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Tuesday, September 21, 2021

The green renovation of the "lower" Syntagma square


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Syntagma Square is the urban geometric place on the borders of the ancient city and in the center of modern Athens. Through Ermou it leads us to Plaka, Monastiraki, Kerameikos. It is the top of the Commercial Triangle formed by Ermou, Stadiou and Athena streets.

It is the urban square - a symbol of the country, which absorbs in its body the crises but also signals the transcendence and the progress, listens to the social vortices, and reminds dialectically together with the imposing Parliament building at its top, the modern, European and urban liberal orientation of the country.

The relationship of her social status with her geometry, her aesthetic language, and her architectural-scenographic allusions is always inseparable. One necessarily and decisively affects the other. Every season. And now is the new era of challenging the climate crisis, green growth, rediscovery and redistribution of public space.

It is time to move from the great crises to the next day of the capital. With a coordinated program of technical, social and sustainable interventions of the Municipality of Athens that opens the new decade. As a model and highly symbolic project, therefore, of a realistic and sustainable redesign of the public space of Athens, the works of reconstruction - unification and green upgrade of Syntagma square begin at the beginning of August.

The project includes the radical renovation of the lower part of the Square with a brave widening of the sidewalks in front of the pedestrian street of Ermos, creation of a new and quality public space that will serve as a gateway to the commercial and historic core, planting a total of 28 tall trees, permanent traffic lanes four as it is today, maintaining the characteristic curve of the road, creating a smart, safe and visible pedestrian crossing, care for the disabled throughout the range and details of the project, equipment with pergolas for dense shading and morphological organization of the new space, modern lighting, and suitable paving materials for marble slabs in absolute morphological relevance to the pedestrian street of Ermos and the main body of the square.

The Architectural Competition of 1999 and the update of 2020

The project implements the solution of the 1st prize of the Architectural Competition of EAHA of 1999 (in view of the Olympic Games), of the internationally renowned professor Mr. Dimitris Manikas, updated in the current data, in collaboration with the study team and the services of the Municipality, but without deviations from the original design intentions. It is thus one of the first applications of the new policy of the Municipality of Athens to utilize the large design stock, and thus to restore the consistency and the economy towards the authority of quality architectural work. The award-winning architectural solution with austerity adapts the neoclassical tradition to the new and modern functional data.

The sustainable philosophy of design

The architectural design takes into account the historical development of the most important square in the country, and handles with abstraction and functionality the restoration of the continuity of Syntagma Square, up to the perceptual limit of the building fronts at the top of the pedestrian street of Ermos. It includes the square in the historical context, as a link between the old and the modern city. It takes into account the emblematic character, the key road convergence, the commercial mobility, brings in more contact the pedestrian flows with Ermou, creating a new and unified aesthetic language.

The geometric reconstruction of the square converses with the depth of history, the first design of the new capital (Cleanthes & Schaubert, 1833), the symbol of the Republic, the monumental axes, but also the modern life and perspective. It connects the modern and the old city, it leans dialectically through Amalia Avenue with the National Garden, Zappeion, Hadrian's Gate and the Pillars of Olympian Zeus, and through Panepistimiou and Stadiou Street with the other peak of Trigonos, with Omonia Square and between Klafthmonos, Korai squares as well as with the famous trilogy of the Library, the University and the Academy.

The pilot intervention, the interim projects and the conclusions

A year ago, the Municipality of Athens applied a temporary solution to the site, in accordance with the standards of European pilot applications, which abolished 2 of the 6 lanes of traffic, moved MMM stops, provided public space for pedestrians, installed large and small green elements. and urban equipment. In one year it was found that there were significant environmental benefits, that the traffic situation was integrated into the daily life of the city, while the indices of air pollution, noise decreased and the road safety index increased. In fact, a significant environmental upgrade was achieved in the wider area of ​​the square. The interim application provided useful data that were used for the elaboration and documentation of the final studies.


A new square is being born in the heart of Athens - 10 benefits with numbers

With the new project, a new square is created at the bottom of the Constitution, while at the same time it is integrated aesthetically and functionally with the main body of the square.

The 10 benefits with numbers are summarized in the following:

1. From the reduction of traffic lanes to 4 out of 6, as implemented last year, the levels of air pollution, noise are reduced and the level of road safety is upgraded.

2. In the section between Karageorgi, Serbia and Ermou, the average width of the pedestrian street is 7,80 meters, while in the section Ermou - Mitropoleos, it is 5,20, thus creating approximately 1000 square meters of new vital public space.

3. The renovation envisages 28 new large trees that will contribute to the microclimate of the square, the shading, the attractiveness of the new square, the friendliness to the visitors.

4. The 2 longitudinal pergolas will offer additional shading but will mainly organize the space urbanly and unifyingly and by extension the equipment and the table seats of the stores, in limited positions.

5. The modern pedestrian crossing, more friendly and narrower, creates additional road safety conditions, functionally interconnects the pedestrian flows. Luminaires on the asphalt floor, synchronized with the traffic lights, create a sense of additional security, especially at night.

6. The exclusive bus lane and the location of five OASA stops, gives the character of sustainable mobility by public transport to the points exactly that are spontaneously sought by the citizens either on arrival or departure.

7. The design is done with full care, in order to ensure the universal access of the disabled, while the individual elements, such as ramps and marking strips for the disabled are aesthetically integrated, maintaining in full their functional value.

