Multiplex public space

 

Modiano central food market, Thessaloniki, Greece

Diploma project

Date: 2001-2002

Project Team: andreas theodoridis, stella nikolakaki

Supervising professors: Sassa Lada, Lois Papadopoulos

Status: research


ΤARGET

Discovering the potential of public space within the present urban fabric (in Greek cities).

DEFINITION

Space is that space within the city where people form their social identity and realize their role as members of an urban community. It is the main space of actual (as opposed to virtual) communication through interaction and information and , therefore, the main ground for contradiction and conflict – fundamental elements of a democratic urban condition.

Public space is the connecting fabric of the city, linking all of its components through a continuous, freely accessible network.

It provides alterations between movement and speed that serve as the filter through which an individual realizes and understands the city.

REALITY

The above definition of public space does not entirely apply to the reality of the Greek city and more specifically Thessaloniki.

Everything has become a channel of movement. The qualities of the public square have been adopted by privately owned spaces, distorting them through a consumer forming policy.

Public space is not the link among the city’s components, but has been reduced to one of its fragments.  It’s part of the group of fragments that αre juxtaposed without any interconnecting relations.

POSITION

Discovering and defining the underlying qualities of urban spaces and activating them as public space, may be the way to respond adequately to the current needs of the modern city. The interrelation between moving-stopping and fast-slow, the creation of situations that promote communication through interaction and information  (limiting the new kind of socially excluded individuals) and, on another level, the interweaving of the different kinds of functions that produce public space are the main areas of research.

These functions are commerce, leisure and public services.

This research starts from the analysis of the existing public spaces in Thessaloniki and the definition of their structure and goes on to redefine them with new criteria.

Apart from the road system, the basic public spaces in the city are three pedestrian axis that encompass broader areas-squares (”Αristotelous” and “Gounari”). Their structure is similar. The key word is axis. Their linearity is their fundamental characteristic. They consist of parallel and symmetrical strips of movement and vegetation and they are all monumental-they start or end at one of the city’s monuments. These monuments do not actually take part in the function of these spaces as public. They merely provide the background and remain inert. Another characteristic is that these spaces are exclusively on ground level. This is actually a general feature of any Greek city. Anything that is considered public remains on ground level (0 – +5).  Finally, there is an apparent lack of stopping- areas. The occasional bench does not count as a means of altering the character of these areas. It’s superficial because it’s an addition, not a structural element.

ASSESSMENT

The malfunction of the above public spaces is obvious when viewing their characteristics as described above after the analysis of the meaning of public space.

The fundamental problem is the lack of stopping- areas or areas for slow speed. People move through these “squares” in the same way they move in the street, fast. There is no variation of speed, which is essential in order to understand and link the fragments of the modern city. Moving becomes the goal. There is no room for interaction and, as a result, communication.

Another problem is the restriction of all public activities on ground level. This fact obstructs the interlocking of the different functions which is necessary for the production of a public space that provides variations of spatial conditions. Furthermore, the fact that these public spaces form an urban centrality does not suit the way that cities have started to function.

PROPOSAL

The target is to discover the hidden layers of the actual city and find a way to activate their potential through a dynamic form of public space, focusing on making it a place of communication, a place o coherence, a place folded together with the city –  the city together.

The key word is folding. One way to achieve this is to disperse public areas/spaces throughout the entire city, replacing the present centrality with a network. Νetworks and hubs are concepts that have come to dominate our vocabulary, our way of thinking, the way we organize our lives and our cities. Centers are not needed anymore.

This means that it’s not enough to re-design the existing public spaces. Re-designing does not revoke their centrality. What is needed is the creation of new public spaces in terms of where and how.

Determining where is based on two parameters. The first parameter has to do with the the concept of the network and the constitution of the urban fabric. The kind of place needed is one that can be found everywhere in the city, so that it can function as part of a connecting network. The second parameter has to do with the transformation of the urban fabric and the lifestyle, which have led to the malfunction of the existing public spaces. The kind of place needed will have to be able to absorb these transformations and satisfy the needs that derive from them.

“Post urban space is determined by pockets of emptiness and shallowness. In between the developed sites of the urbanized landscape, we find undefined residual spaces, non-sites, urban voids”. These residual spaces are the result of the urbanization process and the expansion of the city that characterized the built as positive and the void as negative. They are the in between of the fragments of the city. These cracks and margins seem to be the perfect receptors for today’s real public space. they are the result of the urban evolution and can serve as the starting point for the post urban evolution. “The void points to the absence of intentions. The void is the absence of architecture. The void is the domain of unfulfilled promises and unlimited opportunity”.

