Athens to Claim Title of 'Europe's Largest Coastal Park'

Athens to Claim Title of 'Europe's Largest Coastal Park'

The city of Athens, with its rich history and ancient landmarks, is on the brink of a revolutionary transformation with the introduction of the Ellinikon Metropolitan Park. Developed by Lamda Development, this ambitious project is not only set to become the largest park in Athens but will also claim the title of "Europe's largest coastal park."

After more than 3,000 years, the people of Athens will finally have their first major park. According to Urban Land's Bennett Voyles, when the Ellinikon Metropolitan Park is completed in 2030, it will cover a vast expanse of 600 acres (243 hectares), making it nearly three-fourths the size of New York City's iconic Central Park. The creation of this massive public green space marks a significant milestone that is sure to be as culturally and socially relevant to Athenians as Central Park is to New Yorkers.

At the helm of this visionary undertaking is Sasaki Associates, an esteemed international planning and design firm. The Ellinikon Metropolitan Park site, with its unique blend of history and modernity, holds special significance. The park's design incorporates "leftover remnants" of venues used during the 2002 Summer Olympics and the former Athens International Airport, which ceased operations in 2001.

"The Ellinikon is heroic in scale and ambition, which translates into a responsibility to reinforce the Greek relationship with the landscape and reignite this ethos in a 21st century context, centring ecological restoration, carbon neutrality and equitable access for all Athenians," says Sasaki.

Chief Landscape Architect Michal Grove from Sasaki Associates shared their approach to the project, emphasising the restoration ecology aspect. Their goal is two-fold: first, to maximise the benefits of carbon sequestration in the living biomass and soil carbon of the site, and second, to restore regional diversity by creating an urban forest and intact landscape areas dedicated to biodiversity and wildlife, with minimal human impact.

A core principle of Sasaki Associates' design philosophy is sustainability. Beyond providing a much-needed public park for the city, the firm aims to assist in the site's ecological restoration while leaving a minimal carbon footprint. By utilising existing materials found on-site and prioritising the use of durable, reusable, and long-life-cycle materials left behind from the park's "past lives" as an airport and Olympic venue, the project aims to achieve a new standard in eco-conscious urban development.

To achieve carbon neutrality within 35 years, Sasaki Associates employs innovative tools such as Carbon Conscience and Pathfinder. These guide their design decisions, focusing on increasing sequestered and stored carbon while reducing embodied carbon. An intriguing example of this commitment is the creative reuse of 28,720 square meters (309,140 square feet) of concrete from the existing airport runways and tarmac, cleverly incorporated throughout the park to artistically narrate the site's history.

The Ellinikon Metropolitan Park holds deep sentimental value for many locals. Grove shared that every Greek or Greek American he spoke to has strong memories of the site and is eagerly anticipating its transformation into a public park. The park's design team includes members from Sasaki Associates, supported by 50 consultants and design specialists, including Fluidity Design Consultants, bringing together a diverse array of expertise to create a remarkable and sustainable park.

In a remarkable feat, the Ellinikon Metropolitan Park project was recently honoured at the 2023 World Architecture Festival in the Carbon, Climate & Energy category and received the Urban Design category winner at Fast Company's World Changing Ideas Awards. These accolades recognise the project's exceptional contributions to architecture, sustainability, and urban design.

As work progresses, the excitement among Athenians and the world grows, eager to witness the completion of this ambitious vision that will redefine public green spaces in Athens and set a new benchmark for coastal parks in Europe. With the first phase set to be completed by 2026 and the entire project finished by 2030, the Ellinikon Metropolitan Park promises to be a cultural and ecological jewel in the heart of Athens.

Photos: Sasaki Associates

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