NEWS

Ideas sought for 'Re-think Athens'

The first stage of an architectural competition for a new urban development project for central Athens, aimed at rejuvenating neglected parts of the capital, is to be launched next week, according to a biministerial decision made public on Wednesday.

The project, dubbed ?Re-think Athens,? is centered on Panepistimiou Street, one of the capital?s main thoroughfares, connecting Syntagma Square in front of Parliament to the run-down Omonia Square.

According to the decision by the Environment and Infrastructure ministries, which is soon to be published in the Government Gazette, the first phase will be an open competition, appealing for ideas from architects, while the second will call for detailed proposals from a handful of the most inspiring plans submitted. It is believed that the original applications will be whittled down to between three and eight. The architects behind the best proposals will receive an award from the Onassis Foundation, which is sponsoring the competition.

The committee of critics that will judge the entries will comprise nine members, to be chosen by the Onassis Foundation subject to the approval of the two ministries.

Once the best proposal has been identified, the relevant feasibility studies will be drawn up by authorities and efforts made to secure European Union subsidies for the project.

In March, when the initiative was heralded, outgoing Prime Minister Lucas Papademos hailed the initiative, saying it was crucial to improving the standard of living for the capital?s residents and visitors, saying it would ?put Athens where it belongs, among Europe?s historic cities.? ?We owe this to the citizens of Athens who have seen their quality of life decline month after month, year after year,? he said.

Using Panepistimiou Street as its main axis, the project aims to gradually gentrify the capital. The aim is to transform Panepistimiou Street into a car-free zone with a tram line and bicycle lanes. A more long-term objective is to link two of Greece?s most important cultural institutions, the new Acropolis Museum on the popular Dionysiou Areopagitou promenade with the National Archaeological Museum in the run-down area off Patission Street.

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