Green Infrastructure 2014 Working Group E - Case Study 1

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Green approaches in Urban Landscape, Thessaloniki

Name Green approaches in Urban Landscape
Country Greece
City Thessaloniki
Authors Ntoulelari Esgiona
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Rationale: Why is this case interesting?

Thessaloniki is a contemporary and at times subversive city. Modern and vibrant but also with an important past and role at the history of South-East-Europe. The place of Eleftheria Square, (Freedom Square) is identified with the history of the city and its people. The growth of the city of Thessaloniki, financially, socially and culturally is linked with the character and the development of the square. For years, the square is occupied by a parking denying any public presence. The main reason that this square choosed, is the creation of a green space in the center of Thessaloniki. The need for a new definition of the Square, both as a reference for the past and a vibrant open space for the city is of great importance.

Author's perspective

The most important feature that I acknowledge at the site of Eleftherias Square, and what renders it different than other parts of the city, is its ‘in-between’ character. Standing between areas of the city that are quite distinct to each other the square can potentially attract different categories of users and uses: The dodgy ‘Ladadika’, the fancy commercial centre, the shops, the nostalgic sea and the lively port. I want to enhance this identity of the space and use it as an occasion to incorporate many different ‘frames of reference’ into the single area of the square.

Landscape and/or urban context of your case

  • Biogeography

Geography:Thessaloniki lay at the southern end of the main north-south route through the Balkans along the valleys of the Morava and Axios river valleys, thereby linking the Balkans with the rest of Greece. Thessaloniki lies on the northern fringe of the Thermaic Gulf on its eastern coast and is bound by Mount Chortiatis on its southeast. Its proximity to imposing mountain ranges, hills and fault lines, especially towards its southeast have historically made the city prone to geological changes.The city of Thessaloniki is the second largest city of Greece. In Greek dimensions it is not an ancient settlement, because it was founded at the beginning of the Hellenistic time. The city was built up at the coast ofThessaloniki bay, along the roman road Via Egnatia that starts in Dyrrachium (now Durrёs) and ends in the city of Byzantiu (later Constanople, now Istanbul). The present structure of Thessaloniki resembles to a butterfly-shape, this corpus was crystallized in the Byzantine times, with the wall surrounded old town, then the city spread from the coast up to the hill built citadel, now prison (Eptapirgio). To the west, the seaport was built, as the logistic-industrial centre of the city, with intermodal road junctions. As the other wing south-east of the old-town is a new residential area (Kalamaria), was built characteristically in the late modern fever of the second part of the 20th century.

Climate: Thessaloniki's climate is directly affected by the sea it is situated on. The city lies in a transitional climatic zone, so its climate displays characteristics of several climates. Winters are relatively dry, with common morning frost. Thessaloniki's summers are hot with rather humid nights. Maximum temperatures usually rise above 30 °C, but rarely go over 40 °C. The maximum recorded temperature in the city was 42 °C. Rain seldom falls in summer, mainly during thunderstorms. In the summer months Thessaloniki also experiences strong heat waves. The hottest month of the year in the city is July.

  • Cultural features:

The city is renowned for its festivals, events and vibrant cultural life in general, and is considered to be Greece's cultural capital. The city was the 1997 Cultural Capital of Europe and is an education and culture haven all-year round. Thessaloniki hosts some of Greece’s most important museums and archeological place.

  • History and Dynamics, overall character:

Thessaloniki or Salonika is one of the oldest cities in Europe (more than 4.000 years old) and the second largest city in Greece. It is an important economic, industrial, commercial and political center and a major transportation hub for the rest of south-eastern Europe. The geographical position of this piece of land, between Eastern Europe and Asia with its political and economic role as a conversion point of eastern and western influences, has kept Thessaloniki to the front line of historical developments throughout its history up to this day.

Eleftherias (Freedom) Square during the Time

Eleftherias Square was shaped in the mid-19th century, when the seaside walls of Thessaloniki was demolished and there after its the heart of the trade center of the city. In the beginning of the 20th centuty it helped the widening of Venizelou Street, though after the destruction of the square from the fire of 1917, it was redesisnged by E. Hebrand, who predicted the construction of a postoffice in the location of Freedom Square. Under the current law of the town plan, the square is considered as a green area and has an extent of 7,000 square meters. The total extent of the area that contains the facades of the buildings around the square is 11,400 square meters. There are a lot of historical memories attached to the square, many remarkable buildings that surrounds it and the connection with the port and the sea as well as the high density of green, makes it a pole of an extreme importance for the town of Thessaloniki. Moreover, the development of sea transportation, as well as the creation of a marina in the first (provlita) of the O.L.TH, upgrades the square as the main entrance of the historcial center of the city from the sea, while being inside the considered "Historical Center" of Thessaloniki.

