Transforming the (Re)Public

Common Goods: Common Benefits

Law & (spatial) Order was not a new American TV series or an architectural justice system but a spatial appropriation of the juristic foundation of the city of Athens. Moreover, this workshop aimed to excavate and creatively misinterpret legal loopholes that interfere with public spaces.

The challenge to re-activate public space as a catalyst for urban regeneration and mobilising the public itself or even transforming the (re)public implies profound underlying issues that not only questions the obedience to law but also its correlated understanding of power. It might be argued that our work is a nail-biter between using given parameters and understanding the need to change them.

This idea can be seen as a counter practice to a conventional role model in architecture or urban design where one becomes a service provider constrained by external, mostly economic and juristic factors. On the edges of legality – beyond norms and conformity – there lies an opportunity for new ideas which challenge the contemporary cityscape of Athens.

Our counter-site was Academia Platonos Park which is located 3km Northwest of the city centre of Athens and is named after Plato’s Academy which was run between 377BC and 529AD. In May 2017, the current left government agreed to the construction of the Academy Gardens Mall by AKTUME LTD, an international developers company. This brought quite a lot of opposition from local residents and authorities.

In particular, the Academia Platonos Residents Committee has been strongly opposing against the construction of the mall arguing that it will destroy local small retail businesses and increase the housing market prices making impossible for the working-class residents to live and work in the area. In their manifesto against the mall – published few months ago – they also argue that the park is a public and common space used by all.

It is worth mentioning that the Academia Platonos Residents Committee is one of the oldest and most active examples of contemporary ‘urban movements’ in Athens coming out of the ‘indignant squares’ mobilisations in 2011. Undoubtable, the Academia Platonos Park site was of great interest to study focusing on issues of land use, urban commons against private investment and gentrification in a crisis-ridden cityscape as well as practices of resistance and solidarity in reclaiming public space.

Team

  • Benedikt Stoll

with

  • Penny Travlou

Participants

  • Diana Mile
  • Jesús Ocampo
  • Vicky Simitopoulou
  • Angeliki Sakellariou

Athens

  • 19-25 November 2017