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Old February 4th, 2007, 02:05 PM   #1
gm2263
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Athens Greece - A 200m tall skyscraper vision for the west of the city



Introduction and Background

As known to many, in Greece there is a legislative ban regarding construction of tall buildings since the beginning of the 1980s. In essence, the ultimate height that a building may reach is around 30 metres.

For 30 years this limit has remained unchallenged until in spring of 2006, the designs of a proposal for a new complex of skyscrapers forming a unified architectural entity, namely the West Athens Towers.

The architect of this project is Mr Manolis Anastasakis (click on link to access his web page for more original info). Last fall (2006), I had the chance to meet the architect of this proposal in person. In this meeting, I had the opportunity to collect some material and pictures, plus some information that may to the interest of any skyscraper fan worldwide. These materials shed new light on the project whose significance for Greece is monumental, since this is the first proposal (followed by the equally significant one for the city of Thessaloniki by a group of young architects as part of their final year dissertation at the University of Thessaloniki.


Building Heights Data:

The complex includes three towers interconnected with skybridges whose height data are as follows:

Tower A: Structural height, 200m, Highest accessible/habitable point at 165m (where the observatory is)

Tower B: Structural Height, 160m, Highest accessible/ habitable point at 125m

Tower C: Structural Height, 130m, Highhest accessible/ habitable point at 100m

In any case, the chances that the project may be realized are minimal at the moment. However, I believe that it is useful to have an idea of the project since it constitutes a case study of emblematic architecture that aims at transcending the existing urban realities in a traditionally lowrise city and consequently, allow Athens a window of opportunity to embrace some notions of modern urbanism while keeping a connection with its ancient past and heritage.


1. The concept

The proposal for the WAT came as an entry to an architectural competition (the eVolo 06 Skyscraper International Competition - 2006) and has been received with mixed feelings by the Greek community, at least this is what I could decipher from what was "in the air". Of course, the majority was rather positive and a significant number of people exhaled "at last" (Επιτέλους), whilst others re-iterated their usual objections relating to the "incompatibility" of the Athenian landscape with the construction of such structures.

The architect himself declared his will to take on the dominant ideologies that have deprived the Athens Metro area, now with a population rising to some 4.5 million inhabitants, of a world-class skyline, which is the "trademark" of every city wishing to assume a regional and/ or an international metropolitan status.

In order for the project to gain a symbolic character as the first real skyscraper in Athens after more than thirty years, the project was positioned in an area that possesses a semantic yet bipolar significance: The run-down part of the city, many times mentioned as "the backyard of Athens", also known as "Elaionas" (Ελαιώνας) or "the Olive Grove".

The location is here, if you find Athens on any map, you will understand where more or less where this is.



And a little closer:



This is a run-down area, occupied by small factories and other deserted establishments, plus is the base for the transport companies that will be transferred elsewhere. In summary, it will be the perfect place for such a re-urbanisation since it is close to the National road going to Thessaloniki, the capital of northern Greece and is linked by highway to the new Athens airport. Also, in 2008 we will two new metro stations, completed which is part of the extensions of the metro system to the west of Athens. This area is also directly accessible from the port of Piraeus and... well, it is perfect. But I must admit that the height of the project stunned me (if it is built).

This 10,000sq km area now mostly occupied by old factories, small manufacturing firms, and a number of other activities been targeted to host the aspirations of city officials as well as the Athenians, and carry a large part of the tremendous load of the intended revitalization of the Athens greater area, along with the Hellenikon Airport plot (another 6,000 sq km). Many serious projects have already announced for this area, of which, the biggest is the 45,000-seat Panathinaikos FC stadium.

On the other hand, the Olive Grove (Elaionas) area, is one of the most significant in terms of the history of the city (and used to be a real olive grove until Athens expanded uncontrollably and eventually covered the terrain with all sorts of buildings, mostly designed for small industrial uses. To this end, the intended revitalization also constitutes an excellent opportunity not only to rebuild the area, but also, to uncover the concrete-coated surfaces and reveal their old views as part a new landscaping programme which would restore historic memory and allow the city to re-establish rapport with its glorious past.

A past where which, according to the myth Poseidon and Athena competed in order to determine which one would become protector and guardian God to the city. At the climax of the competition, Athena touched the ground with its spear and an olive tree sprung from the ground. Since then, the olive tree is considered sacred and is protected and worshipped not only in Athens but also all over Greece.

