Taking a cue from Joseph Beuys’ “7,000 Oaks"
Hellenikon Metropolitan Park
Hellinikon, Athens, Greece
Tobias Armborst, Daniel D'Oca, Georgeen Theodore
First and Foremost
Athens is impossibly dense, and, apart from its coast, has very little breathing space. The sudden availability of 530 hectares provides an unparalled opportunity to remedy this problem by planting on a massive, hitherto unprecedented scale.
First and foremost, then, there will be trees. Our vision is green: trees as far as the eye can see, arranged in fields, strips, and clusters; lining boulevards, paths and fairways; encircling shops, schools, and stadiums; grown in the ground, grown in clay pots, and then in trenches. There will be stately old trees and trees so small you wouldn't be blamed for stepping on them. There will be Aleppo Pine trees and Wild Olive trees; Scrub Oaks and Eucalyptus trees. Trees perched high atop hills, trees on the Saronic Gulf, and handsome rows of trees in-between. There will be trees naturally regenerated, and trees artificially generated; directly seeded trees and trees spot-seeded. There will be pruned trees, thinned trees and trees that have been high-graded; immaculately maintained trees and trees that are left to fend for themselves, growing as high as and in whatever direction they choose.
A Park for the 21st-century
But our enthusiasm doesn't mean that we'll plant anywhere, everywhere, and by any means. On the contrary, for us, planting trees is a means to an end. What we're finally after is a 21st-century park, a thoroughly designed, thoroughly modern complex of sports facilities, fields, lakes, and paths, but also of schools, shops, hotels, convention centers and apartment buildings. We envision a place where people can come to relax and recreate, but also work, shop, learn and dwell.
Hellenikon would also be a place that, though thoroughly modern, would take its cues from the past. Historically, the tendency in Hellenikon has been to start clean-slated, and, where this has not been possible, to erase any and all traces of the past. In Hellenikon, accommodation and compromise have always been unfamiliar concepts: where once there was a garden city there now stands an airport; where once there stood an airport there now stands an Olympic Village; where there once stood an Olympic Village there now stands a park. The respective legacies of these pasts are there to be covered over: buried to make way for some precarious future.
But in each case the cover-up was careless: of Hellenikon's past there are traces - of the brooks that trickled westward into the Saronic Gulf, of radial boulevards that once served as arteries of a long-forgotten garden city, of runways that once ushered visitors in and out of Athens. These are corpses that won't stay buried. They are legacies of a past that refuses to be forgotten.
Our idea is to re-render history by using traces of Hellenikon's past as a starting point for our design. Quite apart from starting clean-slated, our plan takes its cues from Hellinikon's messy palimpsest, unearthing buried streams to serve as development spines, reinstating extinct property lines to serve as area boundaries, planting rows of trees along long-forgotten right-of-ways, and reusing airport runways as paths.
The desired outcome is a place mindful of its history, but also eager to confront its history's mistakes. Post-airport Hellenikon has seen more than its share of sprawling facilities that, apart from being inefficient, encroach upon the open space that surrounds them. Part of our plan is thus to "condense," densifying key areas while actively de-densifying the others. Indeed, in our vision, Hellenikon is riddled with contradictions: it a place of dizzying density, but it is also a place of virtual wilderness; it is a place one might go to be at the center of it all, and at the same time get away from it all.
The promenade (represented by the thick red line) is a pedestrian path that weaves together the various elements of our plan. Thus a stroll along the promenade is likely to offer the pedestrian a variety of (often conflicting) experiences. The images floating around the plan represent the sorts of landscapes one might encounter in an afternoon.
Our plan can be broken-down into ten overlapping pieces that, taken together, form an organic whole. These ten pieces are located and explained on the map below and to the right.Ideally, not only would the pieces reinforce each-other: the whole would form a symbiotic relationship with the surrounding area. Thus, at least as important to the plan itself is the way it interacts with, influences, and contributes to its immediate surroundings. In our vision, the site is an exhibition space, where experimental ideas about such things as architecture, urbanism, and forestry can be conceived, developed, and ultimately exported to the rest of the city. The School of Municipal Arboriculture , for example, could serve as a nursery, planting, growing and distributing trees and the like around the region. Similarly, the school could export ideas about wastewater retention, desalination, and other such methods. New Garden City, to cite another example, could serve as a testing ground for experimental housing types that could eventually work their way into Greek society.