UPTO35 to breathe new life into run-down area

An ambitious architectural project intended for Marathonos Street, between the Athens districts of Kerameikos and Metaxourgeio now seems to be entering the final straight. The project is an initiative of the international architecture competition UPT035. The first prize which was recently announced went to the Portuguese team of Joao Prates Ruivo and Raquel Maria Oliveira. The five candidates that had made it to the prize short list had worked for a long time and in detail on their projects to present specialized propositions. The competition was launched last June and attracted 242 proposals from 41 countries. It was organized by OLIAROS, an urban development company, and was addressed to architects under the age of 35. The project focused on the design of a model student housing complex in one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods which is in the process of redefining its character. This is one of the rare occasions when a private organization undertakes an initiative aimed at using architecture as a tool for breathing new life into neglected urban areas. This is the second time that a privately run architectural competition will lead to the construction of a building complex in the area. The candidates had to limit their proposals within a specific budget. They were asked to propose new architectural typologies and to design a complex that would house 18 students. The design had to be flexible and be compatible with adjacent plots. An international jury committee evaluated the studies and the public participated through SMS voting. Work on the building’s construction is expected to begin very soon. Once the changes based on the evaluation committee’s final observations have been completed, OLIAROS will initiate the process for the issuing of permits. There are 18 common-use landings that move from the ground floor to the top story. Each corresponds to one of the 18 students’ residencies. The landings twist around a courtyard wall. As you move along the landings and ascend from one floor to the next, you find yourself alternating between common-use spaces, semi-common use areas and semi-private zones. Private areas are separated from public spaces by revolving partitions that enable the building’s residents to participate or withdraw from the rest of the community with greater flexibility. By creating a more fluid relationship between private- and public-use spaces, the architects hope to foster a sense of interaction. Architect Elias Zenghelis, chairman of the jury committee, said that the winning project was the best in achieving a balance between the private and the public. On March 24 OLIAROS will present an exhibition (at the Pireos Street annex of the Benaki Museum) on the short-listed architectural projects. UPT035 is also preparing an international publication.

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