How to harmonize city planning with a living culture

The Goethe Institute has always helped create new visions regarding the city of Athens. At times, it has hosted conferences and symposiums focusing on the future of Athens (mostly, the pre-Olympics city). Starting today, the institute is hosting a two-day discussion on the venues that were constructed in the Greek capital specifically for the 2004 Games. Three German scientists will bring their experiences from Berlin today, while Athens will be the topic of the discussions tomorrow. The conference focuses on how to harmonize architecture with town planning. For instance, if the Benaki Museum’s New Wing looks good architecturally, does the same apply to its location? As the Ministry of Culture is looking into the possibilities of constructing the new National Library in Goudi, have there been previous town planning designs that dictate the choice of location, or is this the only piece of land available? The future location of the new National Opera building, which is leaning toward Katechaki Avenue, also raises questions; the state’s ambitious plans to make use of the Olympic complex at Ano Liosia for cultural benefits (it has been announced that the complex will house the Academy of Fine Arts) has stumbled on the absence of satisfactory means of transport in the area. It is clear, at least in the case of Ano Liosia, that Athens is unprepared: there is absolutely no town planning, while locations for organizations and museums are chosen at will. Satisfying lesser needs turns out to be a more decisive factor than does improving organization of the city. Despite all that, Pireos Street continues to grow, especially in its northern segment between Omonia Square and the Hamosterna junction, where the connections with public transport are also better. Some basic planning did take place in this case, but development is mainly being pushed by private sources. It should be noted that the new metro station in Gazi is scheduled to open in early 2007. The Benaki Museum, which started things off, has purchased an adjacent piece of land on Pireos in order to expand. The Foundation of the Hellenic World is also looking to grow: A digital dome is in the process of being constructed on the left side of the existing building, while the Theater, a 1,100 seat venue, is also being built in the back. The Bios Complex is entering a new phase as well, with its two new cinema halls (cinemateque), while filmmaker Michael Cacoyannis, who recently purchased land near the Hamosterna junction, is planning to construct his foundation there. Tonight, Jorg Fricke, architect and director at DIBAG AG, Dr Gunther Schauerte, professor and deputy director of Berlin’s National Museums, and Dr Hans Stimmann, director of Berlin’s town planning, will talk about what is happening in the German capital; talks will start at 7.30 p.m. Tomorrow’s discussions will focus on the Greek experience, with the participation of today’s speakers, director of the Byzantine and Christian Museum Dimitris Konstantios, architects Andreas Kourkoulas (a designer of the Benaki New Wing) and Yiannis Tsiomis, a member of the Tsiomis-Andreadis-Efraimoglou team for the Foundation of the Hellenic World’s new digital dome and the Theater. Goethe Institute, 14-16 Omirou Street, Kolonaki, tel 210.366.1000.