- Why tall buildings?
The inclusion of tall buildings in the project area constitutes an introduction to a contemporary model of urban development in Greece, which satisfies two key objectives:
- The reduction of surface coverage, thus “allowing” more space for green areas and, consequently, the increase of the size of the Metropolitan Park and other greens spaces, so as to blend within the neighbourhoods of the project and reach the adjacent areas of the project;
- The construction of landmark buildings that will define the wider Hellinikon area as a landmark destination.
For the first time in Greece, an opportunity exists for a consistently planned, studied and organized development project with significant benefits for the quality of life and the environment, as well as for the balanced and sustainable development of the wider area of Athens.
It should be noted that the Law, on which the tender was based, includes explicit provisions for the inclusion of tall buildings with no restrictions as to their height and number. Therefore, it is clear that the legislator wanted to provide a high degree of freedom, beyond the prevailing Greek standards, regarding the development of the property, in order to ensure the best possible quality of architectural solutions, as this would be the only way to achieve the ambitious but also necessary targets of Law 4062/2012, which in summary includes the following:
- Contribute to the national fiscal and economic growth goals for the development of public property.
- Attract investments and high added value activities for the economy of Attica and the country in general, and it will boost innovation in the private sector.
- Create new jobs in highly competitive sectors of the economy of Attica and the country in general.
- Turn Athens into a cultural center, a tourist center of international appeal and a major center of economic growth, entrepreneurship, education and research, of the broader region of the Mediterranean and the Balkans.
- Create a metropolitan center to accommodate multiple activities, with national recognition and international appeal.
- Apply pioneering urban development and reconstruction and the delivery to the whole metropolitan area of the capital of green parks and space for recreational activities as well as high quality infrastructure for cultural, sports, tourist, educational, research and social activities.
- Apply innovative designs, methods, and techniques for the development of the Saronic Gulf seafront and the shift of the focus of the city life to the coast.
The recent decision of the Ministry of Culture, which requires the height to be re-examined, seems to reverse the given facts of the tender based on which the State aimed to attract investors for the development of the area.
- More free areas – More green space
As the population of cities grows, their needs also grow. The tendency is for more space for housing, offices, and stores. But, at the same time, the need is also for more free space. Towns in Greece are spreading, at the expense not only of aesthetics but also of the quality of citizens’ life, since open spaces have been dramatically reduced. This is a huge problem that concerns the sustainability of large cities and it is even more prominent in the case of Metropolitan Athens. The waste of time due to traffic congestion and increasing transportation costs, due to the urban sprawl model of development, increases transportation needs. The degradation of the environment caused by dense urban construction and the deterioration of living conditions have become everyone’s experience on a daily basis.
The solution may lie in vertical urban development – under specific terms and conditions. The construction of tall buildings in Hellinikon was selected within the framework of standard, sustainable and qualitatively improved urban regeneration that focuses on environmental, energy, aesthetics and functionality issues. Reducing surface coverage means more space for green areas, more open public areas.
At the same time, the special bioclimatic design of the buildings as specified in the Hellinikon Development Plan drastically reduces their energy footprint, while ensuring the non-deterioration of the area’s urban environment with regard to sun exposure, lighting and ventilation conditions.
- Landmarks of a modern town – A centre attracting visitors from around the world
A landmark is defined as a building whose identity is so widely known that it exceeds the building’s identity per se and renders it as a recognizable attraction pole beyond its specific location.
Examples exist from antiquity until today and the contemporary term “Guggenheim effect”, created as a result of the influence of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, is internationally renowned.
Due to their special architectural design, tall buildings serve the purpose of landmarks for Hellinikon, aiming at rendering the broader area a landmark destination. The rapidly growing architectural tourism is inviolably associated with tall buildings designed by internationally renowned architects. Traditional Cities with a great history and culture such as Istanbul, Paris, Beijing, Shanghai but also Berlin, Barcelona, London, Milan and many others, have witnessed significant improvement of their tourism by the construction of buildings of distinct architectural interest. International experience has shown that towns with such buildings and innovative constructions (e.g. the Louvre in Paris, the Hotel Arts on the sea front of Barcelona, etc.) attract visitors from around the world, even before their completion.
Tall buildings surrounded by open, free areas have been a dominant trend in Europe for decades, given that vertical development is considered an important parameter for the achievement of sustainable architectural design. In London, the tallest building measures 309.7 m, in Madrid 249m, while in Paris and Milan the tallest buildings reach 231m.
In Athens, the tallest building is the Tower of Athens, with a height of 103m, while, according to the “New Building Regulation” (NOK), the maximum building height should not exceed 32m.
The design of the project, as set out below, clearly allows for many more green areas compared to the town planning standards of Athens.
Essentially, the landmark buildings will create a new skyline for Athens, rendering it a City that, apart from its glorious past, is characterised by modern dynamics, ”vibrates” with vitality and produces new architectural, aesthetic and above all contemporary socio-cultural standards. Standards that, as evidenced in other cases, indicate a society that does not stick to its past, but can, instead, daringly combine the past and the future. Naturally, the inclusion and development of the buildings is guided by absolute respect for the landscape, as well as the area’s cultural heritage.
We are aware of the strong controversy and conflict surrounding the issue of tall buildings. What is ultimately needed is a decision on whether Athens shall move forward with an innovative design and landmark buildings that, combined with its unique history, tradition and heritage shall lead to a future that is better than the present.
We indicatively list the views of internationally acknowledged architects:
As an architect you design for the present, with an awareness of the past, for a future which is essentially unknown. – Norman Foster (a prominent architect with a wealth of awards and honors)
Reshaping skylines ”…We believe that tall buildings should be sensitively attuned to the needs of the surrounding environment, not designing height for height’s sake but balancing the client’s needs with that of the city profile”. – Benoy Architects (a world-class architectural office with dozens of awards)
The desire to reach for the sky runs very deep in the human psyche- Cesar Pelli (An architect who has designed some of the world’s tallest buildings. The American Institute of Architects named him one of the ten most influential living American architects)
- Tall buildings and the Acropolis
The argument against the construction of tall buildings in Athens, that is, the concern that tall buildings shall overshadow the Acropolis, is essentially unfounded in the case of Hellinikon, as the area to be developed is located at least 10 km away from the monument. Besides, the location of the tall buildings in Hellinikon will not obstruct the view to Acropolis from anywhere in the city, since the buildings are to be constructed near the seafront, in an area that is an “urban void” at present.
- The tall buildings of Hellinikon
The tall buildings constitute an important element of the Hellinikon urban development project. Specifically, the Integrated Development Plan for the Hellinikon – Agios Kosmas (SOA) Metropolitan Hub specifies the construction of 6 tall buildings (less than 200m high), as well as a zone of buildings on the perimeter of the Metropolitan Park , which at some points may reach the height of 70 m.
The tall buildings of Hellinikon, which will be of unique architectural design, will emerge from international tenders aiming to select the most acclaimed architects worldwide. These shall include the following:
- A Multi-purpose and Events Centre in the Metropolitan Park
- A Housing building in the Marina area
- A Mixed use building in the in the western neighbourhood of the park
- An Office building on Vouliagmenis Avenue
- A Hotel Building next to The Mall at Vouliagmenis Avenue
- An Integrated Resort / Casino on Posidonos Avenue