Following the 1996 Harvard Graduate School of Design study for the area, the Greek State held an international competition for the design of the Athens Metropolitan Park and its surrounding urban areas at the site of the former Athens International Airport.
Taking a strong view which was not endorsed by the judging committee, the team proposed that the park be primarily “landscape” rather than “city”. Landscape not in the picturesque manner, but rather as a living, functioning system. The park’s main enemies are two: the lack of water for irrigation, and the tendency for the privatization and degradation of public and green spaces. Thus the proposed design restores the main historic stream connecting the mountain and the sea, and uses it and rain-water catchment areas to mitigate the water shortage. The two systems provide for two different but intersecting visions of landscape. The one is historical, connecting the mountain and the sea, and restoring the Mediterranean scrubland, olive and vine agriculture, and seaside wetlands that used to exist on the area. The other is technological, structured on the axis of the airport runway, containing water catchment ponds, sports and other uses, and the extensive nurseries where the park’s plants will be grown, managed and exhibited. Around this system, urbanized elements and programs act as stitches to the existing city, providing the uses and interest which will be necessary for its survival. The park develops in time using an adaptive management process: the strong geometry structures the space, but program and infill is allowed to vary according to Athenians needs for the next decades or centuries.
Combining natural processes and images with those of technological stewardship, the design provides a new, functioning and educative vision of landscape.
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