The request for green and the prospects of landscape urbanism / ONASSIS CULTURAL CENTRE

The request for green and the prospects of landscape urbanism

Re-Think Athens

26 March 2014
Upper Stage
Α discussion that will focus on the aesthetic, environmental, symbolic, and political dimensions of the urban green spaces of 21st century cities.
Free admission
The form of urban parks in Western cities has been influenced by the ways natural landscape is perceived. Nature is conceived as landscape when man abandons the countryside for the urban centers. In the Western world, nature is transformed into a spectacle, and an object of representation for the Renaissance painters, at the moment that man ceases to be part of nature, turning his gaze towards it. With the evolution of landscape painting and the development of garden design, landscape has turned into a historically meaningful representation where city dwellers projects their values on. Throughout the development of cities, the form of natural elements shows evidence for the relationship between man - nature and the way societies define themselves.

The symbolic dimension of urban green remains strong throughout the 20th century. Green becomes part of the visions of modern urban planning, standing as a symbol of health. During the years of postwar reconstruction, the demand for green often expresses the new urban dwellers' negative attitude towards the urban condition and their nostalgia for the countryside.

During the last decade, the problem of climate change and the need for sustainability has encouraged the development of new design strategies that renegotiate the nature - city relationship. Contemporary urban design, through the new field of landscape urbanism, gives emphasis to the organic use of infrastructure and its intertwining with natural systems. Natural elements are designed as human-made structures while urban infrastructures are studied as natural systems evolving over time. Landscape is no longer perceived as an image but as a method of thinking.

Furthermore, green has become the subject of frequent claims to public space, Gezi Park Istanbul being the most recent example. The planted areas are urban commons often threatened by private development plans. In this way, the urban green acquires a political dimension as a natural element that comes into conflict with dominant economic structures.

At a time when cities are facing very serious economic, environmental and cultural problems, the redefinition of the role of natural elements in urban space remains a priority of urban design. The central question that the panel discussion will aim to address concerns the new relationships emerging between natural elements and technical infrastructures, and their influence on the identity of 21st century cities. The discussion will focus on the aesthetic, environmental, symbolic, and political dimensions of the urban green spaces by particularly looking into the following questions:

•    In the past, the image of the natural landscape, as shaped through landscape painting, has influenced the form of urban parks. Is it possible today to identify relevant design references which affect the character of modern public spaces?

•    The landscape is a key element in shaping aesthetic ideology and urban identity. During the period of globalization, which natural elements may attribute to a cityscape a particular local identity? To what extent are the urban green areas local and to what extent do they reflect global needs and concerns?

•    Developed cities have shaped their identity during the years of postwar reconstruction and car invasion. Taking for granted the need to make cities resilient to climate change, as well as the tendency to restrict private vehicle traffic, which may be the role of natural elements in the formation of new urban streetscapes?

•    Which urban infrastructure can be modified in the coming years, in order to strengthen the resilience of cities to climate change and restore the environmental problems created by the post-war rapid pace of reconstruction?

•    Which are the differences between the self-managed open spaces, the traditional public parks and squares, and the privately owned public spaces in the contemporary cities? Which may be the influence of new urban movements, such as Occupy New York, in the evolution of open urban spaces?


Julia Czerniak: Architect, Landscape Architect, Professor at the Syracuse University School of Architecture
Thomas Doxiadis: Architect, Landscape Architect, Principal of doxiadis+
Zissis Kotionis: Architect, Professor at the University of Thessaly
Chris Reed: Landscape Architect, Principal of Stoss Landscape Urbanism, Associate Professor at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design
Alex Wall: Architect, Partner at UMnet (Stuttgart), Professor of Urban Design at the Washington University of St. Louis

Gina Moscholiou: Journalist

Event Curator:
Panos Dragonas: Architect, Associate Professor at the University of Patras

This discussion forms part of the “Greek thought in dialogue: Experiential learning programmes” project, which is itself part of the “Academy of Plato: the State and the Citizen” Action implemented within the framework of the Education and Lifelong Learning Programme co-funded by the EU (European Social Fund) and national funds.



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Entrance to all the events in the “Talks and Thoughts” Cycle is free and on a first come, first served basis.
The distribution of entrance tickets begins one (1) hour before each event.
Simultaneous translation is provided in the case of speakers using a language other than Greek.

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