Athens needs organized regeneration

The major regeneration projects linked to the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens did not last any longer than the event. It was hardly a surprise. Like most Greek cities, the capital has experienced few successful renewals of its urban fabric. The sprucing up of Plaka, the commercial triangle and areas adjacent to archaeological sites are examples, all of which focused on the city center. By contrast, cities such as Barcelona, Bologna and Stockholm were already revamping entire suburbs in the 1970s and 80s. Why the delay in Greece? «We are going through a phase in which the metropolitan complexes of Athens and Thessaloniki keep expanding, so we pay no attention to areas that were built in the past,» explained Polyxeni Kosmaki, director of town planning in the Engineering Department of the National Technical University of Athens. The so-called dual refurbishment of Elaionas and the site of a former soccer stadium on Alexandras Avenue does not really mean renewal for Elaionas, Kosmaki told Kathimerini. «The area is certainly seeking a new identity, but introducing so many commercial activities to an area is not refurbishment. In contrast, the project on Alexandras Avenue is very important because it will connect Lycabettus and Tourkovounia,» she said, referring to two prominent hills. «The point is that there should be a follow-up to such projects,» Kosmakis argued. She believes Athens needs major interventions in run-down residential areas, along the lines of what has been done in Barcelona. «Large areas downtown, such as Patissia, are on automatic pilot. Securing public space and infrastructure such as creches is not a matter of aesthetics but a question of social peace, which Athens is just beginning to understand.»