These non-places are the gaps between buildings, the non-buildable sites, the blind sides of buildings, roof-tops and terraces that changed characteristics through the changes in the adjacent buildings.

PLACE

A group of places like the ones described above is found at the old city center, at the block where the central food market has been for the past 70 years. The old city center was burned in 1917 and was redesigned by the French urban planner, E. Hebrard. The first construction period ends in 1937. the central food market and some other buildings are from that period. The second construction period reaches 1957. during this time there was an expansion of the food market and a creation of an almost identical in structure building next to it, which became a meat market. After 1957 the rest of the block was completed and reached its present form.

The fact that the block was not the result of a single original plan and program and the fact that it was constructed throughout the 20th century resulted in a gathering of different architectural styles and a creation of a group of completely promiscuous elements. The relations among these elements were not planned, they are accidental. Yet, the entire block seems as a homogeneous environment. The lack of planned relations among the different elements resulted in the creation voids , of places that were not intended to exist.

The markets are basically two shells that house smaller constructions used as separate shops. They run through the entire block, having entrances on the north and the south side, as well as on the west. Around them there are tall buildings. The result is the impression of an enclosed area on top of the markets in the form of a atrium.

Proposing the creation of a public space in this particular block on the one hand is due to the existence of such places without intention and on the other it’s due to the functions that presently exist there.

In Thessaloniki the public squares were traditionally associated with the “Bazaars”, the market-places. some of these market-places still exist, but they are on the verge of extinction. They are gradually being replaced by the big multiplex shopping centers that are being created outside the city. These complexes are replacing not only the markets, but the public space that goes with them. They create the new, controlled and strictly private public space.

So, choosing to create a new form of public space at a traditional city market comes as a response to this situation.  This new space is activated through the market and in return, it will keep the market active.

The variety of stimuli inside the market, the leisure activities  (bars, restaurants, coffee shops), the commerce and the public services that coexist in the same block create an environment with the right dynamics for the formation of a new kind of public space. The interaction of all these elements with a public space adjusted to the new demands on information, technology, communication and time will create the counter for the multiplex shopping centers and their private “public space”. it will be a truly complex/multplex  place where the concept of folding/weaving and the variations of the movement of people will be fundamental characteristics.

The purpose is to create a coherent space where old and new will exist as distinguishable elements of a new structure. This structure derives from the structure of the block and the surrounding area, but uses a new vocabulary. It subverts the existing rule and sets a new one.

ANALYSIS OF THE BLOCK-RULE

The structure of the entire block is characterized by a normality, which is common for the center of the surrounding area. It is orthogonal in plan and it is formed of orthogonal volumes        of different sizes on the east and west side, which are all covered with oblique surfaces (roofs). These volumes are adjacent to one another enfolding the central space. this space is occupied by the two markets that connect the south and the north side of the block. A very important characteristics is a “slit” which separates the two markets.

The markets have an almost identical structure. They are shells having the same structural system (concrete columns and beams).they are both covered with oblique surfaces in different heights, symmetrical to a central axis. Their difference is that the newer meat market has a concrete roof and two taller orthogonal buildings at its two sides.

These two shells have galleries that run through them, giving access to the smaller and structurally separate shops inside, and connecting the two parallel streets on the north and the south side of the block. These galleries are in-between spaces.

The concept of in-between is a fundamental characteristic of the area. The transition from in to out is not always clear. But, all this goes for the ground level. Up and down is always clearly distinguished.

Furthermore, the galleries and the separate shops inside, as well as the roofs and the “slit” between the buildings are all parallel and symmetrical accentuating  the direction that they define. This direction dominates throughout the block.

NEW RULE- SUBVERSION- PROPOSAL

The different elements within the new system are more intensely interwoven . There are more

in-between spaces. There is not just the transition between in and out but also the transition between up and down. This new system is multi-dimentional, multi-plex, com-plex. The structure that will create-and be created by- this reference system and at the same time help fold together all the elements of the block is the fold.

The concept of the fold is multi-dimentional. It is both the process and the result of a transformation. The folded surfaces declare an action in process, introducing to the creative process the factor of time. Time is the fundamental factor of the urban transformations.

The other important characteristic οf the fold is that it folds together different elements into a unified and continuous mixture, which is constantly evolving, transforming itself, while letting them be discrete entities. In other words, the present situation and its unique qualities will not be lost, but will exist as an autonomous element within a new continuous, pliant reality.

