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From Forma Urbis to Urban Playground

Volos in Diagonal: inGRIDients for an adaptable city

04a Clusters of schools and educational facilities New sports facilities Parkway Central Park

A walk through the urban fabric of Volos indicates the existence of an evergreen, orthogonal grid which was initially guided from the 1882 masterplan and which, since then, characterizes the evolution and the indentity of the city. This rigid and “hygienic” hierarchy managed -in quite a remarkable way- to maintain its basic features through time, with the streets parallel to the waterfront designed to function as the main ones (hosting the most important functions of the city) and the ones vertical to the waterfront, designed to host secondary and supportive uses. Although a highly democratic structure, the urban grid of Volos can occasionally be criticized for being limited and boring. It may serve its micro-scale role without any major anomalies, but the lack of exchanges and connections with the larger scale of the city and the surrounding landscape, lead to a monotonous centrality focused in a great extent on the CBD (Central Business District) of the city.

New school buildings

Let us consider for a moment what would have happened in case of a different grid formation, a new urban entity that would completely shape a new perception of the city. Let us imagine for instance; what would have happened if Volos featured a diagonal? What would have happened if Volos featured a central park? Or, taking our imagination to the extremes, what would have happened if Volos featured both? The outcome of a possible answer to the questions above would have been of great interest, especially since the everyday rhythms of life in crisis leave citizens little space and time to invest in big scale projects, to partake in radical processes that would, on the one hand improve their urban habitat but on the other hand add to the uncertainty they already experience. In the long term though, the perspective of change within a more stable environment is vital. A new rationality, serving as a basis for new formations will foster a series of radical actions that will cause a bottom-up shift of the entire system of the city and eventually, lead to its potential transformation. Opposed to either the enforcement of the existing situation or the production of similar patterns, the answer to the crucial question of a future city vision will be a large scale entity, able to adapt in unpredictable changes over time. The placement of this entity in the body of the city turns out to be also a vital matter, since a strategically selected location is necessary for mobilizing the system. The placement of this entity in the body of the city turns out to be also a vital matter, since a strategically selected location is necessary for mobilizing the system. In order to fulfill its strategic role and act as a seed for the reorganization of the grid, the selected location must include all those vital characteristics of the urban environment such as the existing connections and interactions, the important landmarks (physical and built) and the open spaces of the city. Supported by a resilient structure, able to adapt in every possible future through the intensification and diversification of its existing areas and the creation of new landmarks and relations, the new entity will gradually become the canvas for the introduction of new typologies. Flashing back to the what if questions made above and stretching our imagination enough so to combine two possible answers, the new entity proposed is a creative combination of a diagonal and a park in a more abstract and adaptable way.

Opening - Closing

02a

Permeability of ground floors

03a

Grouping

What if? (x3)

04a

Semi-public courtyard Inversion

In terms of city image, the repetitive pattern of the grid might even be problematic -regarding the apparent clarity or “legibility” of the cityscape- , causing disorientation especially for the newcomer, promoting at the same time the role of the waterfront to a one-and-only touristic route. Adding to the previous existing and potential pathogenous matters, the lack of a proper public space (with a size significantly different and bigger from the existing fragmented public and/ or green spaces of the city) affects the quality of the urban environment directly. Taking all the above into consideration, it appears that a series of problematic situations -derived from certain characteristics of the grid- constitute the enemy of the future vision for the city. As a result, the crucial question of what if rises in the horizon.

Neighborhood hub + Bike sharing

02a

Volos new tram line

02b

Soft shrinking

Volos: (Lack of) Green Spaces

Volos: Open Public Spaces & Basic Street Network

Clustering

Cutting

03a Soft shrinking and creation of a linear park

02b Use of the roof to create a thicker garden 02c Urban farming

Green Spaces

01a

3d Public Spaces

Stepping Stones

Vegetation Educational & Sport Facilities Tram Line

02c Green osmosis into the grid

The outcome is a diagonally oriented park with a central character that runs through the main areas of the city, reorientates a significant part of it and breaks through the rigidness of the urban grid.

“Rent A Bike” Entrance to the City

Permeability

What if a diagonal...?

3d Spaces

Pedestrian Routes

The Adaptable City The vision of post-crisis city of Volos, featuring the diagonal entity described above follows the principles of the adaptive city, whereas at the same time demonstrates a toolbox useful for every city willing to foster adaptability. Adaptability, in spatial terms, refers to the quality of a space that can be easily modified in harmony with the changes to which its use is subject or may be subject. Adaptable urban public spaces are spaces able to adapt to change, without losing their identity, to slow down and speed up, to adjust to cycles and transformations in the context of an uncertain future. These spaces anticipate the inevitable impacts of change, allowing a plurality of uses but also being capable of making creative use of what already exists. The diagonal of Volos functions as a vessel containing the toolbox for the adaptable city. Through the diagonal, it itself becomes one promoting at the same time the idea of adaptability not only within the borders of the shape defined (diagonal), but also around the rest of its urban fabric.

Multi-leveled Public Space New Entrance to the City

New Porch facing Riga Feraiou Square

Adaptable Linear Park Green Way - Out of the City

Volos new tram line

01a Volos new gate

City hub

‘Paulo Mendes da Rocha’ Parking and Tram Station

Volos new tram line

View from Riga Feraiou Square

Volos In Diagonal: inGRIDients for an adaptable city  

Volos in diagonal: inGRIDients for an adaptable city is the collective work of an international team of architects and urban planners, durin...

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