Public space in Athens exists primarily as cafe spaces that transform into both a public and private space, which began in Ancient Greece with Socrates and Aristotle, where you can sit all day without being considered loitering. These cafes often spill out onto the street into public squares and parks which are underutilized parts of the city. Our site, Kerameikos, is one of these underutilized green spaces. It is in the lower west part of the triangle in Athens adjacent to the Kerameikos Archaeological site. There are many layers of history compacted and compressed onto the site.
Our area of focus is the park south of the archaeological site, which has no program beyond green spaces with some paths winding across it. The park is difficult to access with the busy street of Pireos on one side and the subway tracks on the other. A civic square of the Kerameikos subway station was already functioning to the west of the site. There wasn’t a need for more public space but there was a huge need for infrastructure. Athens currently does not produce any of its own water with the water coming largely from the mountains and Marathon Lake to the north. While Athens is in an arid climate because there is so much concrete when it does rain there is huge stormwater runoff, which causes disastrous flooding to the south of Athens, with climate change these intense rainfalls are only expected to increase.
Our proposal is to create a large hole within the site that acts as a water retention and filtration systems, intersecting the layers of the underground histories. As opposed to people interacting with the site by physically being there the water comes to them through their pipes. Kerameikos is already a low point of Athens that historically flooded since 450 BC and is located next to a water main that ruins along Pireos which makes it suitable as a location for water retention. Additionally, the site would be covered with salt cedar trees that will phytoremediate the soil which is contaminated from burying the rubble of the Korean market, and rubble found when excavating the hole would be reused to create the walls of the hole.
The hole functions first as a byproduct of a practical need of blue infrastructures, such as the underground cistrine in Mycenae, where it was created not out of design but out of the need for water, and when rediscovered in the 1700’s become a monument. Many of these types of water infrastructure has become monumental, like Hadrian’s Aqueduct and the National Gardens Aqueducts. The future of the hole, whether that is hundreds or thousands of years, will become symbolic of how we adapted and hopefully overcome our changing climate.
Collaboration with Miranda Fay and Natalia Sotirchou