Milano master-class

04. Porous Circulation

#lesson1 #geography #athens

Some aspects of Metropolitan Trails are very much in line with urbanism. But some aspects fall outside the realm of professional expertise and long-term visions of “how the city should evolve” or “how circulation should develop in a city”, with the idea of separate areas of circulation (see Nicolas). We can also consider how to understand the city as it is today, without imagining what it might become.

One interesting question in this examination of everyday life is how different modes of circulation intersect in a large city and how we can find roads that are not entirely dedicated to cars or public transportation, but where there can be a porousness between the sidewalk (a pedestrian zone) and the street (a zone for cars). We can find smaller-scale roads, where circulation is slow, even for cars, which flow onto the sidewalk, and for pedestrians who walk where there are cars. And that coexistence of different types of circulation gives us a city that is not silent. Rather, it produces low-speed sounds that intermingle. We can bracket projections of what the city will become in ten or fifteen years thanks to an energy transition. Instead, we can examine the city such as it is lived today, with all its noise and life. And we can explore roads taken by pedestrians, who do not live their lives outside the present situation.

What I see when I walk through Athens. Athens is surrounded by mountains. It is punctuated by hills. From inside, Athens is considered an essentially utilitarian city, built parcel by parcel, without there having been an urban design, a conception of circulation separated into function, so it’s a very multi-functional city, on every level, with very little street hierarchy and few arterials. That is why getting away from noisy streets does not make sense in Athens. This is a city where there are only two highways and very few through streets for rapid circulation.

So, what do you see? A city where domestic activities can take place in different public spaces. On a very small scale, there is a porosity between domestic, residential, and public spaces. Residents take over the sidewalk, leave preexisting trees on their plots—just for small, local domestic issues; they aren’t concerned with large-scale circulation.