8 1/2: Urban Sprawl Suffix

Research, 2015

This research and design project looks into the origins of Greek urban landscapes. It takes advantage of this unique and homogeneous form of urbanism shaped by the perpetual repetition of a fundamental element, “Polykatoikia”, the Greek apartment building. Athens is the case study used in order to examine the transformation potentials of its characteristic image and typical urbanism, as well as to trace new forms of living, and collective design processes. The specific field of research and spatial experimentation is the space spreading over the city blocks, a downgraded, non-active space which covers supplementary housing needs. This space is not perceived as a privileged plot for speculation, but as the carrier of major  urban dynamics which are in a lethargic state and restricted by the present usage of this space. Through a series of interventions and scenarios, the research examines the possibility of transforming and enriching the character of this specific urban and condition. The interventions are organised by the conception of two generic spatial instruments: the Suffix and the Appendix. As SUFFIX is determined the space upwards of an urban block. It is formed by the straight external building line and the curly internal line that defines the unbuilt space in the heart of the city block. Its height is 1½ times the height of the storey of a conventional 7-storey polykatoikia. In the case of the existence of an empty plot in the block, this three-dimensional space from the ground level up to the top of the block is determined as the APPENDIX of the Suffix, constituting the way of communication between the Suffix and the public space. The Suffix and the Appendix are spatially determined by the city blocks; however, their design and programmes are being studied autonomously. The Suffix and the Appendix are designed according to a generic catalogue of ‘Design Guidelines and Patterns’, and to specific “Programmatic Guidelines”. 
The Design Guidelines outline the geometrical potentials and the materiality of the Suffix and the Appendix, by experimenting with the fundamental characteristic of these two spatial instruments. The Design Guidelines, by producing a catalogue of design criteria and characteristics, trace the relations emerging between different spaces inside the Suffix and the Appendix. Thus, they indicate their possible programmatic character and provide initial connections between the design and programme. At the same time, the Programmatic Guidelines trace the possible adopted functions and the eligible constituencies, by proposing combinations of programmes and by cataloguing them according to their private, collective, or public character and use. Both systems indicate the ad hoc design of the Suffix and the Appendix for each block and partially disengage the design process from the contribution of a specialised authority. The “Temporal Evolution” study frames synthesize the Design and Programmatic Guidelines and show the evolution strategy of the proposal through paradigms. They provide exemplary and sequential modes of combination and interaction between the design and programmatic guidelines, while they indicate the importance of time and community’s participation in the design process. 
The research covers areas of intense urbanism and, rather than lightening the context, aims at enriching this crisis landscape by transforming its character through the introduction of new spatial “tools”, programmatic characteristics and living modes. The Suffix and the Appendix have been conceived as islands of a different urbanism with antithetical - to their environment - characteristics, as places seeking to transform the way people affect, act and interact, with and within their built environment. As places where collective practices can penetrate the city and the lives of the inhabitants.

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