Monday, June 25, 2012


1. Introduction

The School of Architecture of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (AUTH) in collaboration with the Faculty of Architecture of Istanbul Technical University (ITU) is organizing a student Workshop, in which 30 students from both Schools will design proposals for the northern walls’ zone of Thessaloniki, taking into consideration the historical data and the contemporary approaches for a site in the city, which is seen as a monument but also as “common ground” for the city’s life.

Against simplistic approaches by monument preservation, such as the implementation of a green zone along the walls, which recalls the historic limits of the city core, a contemporary perspective might suggest to emancipate the walls’ zone from strategies of purifications and exclusions. Under this hypothesis, structures and plantation schemes will be proposed, so as to facilitate the renegotiation of a monument of urban habitation, which began with its neutralization as the city’s limit as well as its war machine.

The Workshop area is confined to the northern walls’ area of Thessaloniki, which used to separate the city’s enclosed part from the Acropolis. This zone has been the subject of study by the Archaeological Institutions and the Municipality of Thessaloniki but also a subject of discussion and controversy for issues concerning prospects for newer constructions and additional houses (outbuildings). These date back to the mid-war period, a phase of appropriation of the walled area by new residents after the population exchange between Greece and Turkey (1923).

While, during the 80’s, architectural intellect criticized the monuments’ liberation from the outbuildings in respect to the city’s history, nowadays mid-war constructions are the paradigm of self-organization articulating a ‘whole’,  whose elements are singularities and function as a ‘multitude’. This multitude is more the co-existence of the multiple as multiple, than a homogeneous mass.

Unlike the current structuring in Thessaloniki, the constructions in the wall zone neither  obey in aesthetic criteria, nor in architectural types and even less in mass habitation schemes, in which the architecture of multi-apartment blocks has responded to. In this sense, the maintenance of the walls’ external additions highlights a new paradigm and suggests an updated negotiation of the walls’ zone towards the topic of supporting and encouraging the singular forms of city life.

As long as the discussion on building the walls’ zone is limited to a purified evaluation of the monument or simply to freeze the mid-war constructions, there is the risk of exclusion of the walls’ zone from the city’s life. Therefore, the reintegration of the walls’ zone in the modern discussion about the future of the city’s ‘common ground’ and especially of the future of monuments of urban habitation is a major topic and a challenge for contemporary design.

2. The Site

The Student Workshop addresses design issues in the area of the northern walls of Thessaloniki. According to relevant legislation, a protective zone is defined to 5m on both sides of the wall, in which building is prohibited and it has been designated as a green zone. As mentioned, inside the zone a linear set of mid-war houses exist, part of which has recently been demolished after evaluation.
From 2003 to 2006, there have been works carried out by the 9th Committee of Byzantine Antiquities in the framework of the project “Conservation-restoration of the northern part of the walls of Thessaloniki: from the Gate of Paleologina to the Old Gate”. This research has revealed the different phases of construction and reinforcement of the walls, already being mentioned by previous systematic studies. The three phases are: a) the interim 1st Roman, b) the 2nd Roman in contact with the inward side of the 1st phase and c) the Paleochristian, in contact with the outward side of the 1st phase.

The zone of the northern wall is characteristic for the region of the Upper Town since it is separating it from the Byzantine Acropolis. The Upper Town is the highest point of the enclosed city,in contrast to the Lower Town (Campos), the flat area of the enclosed city. The Upper Town was rescued by the fire of 1917 that mainly burned the area of Campos, an area for which the following urban planning was carried out by Ernest Hebrard. The Upper Town preserves its organic urban grid till today, but many houses have been reconstructed in accordance with special building regulations established in 1978. Later on (2001) a modification of the relevant legislation, addressed the issue of the wall-attached mid war structures.

The walls in the Upper Town were left unharmed by the modernization works (1860-1879)of the Ottoman rule, which were mainly confined in the Lower Town. The Walls of Thessaloniki have a long history as the city was founded by Kassandros, brother-in law of Alexander the Great, and has a continuous life for about 20 centuries of sequent Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman rule. Throughout all these historical periods, the fortifications of the walls and all works associated with it in general, have resulted in the monument, which today presents a characteristic complexity. The green zone along the walls is an invention of the 20th century, in accordance with established beliefs concerning the protection of monuments, that remain to be tested both socially and also by the scientific community at large.

Within the frame of the Workshop, the zone of the northern wall is treated as an area, which is open to urban design and architectural interventions, permanent or ephemeral, that take into account the presence of monuments and mid-war constructions while they attempt to incorporate the wall zone to the life of the residents and visitors of the area.

The participants of the workshop are asked to propose some sorts of new-life around the walls observing the recent situation there along the walls.

Workshop begins with a debate between some invited professionals of their subjects and aims considering the following questions as many more others:

- Should the walls be cleaned and kept standing alone
- Should they be reused for some other purposes
- Should they be kept as they are now with the attachments…

the proposals can even be a short film,  a real ephemeral construction,  an event,  an happening or a 3d projection…which all are manifesting a new look towards the walls and the city life….

3. Workshop phases

The city walls project will be conducted in 5 phases:

1st phase:  
1th of july, excursion to the walls  at 18:00 departure from the White Tower...
reception party at 21:00 meeting at the White Tower again…

2nd phase:
2st  of july, One day debate  will take place at Vlatadon Monastery, with guest lecturers about the city walls, their historical context and development, previous design approaches and legislative reality of the area surrounding the city walls.

3rd  phase:
3rd - 8th of july, student workshop
An international architectural and urban design workshop of  students from the School of Architecture of AUTH and the School of Architecture of ITU. It will take place at Vlatadon Monastery.

4th phase:
9th of july, Presentations  all day along ending with a final party!!!

5th  phase:
September 2012, Public exhibition An official exhibition will take place in September 2012 in Thessaloniki