Extroversion and urban illustration: planning and urban design in Athens urban growth
Bobolos, Nikos D.
City planning -- Greece -- Athens Πολεοδομία -- Ελλάδα -- Αθήνα
As the “founding capital” of the Greek independence, was the Greek classical heritage, the election of Athens as Capital-city was the first step of its planning; classical heritage was the major element, of its urban design which illustrated the national ideology, through the bipolar of “classical Greece and European progress”. Thus modern Athens became since then the “common place” between Greece and Western world. By this idea the distinction between illustrating and rational urban design, highlights its various aspects which are connected with different historical circumstances. In the historical phases of international economy's rise, correlated with national political and cultural extroversion, reprocess of collectiveness and state power, prevalence of individualism and rise of capital (19th century, 1950-1963, today), the illustrating, urban design was achieved by impressive effectiveness. With either neo-classical, modern or post-modern style, accordingly time and place, highlighting the classical heritage as common cultural base, illustrating urban design has a major contribution to the formation of national identity and the leading of economic growth, becoming a consolidating and developmental tool of state and ruling class, to assemble the essential political and socio-economic components, with a dual target: a.To the abroad, expressing the bonds and the engagement of country with the West, creating simultaneously the conditions of attracting the investments and its representatives or carriers, seeking for the Greek Capital-city, a role in the international economy (as e.g. at the 19th century, via its connection by the abroad Greek entrepreneurs colonies or the after-war tourism-attraction policy). b.To Greece, combining accordingly different interrelated ideological, legitimising and developmental objectives: (a) the proliferation of the predominant national ideology (b) the propagation of the social values of dominant socio-economic components (c) the illustration of the -unfeasible in fact- modernisation and progress (d) the increase of the Athens' attractiveness for the Greek working class, attempting a local condensation of progress and (e) the direction of development in special urban areas. In the historical phases of crisis, political and cultural introversion, rise of collectiveness and working class struggles (interwar, 1963-1990), the illustrating design receded, forasmuch as vanished the motives to increase the attractiveness of Athens, while were increased the attempts of urban space rationalisation that always failed, according to the semi-peripheral character of Greece. So, this paper should analyse the different aspects of the Athens' planning and urban design, in the historical process of its urban growth from its foundation until today, aiming mainly to highlight the historical “constants” and the socio-economic actors guiding its illustrating design version. This question, takes today a major topical character, forasmuch as the last decade, a globalising geopolitical and geo-economic environment and a new phase of political, economic and cultural extroversion in Greece, is assembling unprecedented political and socio-economic bases, to achieve an illustrating urban design, of ideological (globalisation, multi-trans-culturalism), legitimising (modernisation, European convergence) and developmental (regional leading role opportunities, urban development) character, that aims to the transformation of Athens - that it is elected again as the “common place” between Greece and West - to a global city.
Paper presented at Seventh International Conference on Urban History: European City in Comparative Perspective, Panteion University, Athens - Piraeus, Greece, 27-30 October 2004, Session: Industrial and Modern