Text by Eleanna Horiti
Exploring the necessity and utility of creating and developing sets of ‘peripheral’ structures and facilities intended to be used as urban tools, in order to target urban issues that have arisen or have become accentuated as a result of political and social processes. The existence of parallel realities within cityscapes and the gaps created in urban continuity and functionality, raises awareness as to the need for architectural proposals to not just create structures, but to initiate discussion and expand concepts in order to enable and facilitate alternative uses of urban spaces and utilities. Simultaneously, these proposals should be aiming to enhance exchange between the different strata within societies, enabling buildings/structures to become answers.
Halfway between sculptures, machines & buildings, these hybrid structures are to be attached on the main urban grid like software plug-ins adding specific features to existing urban fabrics, thus enabling customized solutions. In order to be of benefit to large numbers of individuals and serve the urban community, urban tools need respond to constantly appearing emergencies and ever shifting priorities. By replicating, grouping and interconnecting them in order to form networks, may lead these micro-projects into becoming recognizable urban features and thus, form an alternative architectural vocabulary within the city. The urban tool example presented here illustrates the need for contextualized infrastructure: a versatile water harvesting system adapted to the typology of the Athenian built environment. Designed specifically to be retrofitted it also qualifies as adhering to the concept of space re appropriation, inasmuch as it aims to replace ‘lost’ soil (characteristic feature of dense urban fabric). A system for the collection, treatment and reuse of rainwater and grey waters, Hydrocone (2009), is proposal for the city of Athens, notorious for its lack of green spaces and its complicated relationship with water.
Athens grew very fast between the late 1940s and the 1990s, at one point hosting about a third of the entire Greek population. Shelter, from the very basic to the megalomaniac private villas of the 80’s and 90’s (and up to 2004), was the priority quest. As a result, hills, plains, rivers, beaches, were paved and built over as quickly as possible, in order not only to make way for the sprawling city, but also in order to forget: nature was perceived as the intruder from the past, symbolizing village life, hardship, and poverty. Rainwater management aims to conserve and recycle natural resources. It prevents flooding, stops soil (and concrete) erosion, and should be viewed as part of a grander scheme, which would ideally reconnect the Athenian seafront to ancient, now land filled waterways the remainders of which are used as sewers.Its effectiveness would be increased further if combined with other efforts to recover lost land, such as green roofs. Hydrocone aims to collect the amount of rainwater that cannot be absorbed by the soil in densely built districts, in order for it to be redistributed & reused. The objective was to create a versatile system that could be implemented on either a small or a big scale, from individual buildings to the public sector, able to diminish water waste and increase the amount of clean, available water.