PROJECTS

THE THICKNESS OF COMMONS:’PLATEIA KOTZIA’ by NEAR architecture

Representative powers are often disjointed from public participation and daily city life. Such urban incoherence raises questions about the actual state of democracy and the effective future performances of governmental institutions. The detachment between citizenship and its representative projection presents itself as clear as a paradigm in the case of Athens Town Hall. The 19th century neoclassical building where the Municipality is hosted is significantly taken apart from the adjacent Plateia Kotzia by Odos Athinas, one of the main and historical street of Athens City Center. How can an institution, physically embodied in a building, actively project its decision making processes into the square, the elected place for democratic sharing? How can that very same institution, democratically elected, satisfy the growing reclaim for participation and transparency? This kind of demands claim for a more horizontal and non-hierarchical democracy for equal distribution of power management  (Sitrin, 2006).

Although historically the square is the place for gathering, manifesting and protesting, political horizontalism cannot be limited into the limits of this bounded space but it should project its relevance into an extended physical and virtual network with the potentiality to reach anyone. The project consists of a stratified system that vertically links the archeological substrata, presents in the ruins of the ancient Odos Acharnes that used to link the Acropolis to the Northern demes of Attica, with the concrete urban construction of the city, that manifests itself through the surrounding buildings, and the extended urban skyline of the contemporary city. This skyline emerges as a multitude of polykatoikies, the typical Greek residential multi-storey buildings, that merges with the dramatic and eternal natural landscape.

The Thickness of Common_low res

The stratified system basically consists of a new public level added to the city in the form of a plastic platform that overcomes Odos Athinas and horizontally connects Athens Town Hall to Plateia Kotzia and to the adjacent buildings and surroundings spaces. The addition of a public level inside the city voids stresses the relevance of the other layers: the archeological level, the ground, the multiplication of reinforced concrete floors of modern buildings and the skyline. These many levels that compose the vertical stratification of the city are re-unified by means of voids both in the ground (the archaeological site) and in the platform, with the programmatic aim to reassemble fragments of the past and the present, and to project public life and democratic participation into the future. This vertical system is an archaeology of citizenship that merges the vertical historical sequence with the horizontal reading of political and social systems.

Stratification is enhanced by the addition of an extra level to the neoclassical building of the Town Hall that takes the form of the naked reinforced concrete structure that characterizes unfinished polykatoikies, abandoned construction sites that stand as contemporary ruins after the striking of the world economic crisis (Micocci, 2014). This porous and extroverted construction will host the Assembly that significantly opens its doors for participation and transparency, standing as a new monument along the Athenian skyline. The unfinished polykatoikia and the platform significantly come together inverting the traditional boundaries between solids and voids for a renovated life of political institutions.

The project was initially submitted to Demos by Sarcha, Experiment with the potential of reassembling  the city “in common” by NEAR architecture (Cristiano Lippa, Fabiano Micocci, Lorenzo Scarpetti).

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