Climate-Responsive Urban Design for Greek Public Space

Greek public space has always reflected democratic values and freedom of speech. The ancient agora was the meeting place for philosophical discussions, cultural development and exchange of knowledge. Hence, it is a significant component of the Greek culture. The present situation in Greece has led to privatization, shrinkage and degradation of the public space. Urban outdoor spaces have been neglected and this has resulted to a lack of interest in the public realm. Additionally, Greece is located at the southernmost part of Europe and has already been greatly affected by climate change. Urban heat island phenomenon is evident in most Greek cities and outdoor spaces are no longer comfortable.
Constitution Square is the central square of Athens and it is located in front of the Greek Parliament. It is a space of high historical importance for Athens’ residents, because the first Constitution of Modern Greece was signed there. Nowadays, it is a meeting place for social activities, a touristic spot and an important transportation hub for Athens. In terms of microclimate, very high temperatures (over 35 °C) can be developed in the summer period, and combined with other parameters (solar radiation, humidity, wind, etc.) can lead to high heat stress of the people. Regarding accessibility, the square is surrounded by big streets and there is not direct pedestrian access by pavement. The goal of this project is the redesign of Constitution Square in an integrated way, optimizing outdoor thermal comfort, accessibility and, in the end, creating a resilient and vibrant space for the Athenians.
For this purpose, an outdoor thermal comfort analysis was conducted, examining four representative points of the space. The analysis was carried out for the daytime hours, which represent the main occupancy hours of the space. Results showed that in the analysis period (summer), there is a very high percentage of heat stress (80% of the hourly data). Rearrangement of vegetation, creation of water surfaces, shading elements and pavement albedo increase were proposed in order to improve the existing situation of the square. Additionally, two adjacent streets were proposed to be pedestrianized in order to integrate the space in the urban fabric and improve the accessibility of the residents. Simulations of the proposed design showed that the interventions could lead to a reduction of heat stress up to 65%, creating a comfortable outdoor environment. The aim of these interventions is to improve the attractiveness of the space, increase its vibrancy, boost the local market, enhance the interaction of the people and lead to an urban regeneration, bringing agora back at the place it was born.

Mentors: Raphael Lafargue, Kristina Von Bomhard

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Ioannis Karakounos – Greece

Ioannis Karakounos – Greece

Ioannis holds a Diploma in Planning and Regional Development from the University of Thessaly, and completed his MSc in Environmental Engineering at the Democritus University of Thrace, Greece. He has worked as an urban planning intern at Doxiadis Associates firm in Athens, and as a junior urban designer at the architectural office AD Studio in Kalamata, Greece.