Poly Garden City is a participative project integrating green into Athens built environment, fusing building and gardens into new hybrid urban typologies, and reinterpreting modernist urban heritage and a strategy for participative climate adaptation for cities in semi-arid climates.
Poly Garden City aims to raise awareness of climate change adaptation and, in particular, of the participatory dimension of climate adaptation in urban settlements. Poly Garden City proposes the integration of green in the built environment by fusing buildings and gardens into new ‘hybrid’ urban typologies.
Starting from Athens, the initiative refers to the wider Eastern Mediterranean region, as the Poly Garden City’s climate adaptation strategy is very relevant to the cities of the Eastern Mediterranean and the whole ‘flat roof region’.
In this whole ‘flat roof region’ processes of informal urbanization have produced settlements with very little or no space for urban green. In semi-arid regions, settlements are located where there is water – and water, especially if you take into account recycled water, is to be found in urbanized areas.
Poly Garden City was developed after the invitation by the Municipality of Athens as a follow-up to the workshop “Polykatoikies: Apartment Buildings as Incubators“, which we organized in 2014 in collaboration with SynAthina, the Municipality of Amsterdam, the Royal Dutch Embassy in Athens and the Amsterdam citizen platform “Pakhuis de Zwijger” as part of the international program “Co-Creating Athens” organized and curated by Hybrid Space Lab.
Next to consultancies to Athens Municipality (SynAthina, Athens Resilient City Program, Athens City Centre “Trade Triangle” project, Municipality’s Green Department), Poly Garden City also cooperates with Middle East organizations (German-Syrian organization “Rebuilding Aleppo”) and exchanges information with Egyptian State authorities and civil organizations.
Climate changes occurring in recent years bring severe weather events such as very high temperatures as well as sudden rainfall with disastrous consequences. These phenomena are becoming more noticeable in densely populated areas due to the lack of green areas. It is known that planting mitigates intense temperatures and contributes to the gentle flow of rainwater, protecting against catastrophic floods.
But how could we introduce green in our cities? Narrow streets, sidewalks occupied by cars, everywhere concrete …
As most of Athens’ streets are narrow (and still occupied by cars), a strategy aiming at greening the city should focus on integrating green into the built environment. As green is essential to climate adaptation, we have to literary ‘bring green to a higher level’, integrating it into the existing buildings.
Let’s integrate the green into our city through the existing structure of the block of flats! With small green interventions, we can improve the microclimate of our city – and our quality of life. The Greek block of flats with its balconies and its horizontal roofs provides the structure to accept nature.
Poly Garden City next to temperature regulation can contribute to biodiversity and to filtering dust and pollution. At the same time, the “Poly Gardens” absorb sounds and reduce noise pollution, so that balconies can become again pleasant extensions of the living space of the apartments.
Green roofs provide insulation thus reducing the cooling and heating costs in the summers and winters respectively. They retain and slow down the water flows that burden the sewer in moments of heavy rainfall. Beyond their high aesthetic value, the communal planted terraces and courtyards can also serve as a communication spaces, strengthening a more public and communicative character for the block of flats.
Taking care of the rooftops as the “fifth” facade of the city will upgrade the image of the city of Athens.
By bringing together apartment buildings (Polykatoikies) with gardens we create “poly-gardens”!
‘Poly’ stands also for the multitudes of the city, as the main problem Athens and similar cities are facing today is the disintegration of its social fabric with mistrust, immigration flows, and strong political discord with great economic deprivation. Behind the immediate aims of the “Poly Garden City” program lays the goal of improving life quality in general and strengthening social cohesion and the neighborhood feel.
The need to incorporate nature into the built environment creates a huge innovation potential in the field of architecture. At that time “Anthropocene”, the geological age that is being shaped by the influence of human activities and the whole of our planet is determined by human intervention, the confrontation “nature versus the artificial environment” is obsolete.
In the convergence of architecture and nature, as proposed by Poly Garden City, new hybrid urban typologies and architectural solutions emerge. The incorporation of infrastructure for green (and its necessary systems) opens up innovation in architectural design. Know-how exists as sophisticated technologies in agricultural production are currently rapidly developing. The integration of green in buildings fosters new architectural forms and typologies and aesthetic solutions with special zones and infrastructures for the incorporation of plants.
Transforming the perception of the city, Poly Garden City supports processes that create new sustainable urban visions and develop ideas for sustainable urban interventions.
Poly Garden City changes the way we see and consider the city, the way we deal with our immediate urban environment.