The new Athens goes on display at Venice show

The view from the offices of Kathimerini in Neo Faliron, of a small part of the Athenian seafront, is enough to reveal huge changes to the landscape over the past few years. The impressive new flyover at the Peace and Friendship Stadium is the first sign Athenians get of the new look of the shoreline. Luckily, it is not the only one. The Olympic Games will reveal the most extensive infrastructure project that Greece has seen in its modern history. Olympic dowry Thanks to the construction of two Olympic complexes, the Sailing Center at Aghios Cosmas and the Olympic Center in Faliron where four events are being held, Athens has regained some of its beach front. The full value of the city’s most significant dowry cannot yet be estimated, as the venues are still not open to the public, who can only view the stadiums from a distance. Before Athenians get a chance to admire them, they will be seen by visitors to the Architecture Biennale in Venice (September 12 to November 7). These two Olympic complexes will represent Greece in a special section of the large international architecture exhibition «Cities of the Water,» which will run parallel to the Biennale (whose main theme is «Transformations») and which traces the ties of Venice to other coastal Mediterranean cities. The Athens pavilion is in a prime position, beside those of Venice (the organizer), Genoa and Alexandria. Holding Olympic events in Faliron may prove to be the smartest move Athens made before the Games. A 77-hectare former garbage dump, located between the Peace and Friendship Stadium and Palaio Faliron has been given back to Athenians as a place for sporting and cultural activities. This major project, which was designed by 11 architectural firms, was of necessity divided into two stages, before and after the Games. In the pre-Olympic phase, the important thing was to connect the city to the sea, which was done by means of an esplanade. This is a striking, above-ground road, 50 meters wide and 800 meters long, that links the former hippodrome area to the two sporting venues, where it becomes Nerou Square, the end of a wonderful walk between the indoor gymnasium, the marina and the outdoor beach volleyball court. Public use Of equal importance is the new link between the city and the sea at the Olympic Sailing Center in Aghios Cosmas. Like Faliron, this was a complex project that necessitated a series of town-planning and environmental interventions. The main idea of the complex (a light, linear structure dominated by a pergola) is to incorporate both Olympic facilities (such as installations and auxiliary areas) and post-Olympic facilities on two floors. On the first floor, which is at the level of the marina, are all the strictly sporting elements of the venue (marina security, athletes’ preparation area and boat towing ramps). On the second floor, which is at the height of the road, is a large road-square which leads from the entrance of the center to the sea, where a 2,000-seat amphitheater and the center’s landmark, a 27-meter-high Olympic Flame, have been built. The designers were keen to establish the public nature of the center. On the second level are refreshment areas (a restaurant and cafe with a superb view of the Saronic Gulf) that will remain after the Games. The different levels are reached by staircase and elevator as well as via a ramp.

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