Project BackgroundA. ATHENS: THE CITY
When Athens was chosen to be the capital city of he newly founded Greek State (in 1833, following the Greek war of independence against Ottoman rule), it had a mere 6,000 inhabitants. Two gifted architects, the Greek native Stamatis Kleanthis and Edward Schaubert of Bavaria, both students of Karl Schinkel, were appointed to draw the new capital?s master plan. The plan they produced reflected the principles of 19th century Romantic Neo-Classicism. Its goals were to provide for northward expansion of the existing town, and to restore the center of ancient Athens through a series of excavations around the Acropolis -since the criterion for choosing Athens was its glory in ancient times. Here we see that the concept of a zone highlighting the history and culture of Athens was present from the very beginning. In 1834 Leo von Klenze produced a modified version of the Kleanthis-Schaubert plan, narrowing down the streets and restricting the original public spaces, as well as the zone that would be excavated to highlight the city?s ancient glory.
In 1860 the Klenze plan was further modified (by the Stavrides Committee) to accommodate a population of 50,000. Athens expanded according to that plan with a few subsequent adjustments, which are reflected to this day in the Athens downtown.
As late as 1920 the Greek capital city accommodated a mere 453,000 inhabitants. Then a huge wave of refugees from Asia Minor swelled the number to 802,000 recorded in the 1928 census. On the eve of world war two Athens had a population of 1,140,000. Then, starting in the 1950s, the entire country experienced radical change, with Athens marking rapid rates of economic and population growth initiated by a remarkable concentration of industry in the Athens area.
Today the Athens region is a modern Metropolis featuring unique physical, aesthetic and cultural assets that underscore its ancient and modern history. It is the country?s largest administrative region in terms of population, density, and economic size. The region encompasses 157 municipalities situated in four different prefectures, with 3,522,769 inhabitants, or 34.3% of all Greece, in an area only 2.8% of the whole country.
B. ATHENS: THE PLANS
The first efforts to integrate the Athens region with a unified regional plan started after World War Two. The efforts continued through the 1960s, and by the end of the 1970s took on the form of a series of specific goals ratified by the legislature, incorporated into a general plan called ?Capital City 2000?. In 1985 the Master Plan and Program for Environmental Protection of the Athens Region was ratified by Parliament and became Law 1515 of 1985. The Athens Master Plan attempted to define the basic directions for future development of the Athens region. The general goals and directions of the Master Plan are laid out in article 3 of Law 1515 of 1985. Two of them have a direct relation with the Program for Unification of the Archaeological Sites of Athens:
- To promote the historic physiognomy of Athens and upgrade the city center.
- To improve the life quality of residents and protect the natural environment.
At the local level, the particular goals and directions of this plan for Athens include:
- To enhance the city?s historic features, restore the landscape and ecology in the region, protect and manage its uplands, its natural monuments and its coastline areas.
- To reorganize the urban fabric by means of controlling irregular expansion, provide multiple centers for city functions, control land use and population density in each area, reorganize the function of individual districts, upgrade and decongest downtown Athens and Piraeus, with emphasis on enhancing and promoting historic character.
- To design large-scale interventions of high quality.
The Structural Plan for the Athens Region defines the principles and directions of development over the entire metropolis.
The Master Plan of the city itself provides, among other things, for an Archaeology Park, and for improving quality of life by rehabilitating downgraded city districts. The Archaeological Park right at the center of the city, in effect a major open-air museum, will include the most important and well-known ancient and Byzantine monuments, the 19th century city and other buildings, plazas, avenues and districts of historic significance.
The Master Plan is reviewed by several public bodies - citizens, local and central public agencies, environmental groups and other interested non-governmental or private parties whose delegates participate actively in the overall planning processes - after which it is submitted to the minister for approval.