City at a Time of Crisis

 

 

Tracing and researching crisis-ridden urban public spaces

in Athens, Greece.

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Translated to Spanish here.

 

“Q: What will my benefit be as a citizen/ professional / visitor in Athens?

 

A: The functional and environmental rebirth of the centre will shed light on even the darkest and most unwanted sides of it. Panepistimiou Street and Omonoia Square will become the liveliest neighborhood, as a city centre for shopping during the day and as a nighttime “place to be”, whereas the area will become a special meeting place for Athenians from all neighborhoods. Living conditions will improve significantly and a large part of the centre will be re-inhabited, whereas the trade, entrepreneurial and tourist activity all over this area will be revitalized.”

 

From the website of Rethink Athens. (Original in English, Original Grammar has been retained, http://www.rethinkathens.org/eng/faq)


Athens centre [1] supposedly is preparing for one more big regeneration project. This time the city will have to reconstruct anew one of its most central streets, Panepistimiou, including Athens’ two most central Squares: Syntagma and Omonoia. The project will involve a semi-pedestrianization of Panepistimiou Avenue, which will be re-paved, while several new features such as water fountains or trees will replace the asphalted avenue. An international architecture competition took place during 2012 and the winner (a Dutch urban development office) was announced in early 2013. The political authorities of the country including the Prime Minister (PM) participated in the launching event. The PM was clear in his speech that ‘Rethink Athens’ is part of a larger project, which involves the privatization and regeneration of the old Athens airport along the regeneration of the Athenian seafront up-to Cape Sounio, 60km southern of Athens centre.

The various urban (re)development projects such as mega-infrastructures, shopping malls, transport networks etc. built during the so-called golden period of the Greek construction sector (Tarpagos 2010) namely during 1990s-2000s, led to a transformation in real estate prices around Athens. But it was not only the exchange values of real estate that changed, the symbolic values attributed to parts of the cityscape also changed. The new social perceptions of the new, renewed and old Athenian materialities were linked with a proportion of the city center falling into “material decay”. Simultaneously, marginalized social groups—such as undocumented refugees—started to replace the better-off classes as the latter moved out of some central Athenian neighbourhoods (Maloutas 2007, 2004; Kandylis, Maloutas, and Sayas 2012; Arapoglou and Sayas 2009). Yet, this is not a clear-cut and rapid process of socio-spatial segregation, since Athens socio-spatially is porous (see, e.g., Stavrides 2007; Maloutas 2007; Leontidou 2012), but still it was/is a very explicit process.

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City at the Time of Crisis is a research project tracing and researching the effects of the ongoing financial crisis on urban public spaces in Athens, Greece. Read more...