Athens as well as an opportunity for development," states the chairman of the board of the Onassis Foundation Antonis Papadimitriou. He is convinced that the renovation of the centre of Athens will improve the quality of life of the Athenians without being a panacea for all the problems of the city.

The Onassis Foundation took over the full funding of the initial phase of the programme within the context of which the contest to select the architectural office for the implementation of the urban renovation took place. The organizers received 71 architectural designs from ten different countries and chose nine of them in the second stage. The most successful among the nine designs is that of the Dutch company that has been specializing in the renovation of the urban environment. OKRA states that it strives to design and create public spaces in harmony with the needs of the people by finding the best solutions for the modern world in which we are living and developing. Some of the latest designs of the architectural studio are in the centre of Basel in Switzerland, the "third centre" in Croydon in London, the centre of Copenhagen and the planned centre of the future in Rotterdam.

Panepistimiou is one of three travel zones that connect the two central Syntagma and Omonia squares. By the end of 2015, the area will be completely transformed and under the project, a modern tramline will go along Panepistimiou Street that will connect Syntagma Square with the beginning of Patission Avenue to Egiptou Square. From a roundabout, Omonia Square will become a pedestrian green space with cycle lanes and areas for walks and recreation.

"We believe that everyone has the right to a friendly and welcoming city that favours trade, services, housing needs, culture and entertainment," state representatives of the Onassis Foundation. The cost of building the first part of the tramline will reach 80 million euro and according to the unofficial information of GRReporter, the total value of the project will not exceed 150 million euro. The project will be mainly financed by European funds under the national framework for structural development (EMPA) and is expected to be completed in late 2015. If the implementation goes as planned, the works will begin in late June this year, after the Ministry of Economy and Environment completes the preparatory studies.

The initiators are adamant that Athens was designated to be a great European capital, whose centre would retain its human scale. "At the very core lies a deep historical stratification, while around evolves a vibrant modern universe along with all its contradictions," state the project enthusiasts. Changing the area around Panepistimiou will revive the city centre by enhancing its commercial and financial activities, by the environmental and aesthetic upgrading of the public space. This will promote the historical and cultural heritage and make the city centre more attractive to all citizens.

Changing the area around Panepistimiou will revive the city centre by enhancing its commercial and financial activities, by the environmental and aesthetic upgrading of the public space.

Political leaders of all major political parties represented in parliament attended the presentation of the winner of the project. Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said that the project showed that the country still had the strength and passion for development despite the economic crisis. PASOK’s leader Evangelos Venizelos stated that this project would tackle one of the biggest problems in the capital - the historical centre, which had been declining for many years and it would give a new impetus to development in the heart of Athens. The message of Fotis Kouvelis and the Democratic Left was in the same spirit of enthusiasm and positivism and the representative of the parliamentary opposition Dimitris Papadimoulis said, "We owe it to the citizens of Athens to make the city centre beautiful, safe and naturally sustainable. In order not to be just left on paper, a specific time frame, resources and supervision are necessary".


Tags: EconomyReconstructionAthensOKRARe-think Athens
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