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UIA International Competition “Celebration of cities” (2003)
A proposal for “Cities on the land”
Case study:
Athens, Greece

The aim of this paper is to redetermine the relationship between natural and man-made elements in urban design by proposing that they be melded dynamically in the heart of the city. We formulate a design direction in which nature is treated as an equal component in shaping the urban environment.

This proposal is made as part of the discussion about the new relationship between the natural and the artificial which has been caused by extensive urbanisation; it raises new questions and sets new terms in the relationship between the city and nature. It also brings the idea that the urban and natural environment, nature and cultural elements are interwoven and interdependent.

The idea that runs through our proposal is that natural and man-made elements both constitute valid components in designing the urban landscape. This direction restructures today’s entrenched and circumscribed enclaves of nature (parks, gardens, trees),by placing the natural environment at the heart of the urban fabric in such a way that the subsoil (the buried physical substratum) is brought to the surface and claims an equal role in shaping the human environment.

The aim is to restore and reinforce the natural topography in the existing solid urban fabric to ensure that nature enhances the city. In other words, this is a proposal for active co-existence in which the natural element is put forward as a constituent of the urban environment and at the same time reveals the actual ground on which cities are built. In this dynamic melding of man-made and natural features, functional sites emerge for human habitation that are rich in significance and based on sustainable development.

This proposal, entitled “Cities on the land” was presented in 2004 in the U.I.A. competition “Celebration of cities” and was selected by the Greek national jury. The pictures at the end of this text convey these concerns in the form of design proposals. These proposals do not, however, constitute comprehensive solutions; they are simply directions in the process of evolving a more detailed plan.