“A complete plan for Athens can not happen in the blink of an eye”, Elli Pangalou emphasizes in “K”, “but in the long run and it presupposes a hierarchy and orchestration of urban interventions that requires duration and maturation in time. In this sense, the redevelopment of the University is one of the first acts in this long process “. The distinguished landscape architect has signed landscaping studies in public spaces, office buildings and multipurpose buildings, as well as environmental configurations in homes and apartment complexes in Greece and abroad.
Its portfolio includes important projects, such as the design of Stavros Niarchos Park, the Reconstruction of Faliriko Bay, etc. The architectural office in collaboration with the Technical Service of the Municipality of Athens and the architect Androniki Xystra prepared the study of the “Widening of the sidewalks of Panepistimiou Street”, which includes the entire length of the street, from Syntagma Square to Omonia Square. The dialogue on public works in the central artery of the capital continues with undiminished intensity and so a discussion with Elli Pangalou is of particular value, in order to solve some basic questions but also to analyze her reasoning for a good Athens, friendly and aesthetically upgraded .
– The “Great Walk” was sharply criticized. Did the negative atmosphere affect you when you accepted to participate in the work of the University?
– Interventions that are performed in sensitive areas, in places that give meaning to life and movement, but also gather our emotional projections, will always provoke strong reactions, even sharp criticism as you say. We did not participate in the pilot of the “Great Walk”, but the fact that mistakes were made and negatively charged, showed for us exactly this: that the sensitive points do not need to be avoided in order not to get involved in a field of tension and criticism in the public sphere, but on the contrary . require deeper analysis, engagement and friction. So we had the creative agony that always exists when we converse with the elements of the place. In collaboration with the Technical Service, the scientific advisors of the Municipality of Athens and the traffic researchers, we took into account all the data, for a holistic approach to upgrading a sensitive and emblematic urban place, something else that exists as a challenge in any project, regardless of scale.
– I note some of the “complaints” of the residents. Big obstacles in the traffic, bad choice the closing of Vas. Olga, failures with the palm trees and the planters. Do you want to comment on something?
– The “Great Walk” was an introduction to the modern international reality for sustainable resilient cities. It is already happening in the big centers abroad. As a trend, it describes and captures an image of the city where cars are gradually withdrawn and urban transport is strengthened, the bicycle is established as a standard means of transportation, the pedestrianization of main arteries takes place, among others.
The principles of sustainable mobility, which have begun and are being implemented in most European cities, provide for the cultivation of a cycling culture.
– Mention the bike. There is strong criticism of the fact that the final draft of the study for the new form of the University does not include a separate lane for the bicycle. What exactly is provided?
The principles of sustainable mobility, which have begun and are being implemented in most European cities, provide for the cultivation of cycling culture as synonymous with the needs of a 21st century citizen. The essential condition for the creation of a bicycle path in a dense urban center is the possibility of connecting it with a wider network of bicycle paths, which currently does not exist in Athens. If we accept that the topography of the University allows it – while the latest topography of the center is unfortunately not very favorable for cycling – we did not want at this stage to create cut-off zones that lead nowhere and suddenly and violently return the cyclist to its flow. . vehicle traffic. On the contrary, we would like a cyclist, who will bring his bicycle by subway to the University, to be able to enter a complete cycling narrative that will bring to various neighborhoods of Athens, always with safety and the best requirements. So when these conditions were created for a wider network of bicycle paths that will be created in our city, the University Street will be able to be reproduced in a vital part, in the part of the widening that develops parallel to the road and the planting zone.
– There has been a lot of discussion about the plane trees that will be planted at the University. How did you come up with these?
– As a design principle we always analyze the landscape in which we are called to intervene, recognizing the elements of the standing vegetation, distinguishing which ones are interesting and can be strengthened, which ones need support and restoration and so on. The plane trees belong to the first category, as they are a species that we find in Athens and we may not have to give the proper importance. There are currently 50 plane trees at the University. The contribution of these trees to shading, especially in a city like Athens that is literally hit by the heat, as well as their vital effect on the immediate microclimate of the area that hosts them, were the main reasons for the choice of plane trees. We believe that the arrays of plane trees that will grow along the road that offer valuable thermal comfort to the Athenians, while at the same time being a friendly and generous presence, evoke beautiful images and memories in people.
