Competitions – Case study No. 12 – Athens City Centre – OKRA Landschapsarchitecten and Studio 75 – Greece

Competition Culture in Europe 2013–2016: Rethink Athens, GR, 2010
Case study No. 12
The outcome suggests that this project will probably never materialize

The A10 survey into Competition Culture in Europe 2013–2016, commissioned by Architectuur Lokaal, has made it clear that the word ‘competition’ does not mean the same thing in every country in Europe. Sometimes a competition refers to a design contest without any intention of realization, sometimes it refers to a full tender procedure, or anything in between. To gain a better insight in the nature of competitions in Europe, A10 correspondents collected 50 case studies from 17 countries. Combined they show the differences in topics, fees, procedures, scale, transparency, and clients.

The European design competition ‘Rethink Athens’ offers another example of private/public partnership for holding a two-stage European competition; it involved an emblematic intervention in the Athens city centre.

The project aspired to transform Panepistimiou Street, an important urban and traffic axis, into a pedestrian and public transport ‘boulevard’, and generated a heated debate after it was publicly announced in 2010. The debate escalated right after the Onassis Foundation took the lead on behalf of the state in organizing and sponsoring the architectural competition under the ambitious title ‘Rethink Athens: the creation of a new city centre’. The competition had two stages: the first was an open ideas competition, which attracted 71 proposals, and the second was a closed stage for a ‘preliminary drawings competition’ between nine selected teams. Anticipating more criticism, the brief and the entire process, including the jury and even the winning prize, communicated the need for achieving wider consensus in order to avoid stirring up the debate even more. This strategy was also reflected in the selection of the first prize. The winning team’s investment in technocratic and feasible aspects of design presented a city centre that would be predominantly green, peaceful, and enjoyable, aiming to offer an ‘integrated proposal, creating a resilient, accessible and vibrant city’ that would ultimately become ‘a catalyst for the whole city’.

OKRA Landschapsarchitecten, NL, and Studio 75, GR

While the intention for the project’s implementation was initially quite high, with many public and private actors supporting its realization in line with their agendas, the application for EU funding was blocked. It is unclear if it was the Greek state or the EU funding agencies that considered this project as a low priority, but in the end the outcome suggests that this project will probably never materialize.

Competition culture in Greece was surveyed by A10 correspondent Petros Phokaides in Athens. This survey is the start of a four-year research project by Architectuur Lokaal and A10 new European architecture Cooperative. Copy editor: Dutton Hauhart. Images: OKRA Landschapsarchitecten