Milano master-class

18. The 4 Principles of the Athens Trail

#lesson1 #pedestriantransportation #endoticcity #unpavedground #nopanoramas

Baptiste: How did you draw or create this trail?

Jordi: Even though Athens is a polycentric city (where, in my opinion, the dialectic between the center and the periphery is up for discussion), one of the first questions was: how could we connect a peripheral district to the city center, and not necessarily take any detours, to arrive at a point of interest or hub; and so to have a road in the imaginary landscape of the city that would encourage residents to think: “I’m going to walk from the center of Athens to Piraeus. It will give me the opportunity to discover the city, and at the same time I have a totally utilitarian goal: I want to, instead of taking public transportation for an hour, or drive for an hour, I have three hours to go from Athens to Piraeus.
Or: “I want to visit a city 50 km from Athens, and I’ll take two days to walk there. I can see Salamina on the way.” That’s why I’m interested in linear paths that don’t take detours on the way to important hubs. The aim is truly to work on the livability of a city, a city such as it is used, rather than how it’s visited. That’s a first principle.
Second, avoiding detours that expose walkers to unknown parts of the city. Walking gives us the opportunity to go places we visit on a regular basis—but typically in cars or motorized vehicles (Athens is a very car-oriented city)—and we can go to these districts that we often cross through in cars, but in a completely different way when we walk. So, not going out of our way to see exotic spaces. Instead, I’m interested in an endotic view, from the inside.

Third, Athens is a city (and this is exactly what allows us to access its diverse spaces) that, for the most part, has not been built according to theories of urban planning. So, it is possible to access trails—literally, small and unpaved trails—in nearly all the city’s districts, and walking from the outskirts to the center over unpaved roads for nearly 70% of the time is feasible. The idea was also to look for all the different types of roads in a city of 3.5 million; many of these roads don’t fit into a standard form of circulation for a modern European city.

Finally, although it was not my specific intention to avoid hills within the city, I wanted to get away from an aerial view. This gets back to what I was saying earlier on geography. To get away from a sense of grasping everything in a single glance, which lacks the nuance that you find within a sidewalk. Because this is an exuberant, uncontained city where residents plant trees on the sidewalk and harvest fruit from spaces that don’t necessarily belong to them. So, getting a real sense for the minutiae of daily life and not going to peaks within the city to get a panoramic view—getting away from the panoramic.