T e r r a i n c o g n i t a | Eco-tales for Thessaloniki’s sealine

Columbia University Studio X in Thessaloniki

image@ Alexandros Tsamis

Columbia University, Graduate School of Architecture Planning and Preservation, GSAPP, is organizing a summer workshop in collaboration with the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece. The workshop is funded with the generous sponsorship of the Northern Greece  Entrepreneurs Cultural Society.

Workshop Location: Anatolia (American College of Thessaloniki), 6-26 July, 2011

Inaugural Lectures (open to public):

29 June // Mark Wigley & Beatriz Colomina

14 July// Francois Roche & Stéphanie Lavaux, Michael Young, Eva Franch

This summer workshop will be structured as a speculative research and design project that explores the convergence of technology and nature in the outskirts of cities, seeking to define new ways of life and culture that might emerge from this convergence. The exploration will be carried out by researching the natural resources, proliferation of wild life and organic growth, as well as the existing minimum impact vernacular structures in the seashore of Axios’ river delta adjacent to Thessaloniki’s harbor.

The area contiguous to Thessaloniki’s main port spanning to Palaioxori is tentatively entitled terra incognita; it is an ecologically affluent region, unique in its geomorphologic formation and vernacular construction physiognomy in close proximity to the urban center. However, under the assumption that an area of such natural wealth should be preserved “as is,” the territory is largely abandoned and forgotten. The main premise of the workshop is to project new ecological ways of accommodating habitats for wild life, to design infrastructure that optimizes the management of natural resources as well as to integrate human life and culture in a symbiotic relationship with the natural territory by inventing sustainable structures of minimum impact, closely linked in terms of construction logic to the existing structures.

By designing habitats for wild life, sustainable infrastructure for the optimum redistribution and cleansing of water, substructures that harness wind and sunlight producing electricity, it is possible to create a natural park for the study and observation of ecological life, as well as for the engagement of the citizens with nature and by extension with farming, food and energy production possibilities in the urban sphere. This ecological hub is envisioned as a new pole of cultural, economic and sustainable growth for the city of Thessaloniki, as an ecological territory that might revitalize the city itself by offering a center of culture, food and energy production.

Key to the development of ideas will be the concept of “minimum footprint” by offering lightweight autonomous infrastructure that returns energy to the city through the reuse of natural resources: water, wind and solar power. Seasonal change, the passage from summer to fall, winter and spring, will constitute a significant factor for the development of proposals. In the tumultuous conditions of global warming, the climate of Thessaloniki still exemplifies the normative passage of all seasons, in contradiction with other geographical regions where the weather changes erratically. The proposal will be developed in mind to function in different ways in all seasons and potentially programmatically linked to the seasonal passage.

Methodologically, we will work in different scales by zooming in and out of the territory developing proposals as organizational strategies in a larger scale, zooming in to architectural proposals in specific locations and zooming even more to the identifications of materials and low-cost fabrication strategies for specific installations. Similarly to working in three different scales of development, we will also develop in the proposals in different stages in time. In other words, there will be a set of proposals that can potentially be developed in a first stage in two years, five years and ten years.



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