Lessons from Hellenic city building

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Hellenic modern architecture is not of domestic origin. A few lessons learned from big projects and organization of 2004 Olympiad.

Submitted: January 10, 2018

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Submitted: January 10, 2018

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There are a few lessons from the Hellenic experience as far as it concerns city design or city structures in relation to life of a city, especially from the economic aspect.The first city plan of Athens in the 19th century was made by a French achitect and was chosen over that of the German architect, which said the main avenue in the centre of the city would be of a width of 144 meters as compared to the 55 meters of the French design.The French plan was much smaller, though quite large for the size of Athens at the time, but led to the rapid development of the city, today housing almost half of the eleven million people of Hellas.

In the 19th century no automobiles existed in Athens, but in the last two decades of the 20th century there was a huge number of cars, which created a very serious traffic and pollution problem.This problem would not have appeared if the German plan had been chosen as the German architect wanted to design a capital and not just a city.However, it was the traffic issue that led to the costruction of a metro subway.

This time however , a German design was chosen for the metro.It included passenger docks of 90 meters length as opposed to the 60 meters long design of the opposing French architecture.I can tell you from my experience that even the 90 meters long passenger platforms are not enough to accomodate the people that gather in Syntagma station, the most central metro station, on Friday noons.

This pattern of German vs. French architecture occured also in the construction of the large bridge of Rio-Antirio in north-western Hellas.The German design included also, the creation of a railroad bridge which doubled the cost to 16 billion euros.As the railroad bridge would also compete with the road bridge, the revenue from tolls, hence the payment of the bank loans, would decrease.So a French company was chosen with a French architect, as it is clear that French architecture is usually smaller (not always, Eiffel Tower) but leads to faster development and costs much lesser.

The Athens airport Eleutherios Venizelos is of German architecture.It is built 15Km outside the city, but even though airport traffic increased to 21,3 million passengers in 2017, no compains or malfuction has been reported by the media, even in the busy tourist summer season.So a second airport never needed to be constructed, because right from the start a big one was decided with architecture taking into account the near future needs.

The important thing to remember is that some structures, vital to the functioning of the city cannot be tear down and built again, such as the metro, the airport, railroads and avenues, because the cost is tremendous.In other structures however, it might be an option if they were built for limited purpose.Such as the stadiums for the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.The mistake of the Athens Olympiad was that no future use of the stadiums was taken into account and since they were constructed as permanent and not temporary structures, they reflect the long term mismanagement and money and city resource wasting of the Olympiad.One year after the organizing of 2016 Olympic Gamesby Rio di Janeiro, the hellenic newspaper Kathimerini reporting on the, after one year situation of Rio Olympic facilities, wrote that "Rio learned nothing from Athens", implying Athens was a poor example of long term city planning and management.Hellas has  not yet developed its own modern architectural designing approach, as Hellenic construction companies lack the experience and do not fund planning research to handle big projects.So usually a big European company constructs these projects in Hellas, hence the French vs. German design conflict, each with its own pros and cons.


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