Scholars' Association News
Issue 26
May 2013


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RETHINK ATHENS: The results of the Competition
By Leda Bouzali

The proposal One Step Beyond of the Dutch architects OKRA are the winners of the «Re-think Athens» European Architectural Competition for the creation of a new city centre.

The results were announced on February 27th 2013 during an event that took place at the Onassis Cultural Centre, in the presence of government officials and members of the Greek Parliament: Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, the president of PASOK party Evangelos Venizelos, the president of DHMAR party Fotis Kouvelis, representatives from the parties of SYRIZA and KKE, the Minister for Development Kostis Hatzidakis, the Mayor of Athens George Kaminis, the deputy Minister for Development Stavros Kaloyannis, the vice-Miinister for the Environment Spyros Kalafatis, the vice-Minister for Development Notis Mitarakis and many others.

Seventy-one proposals were submitted at the Re-think Athens competition from architectural offices from Greece and from eleven other countries. Nine of these proposals received special awards. All 71 proposals were put on display at the Onassis Cultural Centre until the 6th of March and then at the Syntagma Metro Station in an exhibition curated by architect Panos Dragonas.

The 2nd Stage Jury comprised of the following experts: Spiro Amourgis (President of the Athens School of Fine Arts), Joan Busquets (Prof. of Urban Planning & Design, Harvard University), Andrej Hrausky (Director of Dessa Archtectural Gallery in Ljubljana), George Kaminis (Mayor of Athens), George Panetsos (Prof. of Architecture and Urban Planning, University of Patras), Anthony Papadimitriou (President of the Onassis Foundation), Yvette Masson Zanussi (Director of the Euroopean Forum for Architectural Policies) and Mirko Zardini (Director of the Centre for Architecture in Canada). The Jury was chaired by Peter Cachola Schmal (Director of the German Architecture Museum) and the whole project was managed on behalf of the Onassis Foundation by Marianna Moschou (Secretary of the Board).

After several days of meetings for the evaluation of all second stage shortlisted proposals, the Jury members unanimously decided to award the first prize to the joint proposal of OKRA Landschapsarchitecten BV (Knuijt Martin), Mixst Urbanisme (Thoral Ingeborg), Wageningen University, (Department of Environmental Sciences), Landscape Architecture Group (Klemm Wiebke, Steenbruggen Arian, Heusinkveld Bert), STUDIO 75 (Pantos-Kikkos Stefanos) and WSGReenTechnologies GmbH (Peretti Giulia, Bruse Michael, Winterstetter Thomas).

«This is an unprecedented public-private partnership in Greece for a visioning project of public benefit with direct impact on the lives of citizens», Antony Papadimitriou stressed in his speach. « The aim of Rethink Athens is to change the experience of public space in the downtown area, to change the image of the Greek capital in the eyes of the international community. The collaboration of Onassis Foundation with the Greek state and its representatives has been so far extremely constructive and fruitfull». The President of the Onassis Foundation expressed his gratitude to the Ministers for Development and the Environment, the general secretaries and relevant directions, such as the Attiko Metro, the Region of Attika, the Transportations Organization; he also thanked the Mayor of Athens George Kaminis, the deputy Mayors and the members of the Municipal Council for their support.

« We, at the Onassis Foundation, have tried to do our best, because we are not just funding yet another project that will remain in a drawer», said Antony Papadimitriou. «We have organized a strong team of architects, urbanists, traffic specialists, environmentalists, and scientists in the fields of urban regeneration and economy who support the project we are funding. The demand for a major step forward for the improvement of quality of life in this city with its important past, its difficult present and its auspicious future would not need very sensitive ears to be heard. The voices for a different downtown Athens were and remain very strong. When we launched the Rethink Athens programme we knew and were fully aware of the absolute need of dialogue with the Municipality, citizens, Chambers and professional organizations; we did that and we still do it on a daily basis. Social consent for such projects is absolutely essential», said the president of the Onassis Foundation.

The proposal that has been chosen by the Jury is simple but not simplistic. Avoids architectural eccentricities which impress at the beginning because they are new but soon tire us with their excessiveness. It is a bioclimatic proposal which proposes simple, timeless solutions, without excessive maintenance cost, fully adapted in the environment of Athens and its needs. «A proposal that Athenians will love». The completion of the studies is just the beginning; right after that we will start with implementation. To do that however we need the government to integrate the project in the current NSRF. We have already obtained relevant assurances but the most important of all is the support of all of us because at the end of the day the salvation and regeneration of Athens relies to the patriotism of all of us», concluded Anthony Papadimitriou.

«It is a great honor and we are proud of winning this important international competition, organized in a very professional way by the Onassis Foundation», said the representative of OKRA architects, Martin Knuijt. «We are happy to be here and to contribute to the regeneration of Athens city centre. We have confidence that this project will contribute to a change of Athens, will improve the environment of the city,and will regeneration the area on a financial level as well. Because we have witnessed in many cases that the improvement of the public space such a change in an economic framework is possible. Athens can set an example for many other European cities. It is an honour for us to be chosen to help Athens in its way towards a new future», concluded Martin Knuijt.

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