The Great Staircase

Project

The city of Athens has not emerged from an urban plan, but from the needs of its inhabitants. It may has an intense residential development, but the contact with the natural landscape is difficult. Attica΄s basin looks like a sea full of buildings, from which emerge islands as exceptions. These islands refer to the main four mountainsthat characterize Attica. One of which, Hymettus inspire us to bring the towns people closer to the nature.

The proposal aims to sensitize its residents with a nearby escape from its main axes. It targets to create a vertical connection between the city and the top of the mountain, giving access to everyone. At the same time, aspires to change the view of Attica΄s residents related to nature and the problems that have arisen through theextensive use and waste of the natural landscape. Some of them are fires, floods, extinction of fauna.

A rise to this intervention gave an abandoned quarry, out of many that exist in the surrounding mountains, which bears important historical and cultural elements for a long time. The proposal refers to a multi-functional stairway that connects the foothills of the mountain and the city with the natural terrain and the summit. A bikeroute between mining sites based on existing trails, a rallying point, a dam, and infrastructure for various kinds of cultural and environmental use are being proposed too.

“The Great Staircase” seeks to get residents in touch with the city’s precious natu- ral reserve and to create aninfrastructure that may be the starting point for a new kind of human coexistence with the flora and fauna of thearea.

Interview

What prompted the project?

Since Athens is a very dence city , it lacks spaces in which nature can prosper freely and at the same time it can be accessible by all the target groups of citizens . So this project is a try to creat a large mountain-park on one of the main and most urban mountains of Athens, Hymettous. On this way nature and city’s habitats can coexist and grow in the same context.

What questions does the project raise and which does it answer?

How can people coexist with nature in the boundaries of a city structure?
How can we bring nature in an urban context without destroying it ?
How can citizens come close to nature and create a bond with it, without having to leave the city they live in?

These are some of the questions that crossed my mind when I started workng on this project . The Great Staircase comes as an answer in the conflict between people and nature . Its architecture creates a new way of living with nature, making it part of our cities and us part of it at the same time.

How does the project situate itself and relate to the surrounding environment?

The project is located between the end of the city on the foothils of Hemyttous and the heart of the mountain , some meters lower of the peak point. The abandoned quarry ,is one of many that exist in the perimetrical mountain of the city of Athens . As a result we are working on an area that is artificial on a great extend. The quarry is not used anymore, so we could be creative with all the new uses that it can accommodate .There could be an exibition of the mining process of the marble that used to take place there, as well as a presentation of the history of this material that was one of the most important for art and architecture during the previous centuries. Inspired by traditional greek shapes and habits , I created a park with the minimum amount of design so it could be filled with the needs of the people and life itself.

How and to what extent does the intervention force and define a new relationship between the individual, the city and the mountain?

Hemyttous is a unique piece of land due to its location. It’ s a mountain that rises near the city of Athens, that’s why I call it “urban mountain”.Athenians can reach the mountain quickly from all over the city and be close to nature and urbaanity at the same time. After understanding the role of Hemyttous for Athens, there are two directions to approach it. On the one hand we have the intense landscape of a mountain and on the other hand a city that climbs slowly on it, surrounding the mountain day by day. The Great staircase is a way to connect these two approches. It consists of a big staircase, playing the role of a public urban square , and a mountain path above the surface of the ground . As a result it could represent a meeting point between the city and the mountain , and an anouncement of reconciliation with ultimate aim the connection of human and nature and the sencitize of them.

What informed the various drawings through which the project is revealed?

Through a long collection of two dimensional drawings and some axonometrics , I am trying to initiate the audience in a realistic perception of the hole attempt while I have already emphasized the reasons behind this project. I am ilustrating these specific drawings because I would like to express a surealistic ascpect of the main idea. The architectural lines, the simplicity of the volumes and the connection of the live experience with the landscape that sourounds it are some of the things point out on these drawings. I believe that through sketches, the ideas and the images that are on each architects mind , can be expressed in a representative and lively way.

How do these define a fantastical vision and concept behind the project?

All the main architectural elements of the project are presented through these sketches . The two kilometers long staircase , the bike-path, that is designed to run among the hole quarry and leads at the local existing paths , the vertical elevators that emphasize the height of the mining areas and last but not least, the circular voldrome that is sourounded by the marble stone , the real soil of the mountain. Animals are shown to habbitate the project. This can be explained in several ways . Firstly, the nature will “blossom” once again after the creation of the project and thats the aim of it. Secondly, it gives hope for a brighter future , in which the relationship between human and nature find a balance. After all of these, hopefully the Great staircase, can be part of nature and habbitated by the flora and fauna of the mountain.

What is the architect's more important tool?

I strongly believe that one of the main tools of an architect is his ability to use imagination in order to solve real social and environmental problems but also having a vision and using his voice to generate new ideas and solutions to existing ones.

#Interviews