  • Illustrations: maps; sketches; short descriptive analyses:

Map of points of interest in the center of Thessaloniki
Map of density around the area of Eleftherias Square

The historical center of Thessaloniki is characterized by high residental density, public place and green places are invaluable. The area of Eleftherias Square consists of traditional buildings which are characteristic kinds of different eras and architectural style. They are mainly connected to the history of the city. It is noteworthy that the area of Eleftherias Square, in full contrast with urban fabric, (Port of Thessaloniki), preserves its original character. The relationship of the city to Square, is undeniably one, Historical and timeless

Eleftherias square, in the heart of Thessaloniki has to changed from a huge parking area into a lively and walkable part of the city. The reduction of car traffic in this area requires transformation of the perimetrical uses as well as changes to the existing traffic habits and regulations, in order to gain a vibrant, green and sustainable new square which will become the city's entrance from the see.

Analytical drawings

The area’s particular character, intended symbolism and contemporary urban design trends shape the proposal’s synthetic principles:

  • Design of planting against hard urban surfaces.
  • Enrichment and redefinition of the area’s urban planting.
  • Reclamation of open public space with guaranteed accessibility for all.
  • The synthetic process focuses on activating the square through a grand gesture, expressed with imagery and symbols derived from nature, life, and the location.

Green Infrastructure benefits for this site

  • Environmental Benefits

The environmental benefits will be achieved from the use of Green Ifrastructure in the area of Eleftherias Square. The greening strategy for Eleftherias Square with big green areas, tree grids, tree rows, and shrub planting, is combined with the existence of water features and the use of the rainwater collection method. The contribution of the biological and sustainable design expressed with a rain water strategy, since good growing conditions of plant heat are crucial to enlarge heat reduction. Plants with low irrigation and tall trees which provide shading, contribute to a plesant micro-climate. Greening and watering the space of Eleftherias Square, the urban heat island effect will be reduced around the area.

  • Social Benefits

Eleftherias Square could be a refuge in the historical center that takes visitor to other dimension. A new landscape, which depicts the city's ambiance and acts as a landmark. Extended greenery and landscaping, meeting areas would be accessible by citizens. Eleftherias Square will become a green, sustainable and pedestrian friendly urban area that provide activities for citizens and a safe and comfort space.

  • Economical Benefits

In this site, Green Infrastructure can be credited with helping to attract and create new jobs and startup business, will improve productivity and grow the market. In addition, it will grow the size and capability of the workforce, more people will be encourage to do a variety of economic activities in the region of Eleftherias Square.

Potential for multifunctionality

In urban areas where land is valuable and the challenges are greatest, the quality of green space is important and the aim should be to achieve areas of multi-functionality. Green infrastructure project in Eleftherias Square can provide sustainable regenerative solutions for the urban challenges that the residents of the area face now and into the future. Creating a green space in the center of Thessaloniki, enhance biodiversity and ecosystem services, and improve public health and well-being.

Projective drawings

  • Short Term Projection ( 1-2 Years )
    • The parking place (Eleftherias Square) in the heart of Thessaloniki, will be transformed into a true contemporary metropolitan square. Eleftherias Square will become a green sustainable and pedestrian friendly urban area, contributing to quality of life and living in Thessaloniki.
  • Long Term Projection ( 10-15 Years )
    • In 15 years in the historical center of Thessaloniki could be developed a system of linking parks and greenways to create an interconnected green space system provides far greater benefits for people and the economy. This will connect people and neighborhoods and enhances emotional well-being by bringing nature "close to home." This urban green space system is that they can enhance city aesthetics, help shape urban form, and improve urban quality of life.

A Green Square, Short Term Projection

Eleftherias Square, Short Term Projection
Proposed pedestrian ways and green connectivity, Long Term Projection

Proposed connectivity around the stady area, Long Term Projection

Summary and conclusion

From a strictly architectural point of view, the square is defined by an array of non-standing out buildings, characteristic standard office buildings of the last 100 years, with few exceptions such as the traces of the Wall. At the same time, the existing green needs to be enriched in order to claim the mass and the variety which would turn it to an important asset for the area as well as for the wider city. A new urban open space will be the [un]official, intimate meeting point for the social life and activities of the city and will emerge the traces of historic memories related to the place. Thus, the proposal presents with a socially and environmentally viable opportunity to re-engineer the image of the area in study and Thessaloniki as a whole by means of an emergent dynamic new topography allowing a new ecosystem where plants and people exist, creating a new natural landscape in the city center.

Image Gallery


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