Before proceeding any further, I quote a few notes from the architect's main web page regarding this project:

"Our proposal is dominated by concern for the type of urbanity that a skyscraper can reveal, and how its relationship with the soil on which it rests is treated. This concern extends to the natural and cultural history of the place, i.e. to the way in which a major project can translate the special features of a site and propose meaningful links and new relationships between current needs and views and the history of the place.

A design strategy emerges from this concern. We have been led to create a significant amount of open-air public space that constitutes a functional part of the project. We treat the high-rise elements of the construction as natural protrusions from the familiar ground. The project is called upon to create a dense urban habitation site that will be in direct interchange with the natural subsoil of the city – the physical ground.

To achieve these goals, a new approach to tall buildings is necessary. We address the question of the skyscraper not as the design of a large monolithic building unit, but as a composition of component elements. The multiplicity of the elements liberates potentialities both for creating an open public space and for linking these units with the natural environment. We call this new building concept a multiskyscraper, because of the multiplicity of its units and functions and because of the multiple potential it offers.

The proposed high-rise buildings ( West Athens Towers – WAT) will constitute a powerful tool for urban regeneration and will lend a new dynamic to the region. They will enrich the skyline of Athens with a shape that conveys the meaning of the site and will become a dynamic symbol that will consolidate its position as the largest metropolis in the Mediterranean .

The fact that the towers will rise out of the ground as olive leaves and the natural landscape of the olive grove of Athens will be restored constitute links with the physical and cultural history of the site. With the aim of revealing the natural topography, the restored olive grove is interwoven with the three towers at the base level and creates a public park area. The public nature of the entrances highlights the accommodation of public services on the lower floors. The multifunctional nature of the project is made visible by the housing of multipurpose areas such as shops, offices, a hotel and residential units. This is a complex that intermingles uses, building masses, the city with nature, past with present, public with private. This is a Multiskyscraper"



-Image of olive tree leaves from the tree in my garden. Picture taken from my room.




2. Transformation

It was with the above in mind that the main concept of the proposed tower was established to serve both as an icon and an emblem. The iconic value would come with the liaising of the city with its past, and in order this would be accomplished with the building functioning as an emblem of this connection.

Early visualizations include the following two pictures where I kept the architect's comments as they were printed on paper:

In the first, the vision relates to three olive leaves springing out of the ground using as a canvas a painting depicting the olive grove in 1840, shortly Athens became the capital of the then new Greek state. In the second, we see the unit of the concept, the leaf itself in an upright position, ready to metamorphose from its original natural shape to a meta-form that will be used as the shell for expanding the architect's vision.





In the next image we see a series of drawings depicting the transformation of one of the three olive leafs into a meta-structural shape, a shell container unit which will incubate and finally deliver the end product of the transformation.




Also, to the right of the image we see some typical floor plans from the 10th floor up to the roof of the building in order to get an idea of the vertical aspects of various of the multi-skyscraper's floors.

What follows is a sketch of the full elevation of the building, side view:




3. The building - Photos

The next view which is already seen in the Euroscrapers and Hellenic architecture forums depicting the tower from a perspective view of some approx. 50m above the ground.



What follows is a composition of two photos where I left the original legends. In the large photo we see a night vision of the upper floors of the complex whilst in the smaller one, an idea about how the building would visually interact with the Acropolis as seen from an elevated standpoint to the east of the Acropolis.



The last picture may be considered by many traditionalists as a hubris, then I stare at it at awe: It is a night vision depicting the visually dialectic relation of the Acropolis with the tall complex. 2,500 years after the "Sacred Rock" started emanating its infinite wisdom, it now joins forces with a new symbol of urban regeneration, a new emblematic figure of continuity which transcends the ancient wisdom into the 21st century.




I wish to God that this project were realized. It is so Athenian and yet so modern in its conception.

Megapolisomancy. Urban magic. Transformation.
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Last edited by gm2263; September 8th, 2008 at 08:56 PM.
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Old February 5th, 2007, 12:02 PM   #2
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wowwwwww!

I hope it will be built
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Old February 5th, 2007, 12:05 PM   #3
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What an excellent project to break the 30m height boundary but it is just a vision?
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Old February 5th, 2007, 12:16 PM   #4
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Very informative and interesting read gm2263

But to be honest, I don't think this tower will fit very well into Athens.
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Old February 5th, 2007, 12:26 PM   #5
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@ Gherkin

True, to this day this design is just a vision although in the locales of this proposal (the adjacent plots of land to this piece of property), the new 40,000 seat football stadium of Panathinaikos FC and the biggest shopping centre in Athens, measuring some 70,000 sq metres of GLA (Gross leasable Area) alone, will be built amongst others.

