Located just south of Athens, Varkiza is one of the area’s main beaches, accommodating hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. While large and scenic, it has been left to degradation from various factors for years, mainly due to the lack of maintenance and the free roaming of cars and people. The scope of this design is to organize the beach, upgrade it aesthetically, and make of it a demonstration project for various ecological principles, processes and solutions, all with a minimum construction budget.
Rather than proposing new elements for the site, the design upgrades and valorises the existing elements into five zones: infrastructure, forest and populous beach, natural stream regeneration, ecological demonstration park, and the wilderness area.
Maximizing the impact from a minimum of resources and demonstrating ecological principles necessitates the development of smart techniques: Since disturbance by cars and visitors is the main factor that impedes natural regeneration, movement on the ecological demonstration park is limited by fencing: different fencing densities allow for different degrees of use leading to different regimes of disturbance which in turn lead to the development of different plant communities through natural re-vegetation. In this way the park becomes a lesson in what to do and not to do in order to let nature resurrect itself. Further techniques are the use of earthworks and vegetation to organize uses, the collection of rainwater for irrigation, the dense planting of the parking lot which makes it bioclimatic, the clean-up and earth-working of the stream bed to re-create a seaside wetland, the use of xerophytic plants which will asure that the park will be water-zero after year five, the creation of bioclimatic pockets in the forest fringe in which the beachfront canteens are placed, and the use of renewable energy sources for power.
The design demonstrates that landscape ecology and environmental design can create a beautiful and educational park at a small cost.
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