Born out of the MSc Building & Urban Design in Development (BUDD) course in 2009 and expanded in 2010 into a wider The Bartlett Development Planning Unit initiative, the DPU summerLab workshops intend to provoke, stimulate, and reconsider the role of designers in promoting spatial justice.
Each year a number of cities are chosen to host the various summerLabs, with the input of partners from all over the world. In September 2018, a Lab will be held in Athens, in collaboration with Harokopeio University and Stefania Gyftopoulou, PhD Candidate at Harokopeio University and member of Open Architecture Collaborative.
The workshop – which is geared toward students and emerging professionals with backgrounds and/or keen interest in the urban environment – offer a vital testing ground for the proposing of contextual, hybridised spatial interventions deeply embedded into socio-political agendas.
The Athens summerLab wants to offer a contribution and a reflection around the potential role of urban planning, urban design and architecture.
Athens has been marked as a city in crisis. Austerity policies have generated rapid social and economic changes, which are already evident in the physical and social urban fabric. Urban development policies – while aiming to re-inform the city – have intensified the conflictive transformation of urban space, its usage, its perception and its appropriation.
Such urban dynamics have been accompanied by abrupt changes in nation-wide immigration and asylum-seeking patterns. Greece, being initially a transit country, has faced major challenges concerning the reception of migrants and refugees, and the coverage of their basic needs. Being this no longer an emergency situation, the Humanitarian Aid department of the European Commission (ECHO) has decreased the provision of funds and the dominant rhetoric has shifted from a need of a life saving operation to that of integrating migrants and refugees in the country. Integration – being by definition a dynamic and gradual process with economic, social, cultural, political and legal dimensions – involves both the individual and the receiving society. This is creating the conditions for cross-sectorial urban interventions: while in the humanitarian context the beneficiary of aid is the individual, shifting the focus to the urban realm as a whole, at multiple scales, could allow for a more inclusive and ultimately human-centred process.
Many cities, including the Municipality of Athens, have assumed a more active role in terms of governance, for what concerns both the management of programmes an the direct reception of funds. Through participating in nation-wide competitions such as the Mayors Challenge sponsored by Bloomberg Philanthropy, participatory design and the culture of volunteerism have taken centre stage in urban politics, providing the opportunity to explore how such methodologies can impact local regeneration in the age of austerity.
The Athens summerLab wants to offer a contribution and a reflection around the potential role of urban planning, urban design and architecture in supporting the long-term integration of refugees and migrants. In so doing, we want to identify, discuss the impact of different urban strategies, and to formulate possible alternative responses.
The participants will be exposed to a variety of urban actors and practitioners to critically explore the different roles, relations and coordination between local authorities, private entities, grassroots organizations, NGOs, activists, migrants and refugees.
Current shifts in urban governance with the municipality assuming a more active role, aiming to promote participatory design and the culture of volunteerism will be presented, providing the opportunity to explore how such methodologies can impact local regeneration in the age of austerity.
Through city walks, participants will initially explore the effects of the economic crisis on the different urban and building typologies such as the polykatoikia, ground floor spaces, semi-public and public spaces etc. Additionally, participants will get familiarised with the geographical locations of both formal and informal responses to the so-called refugee crisis and explore the visible and not so visible ways in which the static presence of migrants and refugees alter the urban landscape. Revealing and reimagining the city’s available urban and housing stock will indicate potential room for the construction of an inclusive vision of urban transformation.
The outcomes of the workshop will be presented in a final meeting with summerLab’s partners and local actors.
Dates 10-15 September
Organizers Development Planning Unit, UCL in collaboration with Harokopeio University and Stefania Gyftopoulou
For more information please visit https://www.ucl.ac.uk/bartlett/development/athens-arrival-city-age-austerity or write to us at email@example.com to express your interest.
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Photo by Alexia Liakounakou