Among the many promising aspects of the Antonis Tritsis development program unveiled by Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Thursday is a plan to develop the country’s stock of buildings. Breathing new life into cities by developing and making use of buildings that are barely hobbling along or have been left to run to ruin is certainly a formidable challenge for any administration.
An important part of this challenge is the long and complicated discussion on how we plan to protect, activate and promote these properties. And because this discussion is so lengthy and has so many different parameters, local authorities and communities need to start getting involved in order to cultivate public opinion on the subject.
One of the big challenges in pulling Greece out of the doldrums is how to rejuvenate its cities beyond the tried and tested model of consumption and construction, which has produced very mixed results if the truth be told. We need to design cities for the decades to come, to fix the problems that have been handed down and to educate the young.
We Greeks tend to place little value on our cities. We talk about them in disparaging terms, make little effort to create bonds with other cities and care to explore our cities only if our family has been living there for a couple of generations or more.
Over the past few years, however, the truth is that we have seen more and more groups of active citizens emerge, municipal authorities adopting more sophisticated approaches to the complex issues of development and a growing interest among the general public on matters pertaining to culture, history and esthetics.
Greece still has a very long way to go, but every city has an interesting story and significant human resources. They are all just waiting for a national plan, motivation and vision. Greek cities can be made better. They can improve in terms of quality of life, in the pride their residents feel and in their drive to continue becoming better in the future. It is, therefore, time for creative voices to finally be given the floor so that they can present their ideas about this future.
Another important issue is the historical character of cities, so badly marred by decades of vulgarity and opportunism.
Redefining cities, restoring their old buildings and encouraging new architecture are initiatives that give added value, bolster the economy and form the bedrock for a much-needed rebirth.