– The reactions in relation to this choice focus on the fact that the plane trees need plenty of water and their roots grow a lot. What do you answer?
– The plane trees need water and their roots claim their space, no doubt, like the other trees. What has been provided for their proper and orderly reception in the Athenian landscape is the installation of sustainable drainage systems as infrastructure under the trees, which offer an underground, parallel operation to the city as a whole. On the one hand comes the gradual passage of water into the subsoil and helps the wider drainage network of the city to deal with flooding. On the other hand, they collect and filter the rainwater, cleaning it. Finally, this water that is retained near the root system of the tree is slowly returned to the upper levels of the tree through evaporation, creating coolness and breaking down the hot currents. Regarding the root system of the plane trees, the modern drainage systems guide the development of the roots and in addition the application of special anti-root membranes that is introduced in all modern urban tree plantations internationally ensures the optimal result.
“Flying” urban ecosystem, a modern approach
– What kind of trees and plants are generally suitable in Athens? And how do you think the city should be greened?
– In Athens, there are trees that belong mainly to the Mediterranean vocabulary and which in part are already found on its boulevards and streets. These are the plane trees, the locusts, the mulberries, the oranges, the logs, the acacias, the arias, the olives. The bioclimatic evolution of the city can be done in many ways and even in places that are not considered privileged as pre-eminent planting sites. A modern approach is the planted roofs. In a city like Athens, with its rooftops as a trademark, planted roofs could give shape to a “flying” natural ecosystem, which stretches over the city’s buildings as a horizontal microclimate mantle. As green spaces, the planted roofs can and do absorb the solar radiation and thus substantially alleviate the phenomenon of the urban thermal island. In addition, they reduce the temperature of the ambient air and hard surfaces, optimizing the internal temperature of buildings and thus reducing the energy for cooling and heating. Alternatively, through photosynthesis, they absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen. Finally, a new and beautiful place for a day, utilizing an existing space. However, I also want to note that the presence of green is not so much a matter of quantity as quality and maintenance of the culprit green countries that we desire for our city. There is no sad and disappointing spectacle from seeing a well-designed and organized outdoor space slowly moving forward in time towards dismantling οντας Always keeping in mind the environmental and climatic becoming, a solution for Athens that involved more injectable interventions and larger scale to redefine, design and mature parks, squares and other smaller outdoor spaces, each time adapting to different uses and needs, but will also contribute positively to a microclimate flourishing and protection against the unexpected phenomena we are experiencing lately. Cairo. Of course, interventions at the metropolitan scale remain crucial, as those that use the trend and show the general direction that a city will take.
– Do you agree with those who claim that we are essentially listening to piecemeal measures and not a comprehensive plan for Athens as we would like it to be in 50 years?
– I will agree with this position as a citizen, after first clarifying that a comprehensive plan for the city can not happen in sight, but in the long run and requires a hierarchy and orchestration of urban interventions, which requires duration and maturation over time. In this sense, the redevelopment of the University is one of the first acts in this long process and not fragmentary movements that do not belong to a broader vision for the modern city and Athens of the future.
– As a resident of the city, what do you consider to be the biggest problem in our daily lives?
– The biggest problem in our daily life is that a prism, a third place, is inserted between us and the essential Athenian landscape, which does not allow us to appreciate the uniqueness and truth of this so active urban universe. This third place is a settlement of citizens’ relations, which is unfortunately based on a lack of respect and empathy and the inability to build a society of movement and experience of the city together, with respect and simple, unpretentious courtesy. All this, however, is formulated spatially and then translated into living conditions, so it is reasonable to conclude that as citizens we probably behave in this way because first of all the Athenian center, with its inflation and rough shape, is not always polite to us. – maybe it is ruthless sometimes.