Overall, the particular area is to see rapid changes in the next few years. However the 30m-height ban is not expected to be removed that easily.

Now, for all our international forumers that you may just wonder whether there are ANY highrises in Athens, (there are some) and read the full story, I advise you to visit my Athens Skyscrapers thread in http://skyscrapercity.com/showthread...1&page=1&pp=20 where I hope to have the patience to read the full story.

As for this project, it has received some accolades from independent journalists and architects but still, many representatives of the architecture community in Greece do not approve the idea of tall buildings in ANY Greek city.

The battle for a tall Athens goes on...
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Old February 5th, 2007, 12:44 PM   #6
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although i am not a big fan of the idea of skyscrapers in athens (sorry gm i know your passion for it...) this project would be absolutely fantastic....
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Old February 5th, 2007, 08:41 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gm2263 View Post
Now, for all our international forumers that you may just wonder whether there are ANY highrises in Athens, (there are some) and read the full story, I advise you to visit my Athens Skyscrapers thread in http://skyscrapercity.com/showthread...1&page=1&pp=20 where I hope to have the patience to read the full story.
Wow, that thread is amazing! Probably the best I've read here at SSC.
Took me very long to read it through but it was well worth it.

And I agree that Athens could need some new towers, I don't just like the design of this one too much.
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Old February 9th, 2007, 02:27 PM   #8
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too bad for the hight ban. that scraper looks great
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Old February 9th, 2007, 03:05 PM   #9
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Why don't they build it somewhere else in greece? Is this hight ban valid for all greek cities?
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Old February 9th, 2007, 08:41 PM   #10
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hmmmm it does look interesting...
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Old February 9th, 2007, 11:00 PM   #11
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that tower looks wonderful, please build it athen!!
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Old February 10th, 2007, 04:22 AM   #12
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Yeah someone mentioned this in another thread ages ago. It looks good.
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Old April 9th, 2007, 07:50 PM   #13
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wow..really looks good and brilliant idea using olive leaves as the model..congratulations..
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Old April 9th, 2007, 07:54 PM   #14
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I really don't like it anywhere near the sacred rock, far to close to the centre of athens for me. Glad there is minal chance of it being built. Would prefer it far more in the suburbs.

Structure itself is not ugly at all, good design. Attractive, however does it merit being seen, or even attempting to out do the Akropolis? Not in my opinion. I would prefer this in Kyfissia or Faliro.

What I love about athens, is the (almost) complete height restriction which allows the Parthenon to be glanced from most places, for me it is like a shop window, Italians always know how to do a shop window. The less the better. I do not want an Athens like an London - bits of crap dominating an uncontrolled and meaningless skyline. If this is built in athens - this close to the parthenon, it will be the begining of the end.


The Parthenon is a prototype and i think the majority of planners in athens realise this. Although this building is beautiful, it is nothing sensational that deserves to be in such esteemed company as the Akropolis.

However this is just my view, I am sure many will disagree.
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Old April 9th, 2007, 08:31 PM   #15
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excellent design, but i think i'll have to agree with the others: wrong location. maybe a seaside spot would be better.
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Old April 9th, 2007, 11:46 PM   #16
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wow...this would be a great project for Athens!
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Old April 10th, 2007, 05:35 AM   #17
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Nice towers!

Are they approved?
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Old April 11th, 2007, 01:00 AM   #18
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Well, in Athens there should be no high buildings imho, as the city is considered to be an old, traditional one. Although it looks fantastic, to look better there should be built not only one skyscraper in that area but 3 or more.
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Old April 11th, 2007, 08:23 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Venim Fireblade View Post
Well, in Athens there should be no high buildings imho, as the city is considered to be an old, traditional one. Although it looks fantastic, to look better there should be built not only one skyscraper in that area but 3 or more.
I agree with you, but Athens also need modern architecture. It wouldn't be so harmful to see those skyscrapes if they are away from old city centre.
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Old April 11th, 2007, 09:49 PM   #20
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I don't understand why some ppl get too excited with this building? Imho, it doesn'y fit in very well with the Acropolis...it's more like something in Dubai...and the green is...umm not great.
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