A disused airport in Athens, the Ellinikon, is being reimagined as a green smart city, right on the Athens Rivera.
Picture Athens. What springs to mind is likely stunning ancient ruins, telling stories of a time long ago. In recent years, a modern-day ruin has appeared, in the form of a disused airport. The Ellinikon has served as a military base, an airport, and most recently in 2004, an Olympic venue. But for nearly twenty years, the Ellinikon has been abandoned. This modern-day ruin has grown to be three times the size of Monaco.
Now, plans are in motion turn the Ellinikon into an oasis of greenery on the Athens Rivera. The Ellinikon will sit just five miles away from the Acropolis, one of the most ancient sites in the western world, defining Greece as a country with a love for its history and its future.
The park is an exhibition of Greece’s economic growth
The park was not intended to be abandoned for so long. Even before the space was decommissioned as an airport in 2001, there were plans to turn it into a park. However, Greece soon ran into trouble financing the project. Since then, the Greek real estate firm Lamda development was awarded the project in collaboration with Sasaki, a Boston-based architecture firm. Construction did not start until last year, but it is now predicted that 40% of the project will be finished by 2025.
To create this green space, 31,000 trees from 89 species will be planted and more than 3 million plants – all of which are native to Greece.
The creation of the city is not just a symbol of Greece’s present economic growth, it also defines Greece as a trendsetter of the future. Future cities will be built to be like the Ellinikon.
A greener future for Athens
We don’t associate Athens with greenery. We think of dust and heat. The colours we imagine are hues of yellow, orange, and beige. But the Ellinikon promises to turn our perception on its head, for at the centre of the Ellinikon, there will be a 600-acre space of greenery. It will equate to a third of the entirety of the plot and it will be double the size of Hyde Park in London.
To create this green space, 31,000 trees from 89 species will be planted and more than 3 million plants – all of which are native to Greece. These plants have specifically been chosen because they have a strong chance of surviving in Greece’s increasingly arid climate. Athens has already been feeling the effects of climate change, as it is has been experiencing higher temperatures and more extreme weather events. Currently, Athens is densely built and concrete – the city needs more space to breathe. The plans for the Ellinikon will convert a space that once was 70% concrete to somewhere that will be 70% green.
Furthermore, to combat water scarcity, the park will be irrigated with a treated wastewater supplied by a plant nearby. A canoe and kayak area from the Olympics will be used to create a 3.7-acre lake, which will collect and store stormwater.
A greener Greece means a happier Greece
Aleksandra Kazmierczak, climate change and health expert for the European Environment Agency (EEA), notes just how useful green spaces are at moderating the climate of a city. “If cities are designed more like sponges that can take in excess water that can translate into economic benefits of not being flooded and not losing millions and billions of Euros in damage.”
Furthermore, green spaces have multiple health benefits, socially, mentally, and physically. Whether your child uses it to run around, you use it to clear your head after a busy workday, or you go play sport with a group of friends there.
British architectural firm Foster + Partners will be responsible for creating the Rivera Tower, a residential block of 200 apartments, overlooking the park and coast.
What else can we expect from the Ellinikon?
The Ellinikon will be a hubbub containing a cultural centre, sculpture parks, open-air theatres, healthcare, food and drink venues. Everything will be no more than a 15-minute walk from the centre, reducing the need for cars. A mile-long beach will come with space for 350 marinas, a sign of the glamour envisioned for the destination. Plus, there will be 50km of walking paths and 30km of cycle lanes. A new tramline will keep the Ellinikon connected.
Additionally, Lamda is building two five-star hotels, two schools, a hospital, a business district, the largest shopping arcade, a casino, a skyscraper – the first buildings in Greece to reach 200m. They are also planning to create 9,000 homes – who knows, in a few years’ time, we could be advertising properties in the Ellinikon on our property portal. British architectural firm Foster + Partners will be responsible for creating the Rivera Tower, a residential block of 200 apartments, overlooking the park and coast.
Sitting on a beach won’t just be sitting on a bench – no, the benches in the Ellinikon will come with built-in solar-powered phone chargers.
How will the city be Smart?
Now for the part that sounds straight out of a sci-fi film, thousands of high-tech sensors and monitors will be installed across the development to improve the lives of its residents. But what will they do? Detectors built into bins will alert the waste disposal teams as to when they need emptying. Streetlights will be adjusted to changes in daylight and in the weather. Sitting on a beach won’t just be sitting on a bench – no, the benches in the Ellinikon will come with built-in solar-powered phone chargers.
As the city is essentially being made from scratch, it is the perfect opportunity to put fibre-optic cables and sensors everywhere before the road has even been made.
Historically, Athens’s great draw has been its history as the birthplace of western civilisation. But the Ellinikon is an exciting project that promises to spearhead Greece in the future.