8. The creation of the new public space forms a friendlier, more functional and of similar aesthetic end or entrance to the pedestrian street of Ermos. The busiest part of the city with thousands of pedestrians every day, multiplies the offer of a sustainable environment to citizens and visitors.

9. The project is directly connected and will work in addition to similar interventions that are already planned and completed such as the widening of Ermos in its lower part, the emblematic renovation of the University, the sidewalks and road renovations in the road network of the commercial triangle

10. The work of the renovation of pl. Syntagma encompasses in a unique way, semantically and symbolically the new philosophy of the administration of the Municipality of Athens: Respect and economy in the utilization of the great architectural work, great emphasis on the redistribution of public space, adaptation of sustainable mobility and traffic to modern green, and sustainable perspective.

Yesterday, Monday, July 19, the Municipal Council of Athens voted by a majority for the architectural study, starting the process for the renovation of the lower part of Syntagma Square.

"Syntagma Square functions as a reference point with symbolic and historical value"

Dimitris Manikas, Professor of Architecture - Study Consultant & Dora Papadimitriou, Architect - Design Manager

"The interest of the Mayor of Athens, Mr. K. Bakogiannis, to complete our study, which was the result of the first prize of the Pan-European Architectural Competition of drafts announced by the Unification of Archaeological Sites of Athens SA. (EAXA SA), in March 1999, impressed us. The cooperation with the Municipality and its Councilors, who attended the study, was constructive. Syntagma Square is one of the most important open public spaces in the capital and functions as a reference point with symbolic and historical value. Its character is determined by the density and versatility of functions, social structures and morphological choices. The lower part of Syntagma Square is an entrance to the commercial part of the city and with the proposed configuration it will contribute as a space for the relaxation of the shopping center, it was studied taking into account the new data but also the strict and austere character of Syntagma Square. The aim is to integrate with the central square, in order to return and reconstruct the historical continuity through the concept of the original design, the maintenance and upgrade of the monumental axis, the symmetry and the reduction of the traffic from seven lanes to four and the provision for comfortable visible passage for pedestrians and people with special needs ".

"Athens can win the functional and aesthetic upgrade we all need"

Panagiotis Tournikiotis, Professor of the School of Architecture, NTUA

"For years we have been waiting for Syntagma Square to be completed following the planning of the award-winning study by Dimitris Manikas. Its lower side, which is directly connected to the pedestrian street of Ermos, will grow, breathe and will function as a reflection and renewal of the architectural character of the central square. It is fortunate that the same architect undertook to fulfill his original promise, taking advantage of the maturity given by time. The materials are solid and timeless, with clean lines and rough details, combining the modern and the classic with durability. The large trees, with dark red foliage, will offer environmental comfort and an aesthetic contrast to the green of the large square. "Athens can win, with small and large projects, the functional and aesthetic upgrade, and the urban quality that we all need in big cities".

"The Municipality of Athens does its duty, utilizing the authority of good architectural design"

George A. Panetsos, Professor of Architectural and Urban Design at the University of Patras

"Finally, Syntagma Square, whose reconstruction had begun in view of the Olympic Games, is being completed! And, paradoxically, it is completed without deviating from the original intentions and plans: An act of consistency and economy! The award-winning proposal of Professor D. Manika and Th. Papadimitriou is simple and essential. He will not impress us with tricks, nor will he flatter us with clichés. It thus ensures the conditions of duration and the goal of urban continuity. It will yield a significant part of the city sufficiently cleared of what accumulates the impromptu convenience of lazy public bodies and arbitrary individuals, equipped with exactly what is needed. The Municipality of Athens does its duty, utilizing the authority of good architectural design. It is time for the people in charge of the neglected perimeter buildings to do the same, restoring their original familiar image! "

"The renovation of Syntagma Square restores the relationship of the modern city with its history"

Konstantinos A. Serraos, Architect / Town Planner, NTUA Professor

"The intervention in Syntagma Square completes the implementation of the plan that was awarded the 1st prize in the Architectural Competition of EAXA, 1999. With austerity and functionality, as befits the most important urban square of the city, the new intervention restores the continuity of Syntagma Square to its natural perceptual limit, which is the building front in the west of the extension of the Stadium to Filellinon. At the same time, the restriction of the width of this street and the uniform aesthetic language in the whole area of ​​the square, brings closer the pedestrian flows of the Ermos axis, with the central Syntagma square and consequently restores the relation of the modern city with the history. of if one considers that the axis of Ermou is the base of the isosceles Triangle of the first design for the new Capital Athens [Kleanthis & Schaubert, 1833] and Syntagma Square one of its three peaks ".

"Important first step for the recovery of public space and sustainable mobility in the center of Athens"

George Giannis, Transportation Specialist, Professor of NTUA

"The widening of the pedestrian area in Syntagma Square is an important first step towards the recovery of public space and sustainable urban mobility in the center of Athens, which should have been implemented some time ago. Pedestrians will have more space to stand and move, passengers on several buses and trolleys will be able to de-board comfortably now without having to pass between illegally parked taxis and vehicle traffic will flow better, as there will be no more space for the illegal stops of the few cars and taxis to the detriment of the many. In addition, pedestrians will be facilitated even more because the distance of Ermou Street from the center of the square is decreasing ".

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