My journey with The Grid started on the streets of Athens in February 2014, on an unexpectedly sunny day in-between a gloomy and rainy week. I had in front of me, six months to explore the Athenian urban and suburban landscapes. My first priority was to investigate the current status of environmental design, and all other elements that surround city life or emerge from within. Living all of my life in Athens, I wanted to highlight its weakest features and express my opinion about the city where I grew up and love.
As the oldest settlement in Europe, that became a capital city and the cradle of western civilization, Athens isn’t just an old city. Most Athenians are condemning their city for its current status and focusing only on the negative aspects, while on the other hand, cherishing its history and heritage, creating a complex love/hate relationship. From the rows of palm trees on the side of Poseidonos coastal avenue to the olive groves of Pnyka Hill in downtown, and from the classical marble ruins to the modern glass buildings, Athens is full of contrasts and hidden surprises that never cease to amaze you.
What I found out is how much more the younger generations living in Athens are advocating for the city, in contrast to older citizens; fighting and demanding a better city life. In the years of crisis we rethink and redefine Athens, but not only through corporate plans and large scale interventions; the local initiatives become stronger than ever and small scale projects are being realized in order to improve the urban environment. Different voices heard for the first time, concerns about how friendly Athens is to bikers and runners, or what options are left for the urban landscape to become more attractive. The beautification initiatives and the local actions for redefining public space are in my opinion the most interesting examples of citizens raising awareness of environmental and urban design issues.
Growing, expanding and being rebuilt, Athens has found its rhythm as a contemporary metropolis, enduring all the unwanted side effects but receiving all the privileges as well.
Besides enriching my knowledge in urban matters, writing for The Grid was a great opportunity to practice my time management skills, organize my thoughts and express them while having the valuable help and constructive feedback from my Editor, Erica Besler and Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Renee van Staveren. Once again thank you for your support.
Currently looking forward to my summer vacations, I salute The Grid and all its readers.
Credits: Images by Valia Stavrianidi. Data linked to sources.