NEWS

Reflection of a city in crisis

A city’s public spaces and the society which produces them have a reciprocal relationship. The city and its culture are created and reproduced in squares, parks and streets, that is everywhere that its citizens have free access and use. Public spaces act as a mirror of the society that creates them; they are natural receptacles of its history and indicators of its future development. Athens’s public spaces are, tragically, the face of a society in deep crisis. The poverty of its public image, the decrease in, deterioration of and complete disregard for public space, as well as the general concept of «public,» is in blatant contrast to the luxurious lifestyle at the private level. The poor substitution for public life that is known as recreation and consumption has moved to private, controlled spaces. «It is inside these spaces that the city’s stage is set,» according to Walter Siebel. The occupation of public space – illegally or illegally legitimized by the state itself – by private business firms of all types and sizes (whether kiosks, cafes or restaurants) is another factor that drives people away from squares, sidewalks and parks. Today, there are 2 square meters of green space for every inhabitant of Athens (a total of 3 sq.km. of urban greenery over the whole of Attica, which includes enclosed archaeological sites. Politicians’s inability to decide to close off the historic city center to private cars and thereby free considerable road surface for the use of pedestrians and cyclists is also a decisive factor in the deterioration of the urban environment. This form of privatization of public space has had fatal consequences. The private car is responsible for 70 percent of dangerous pollutants in the form of PM 10 particles and nitrogen dioxide. (1) Irini Frezadou is an architect-town planner.