The history of greek urban space from the post-war period to nowadays. Interview with the architect and urban designer Andreas Symeon

Editing: Irini Gratsia

Andreas Symeon studied architecture at the Metsovion Polytechneion. He was admitted to the School of Architecture in 1945, ranking first in the admission exams among over 2500 candidates. His professional activity starts in 1950 when he has only completed his first year in school and is doing his military service. He takes part in an architectural competition for the gateway and administration building of Thessaloniki International Fair and wins the first prize. His subsequent development could be divided into three periods: Between 1953 and 1956 he establishes his practice in Athens in partnership with N. Efessios and D. Papazissi. During the same period he is assistant professor of architectural design at the Polytechneion. Between 1957 and 1971 he is associated with Doxiadis: Chief architect-planner responsible for the design of all projects of Doxiadis Associates worldwide and president of Doxiadis Associates, lnc, the American affiliate of Doxiadis in the years 1969 to 1971. Back in Greece, in 1972 in partnership with A. Collaros and S. Condaratos, he founds Environmental Design Company, which remains active until 1995.

Accordig to A.S the post-war urban crisis was brought about mainly by three factors: The unprecedented population growth in the urban areas, the introduction of new land uses into the body of the city and the generalized use of the private automobile. The combined pressures resulted in the fracture of the urban structure and the destruction of the fabric of the city as we had known it from the 19th century. The theories advanced by urban planners in response to the crisis were principally in two directions: the planning principles of the Modern Movement epitomized in Le Corbusier’s Ville Radieuse and the British Movement of the garden City. They are respectively responsible for the inhuman high rise housing complexes implanted in the body of the city and for suburbia. They both tented to abolish the essence and form of the historical city. Exception should be made of Doxiadis: His Dynapolis attempts to provide an outlet to the pressures exercised on the existing historical city, while in newareas his hierarchical system of communities is intended to reproduce the qualities found in the historical city.

Regarding the traumatic evolution of post-war Athens, A.S says that Athens of the ‘50’s was a uniquely beautiful and humane city. Thanks to its neo-classical urban design and architecture it was both friendly to its residents and stylish. Its destruction was a deliberate choice to expedite the economic recovery of post-war Greece. In the course of its traumatic development, Athens has at least avoided the remedies of modern planning: sterilized separation of land-uses and gigantic housing complexes. It has thus retained the basic outlines of its fabric and its vitality.

Its present day problems are, principally, in three areas:
1. In the historic center of the city which requires qualitative improvements and enhancement of its historical character.
2. In the older districts of the city which are abandoned by their original residents and tend to be ghettoized.
3. In the peri-urban area where a diffuse sprawl of the city tends to create a semi-urban environment of very poor quality, while also destroying the unique natural environment.

Solutions are not impossible. But they require a political will which does not seem to be present.