Concours UT35. Athènes, Grèce, 2009

Urban Promenade: an open typology for a living neighbourhood


Thus, we result in the emergence of multi-faceted communal spaces that function in a different scale and encourage a range of social interactions on the level of each floor (small sitting spaces), the building (main communal space) and the neighbourhood(public yards).
The public yards function in a supplementary fashion to the common utility spaces of the ground floors, with an ability of further connection to the free public spaces of the area. By combining basic commercial uses with the open and semi-open spaces, the ground floor feels like an extension of the city that sprawls under the buildings, that way attracting residents and passers-by in the inner yards.
The common public space redefines itself through this new approach, as it is provided for use not only by the immediate residents of the building, but from the neighbourhood as well. The proposal of a former private space that transforms into a public one and is offered to the greater area and the citizens suggests an alternative way of coexisting in an area of mixed backgrounds and individualities. A new place, with a clear public function emerges among the private spaces, offering, like a white canvas, infinite possibilities and attracting new groups of people.

Viral structure
The main viral structure is assigned to the motif building-stairway and the crooked independent closed spaces of the ground floor. Moreover, we point out some basic features, like the façades and the materials used, that are considered to be primary to the basic viral structure and which also spread – after the necessary alterations and adaptations – to the neighbouring lots. Therefore, the multiplication of the viral structure is perceivable on two phases. First, the main building/viral body sprawls in the lots through the standardization and adaptation of the motif building-stairway and of the ground floor system. And second, on the facades, the viral character is achieved through the repetition of the secondary features (balconies and openings) and though the use of the same materials, creating an impression of a building complex. 

Due to the social and economical degradation of the area, there is an intense sense of insecurity to the locals. The enclosed space of the ground floor, which reminds of a fence, intensifies the feeling of privacy and protection for the residents of the units. On the other hand, the inner courts provide shelter from the traffic and the noise of the city to the passers-by. 
Besides, an effort is made to eliminate possible dangers, by attracting people during the whole day to the common uses of the ground floor spaces. Finally, the fact that the public yards are offered for action and use by the immediate residents and the visitors creates a greater circulation of people to the area. 

Domus Commune
The traditional community life in a capital like Athens and especially in its centre, has been rather marginalized during the past decades. We rely on this community life – that expresses itself on public space and on the traditional neighbourhood – to propose a residential community rather than a housing unit. The fact that the intervention is placed on an area where the meaning of community and togetherness is exceptionally important, and is conceived not only through the locals, but also through the communities of the immigrants, guides the designing process. 
The project put forward here is a building-home, whose residents share common interests but mainly a common way of existing. The communal space is set as the common field of interaction; therefore we design spaces that serve the needs of small or larger groups of people and where social life can evolve. 
There is an escalation to the spaces of the unit, according to their nature. Thus, the entrance introduces to the main communal space of the student community, while on the floors there are smaller common spaces, linked to all the rooms/private spaces. The organization of the spaces constitutes a diagram of domestic life that indicates a fashion of living that one encounters in a family more than a communal housing.

The student housing unit consists of two buildings, connected through an aerial lightweight passage. The stairway, detached from the side walls, is situated, between the two volumes. Apart from a slight recession from the lot’s front limit, a unified façade unfolds at the level of Marathonos str. keeping the continuity of the city front.
14 independent apartments, with a capacity of one or two individuals each, host 19+1 students on three floors. On every floor we find a primary sheltered common space for the students, while the main communal space that ac­commodates the dining room, the laundry machines and the sitting room is located on the ground floor. 
The ground floor has the character of an autonomous system, that operates independently from the rest of the building and whose shape is defined by a surrounding crooked line. This line is erected by vertical boards of cheap processed wood, thus creating a fence that outlines the entrance and the common space. The crooked trace intensifies the difference between the ground floor and the rest of the building and isolates the private area from the open to the city surrounding space.    
The open space, on the ground floor level, is not cut off from the street, but remains open and accessible from everyone. Its landscaping is based on the lines of the wooden fence and it is organized on horizontal zones that are either planted or paved.
The rooftops are planted with indigenous, uncultivated plants, emphasizing on an effort to build up the environmental-friendly design and the energy-sufficient architecture.
The main façade consists of three zones; the middle zone of the basic surface, that comprises the first two floors, with the grid of the openings and the balconies. The balconies vary in length, width and position on the façade, creating a sense of motion along the units. On a second level, one sees the zone of the ground floor, in recession from the middle zone and the front lot line and on of the third floor, we have the upper zone, which is double in height and in recession as well.  The third floor wall, along with the balcony balustrade is processed in the same way as the ground floor, that is veneered with wooden boards.    
The main façade can be seen as a contemporary reference to the neoclassical type of building that one can still find in the city of Athens. One notices a correspondence between the typology of the unit façade and the structure of a neoclassical building. Outside the division of the façade in base, main body and ridge/upper part, we might as well mention the entrance to the unit, situated on the left one third of the building, leading to an inner yard. Also, the proportions and the regularity of the openings on the façade and the small balconies refer to the preserved buildings of the area of Metaxourgion.        
The parking space is integrated in the general plan of reformation of all the lots. Therefore, two extended unified parking areas are placed on the basement of the lots 15, 16, 17 and 20, serving the needs of the two opposite city blocks. On the ground floor of the student housing unit, a bicycle parking space is provided.

Vision Rationale
The importance of the area of Metaxourgion for the city of Athens lies on one hand on its neuralgic position within the centre of the capital, on the other hand, on its cultural particularity, as it hosts a population coming from a wide range of nationalities and various socio-economic groups.
During the past years, the area constantly alters and reforms, thus continuously reconfiguring its urban and social identity. The intensity of the dynamic of the area is conceived through a cultural mobility and a development of projects of at least architectural and real estate interest. The artistic interventions and the entertainment facilities conveniently spread on the network of the open urban spaces, either public or private (squares, pedestrian zones, and empty lots) situated on the area.
On the core on the suggested project lies the need of the city for public spaces, as well as the significance of the public urban space in a metropolis like Athens, and particularly in an area like Metaxourgion, a field where different cultural backgrounds coexist.
Our aim is to intensify the appropriation of public space – a condition already noticeable in the area – by generating a public passage through the city. Given the designing of a student housing unit, a place of common living and social interaction, we emphasize on the concept of communal space as a field of societal coexistence.