Furthermore, the fold helps create new in-between spaces, as it is an in-between  space itself. It is self- transforming during is course, creating new characteristics for itself and forming receptors for defferent quality spaces, it becomes from floor to roof and vice-versa, it is both floor and roof, or ot becomes a completely new shell, enfolding the present functions of the site and some new ones that are added. During this process we put in use the 3-dimetional space and subvert the relation of public space to ground level.

From another point of view the concept of the fold derives from the site itself. The roofs of the markets and folded surfaces. So , it is the structure that already exists that serves as the starting point for the creation of a new structure. A structure that subverts the normality of the present condition  using an orhtological method, interconnecting the existing elements with the ones that are added.

This method id directly related to the structure of the site ( the block). The dominant direction that exists in the structure of the two markets defines the basis for the new structure. The parallel strips of the galleries and the shops in the markets and the “slit” between them are interwoven with the parallel strips of the proposal with an angle of 90 degrees. The difference is that the new strips are folded surfaces that create paths of movement and enclosed apaces all in one gesture.

The 90 degree angle also has to do with the fact that it creates a direct realation with one of the basic public axis of the city (”αristotelous”). This axis is also parallel to the dominant direction inside the markets. The new strips, vertical to theis direction, serve as a means of a multi-level connection between the “old” and traditional public space and the “new” one.

The choice of the strip derives directly from both the structure of the markets and  the structure of the existing public space of the city: the axis/road.

The second element of the new structure that subverts the existing rule has to do with the separate constructions that exist inside the markets and serv as food-shops. These “volumes” have and independent structural system and are merely enclosed within the shells of the markets, one next to the other (”parataxis”). The wish to create a flexible space that could also be used for other purposes ( besides the existing) leads to the replacement of these constructions with new movable ones that can be dismantled and stored. The size and structure of these new units is identical to the old ones. They are orthogonal, their frame is distinguishable form their walls and their front side folds, so that the inside is one with the outside. What is different is the materials and the fact that they can be moved and be dismantled.

The relation between the strips and these new units of space inside the markets has to do with the vertical movements of these units. The strips create loops that serve as pockets for the new units.  In this way the market can function on another level besides ground level.

The structure of this new public space is formed out of three elements: the existing shell of the markets, the units of space and the folded strips that “tie” them together.

These three elements are all formed from a visible frame and a “skin”. The skin takes its form almost always from the form of the frame. The three elements interact creating in-between, alternative spaces and are combined with the “slit”, enfolding it within the whole.

The characteristic of the slit that makes it essential to the whole project is the fact that it penetrates the whole, giving access to the two parallel streets from within the new space. it therefore provides a direct connection to the “street”. The transition from one side o the other though this passage can serve as a filter. The objective is for anyone that chooses to go through this passage to be able to obtain any wanted information. In other words it is going to be an information channel, while allowing a quick passage through the new public space.

Alternative speed is one of the objectives. Alterations of stopping and moving within a unified and continuous system and the accentuation of all senses. The markets are rich in sound, images and smells, as all oriental markets are. The strips fold into this space creating conditions ideal for the perception of all these stimuli. At the same time they create spaces that host functions that focus on the different sences and the different communication codes that derive from them. The transition from stopping and moving having as an objective to accentuate the senses and therefore the means of communication is what this new public space aims to achieve.

More specifically, we create spaces for video and cinema projections, a book-exchange shop, a press-stand and a post office. At the same time there is a change of functions in one of the newer market buildings. The building that is on its south side becomes a dormitory for ERASMUS-students and the functions it holds presently are transfered to the building on the north side. This building changes dramatically internally. The new public space penetrates inside it. It becomes a continuous space with folded surfaces as walls.

The other change that occurs is the complete replacement of the western entrance to the old market. This entrance was a gallery between tall buildings. Now the entrance is formed out of the fold of one of the strips that encloses the shops that existed there before and creates space for new ones on a lower level.

This particular strip has a very important role, since it is the one that connects the old public axis with the new public space and at the same time provides a double entrance to this public space. Ιn essence it runs through the entire block doing exactly the same thing as the “slit”, vertically to the “slit”.

The connection with the old public space is done through a public-service-building that currently exists there. This public building is altered minutely at its ground floor (the floor that is mainly φορ public use), connecting itself to the whole system of strips – to the public space that surrounds it.

The result is a public space where all the functions are folded together and not juxtaposed. It is a new multi-plex public space.