Chania, GR | 2016

An International Urban Design Workshop

29 August – 4 September 2016, Chania, Crete, Greece

Exploring Chania as an urban laboratory on the sea edge the workshop brings into focus a number of issues common to medium-scale coastal cities in Greece, the Mediterranean, and beyond: abandoned places and urban voids, disputed edges where the ground dips into the sea, sites of remembered histories and forgotten stories, contested interfaces where the public meets the private, hybrid spaces where the physical merges with the digital, urban disorders regulated into grids and zones, local communities transforming within an international tourist market.
At times clearly delineated, at others blurry, and always in flux, it is the edge that is this workshop’s primary matter: the edge between abandonment and occupation, memory and oblivion, public and private, physical and digital, land and sea, spontaneity and regulation, community and market. Making use of design and policy tools for shaping and managing space the workshop aims at a series of urban design proposals for specific sites in the city where these phenomena are most strongly manifested. The selected sites in each of the 7 units of the workshop thus function as a lens through which an exploration of broader issues can be embarked upon and brought to a productive design-oriented conclusion.
Each workshop unit brought together 4-9 participants from Greece and abroad and was lead by one guest and one host tutor, pairing international expertise and methodological approaches with local knowledge and lived experiences of the city. Through an intensive 7-day programme consisting of design studio teamwork, fieldwork research, and lectures, complemented with parallel public and social events, On the Sea Edge has generated a series of urban design proposals presented and debated in public in the presence of a jury composed of key representatives from industry, academia, and local authorities.


UNIT 1 | The Abandoned City

The Venetian Wall, a strong element of Chania’s identity, was transformed throughout the centuries leaving large areas around it vacant. The fragmentation of the wall left these voids, as well as several parts of the structure, untouched; a series of underused fragments, dead zones and green space, remain disconnected to the city level. Such fragmentation builds a boundary between the historical centre and the modern city. Along this Wall boundary lie four tower-like structures, today abandoned or underused, yet they remain critical nodes with a huge potentiality at the city scale. This unit’s project proposal is a transformation of this defensive structure and the disconnected abandoned towers into an interactive event-scape.
In our work we aimed to enhance the contemporary character of the wall as fragments were memory and forgetting collide. The challenge was to search for new urban relations and create original synergies with the city at its margins, composed at each side very of different and contrasting circumstances, above all the opposition between the old city (the inner city) and the modern one (the outer city). The Wall is thus conceived not as linear elements but as independent fragments that relate tactically with the different parts of the city and their evolving and distinct character.
The Wall is programmatically divided into four segments, each differently structured and with diverse programs of public activities. This is achieved through a strategy that envisions the colonisation of the abandoned and available surfaces at its margins by the vibrant daily life of Chania.
The memory of the Venetian Wall is rediscovered by establishing a new physical contact with the ancient stone, eliminating the spatial gap that separates and often hides it from the public realm of the surrounding city. This contact is established using diverse architectural operations, according to the specific condition of the local site. Platforms, bridges, excavations, suspended promenades, telescopes, are interactive tools that generate a landscape of events constantly changing along the Wall. Such operations may be re-combined in multiple configurations according to the ever-changing urban forces. The level of the contemporary city overlaps with the topography of the Wall generating a physical superimposition of historical layers through a mix of activities. The Wall thus becomes a new reference system inside the dense urban environment of Chania and within the natural landscape of the region, where the physical topography of Crete descends into the sea.

Participants: Maura De Giovanni, Valia Emmanouilidi, Jakob Grabher, Eva Kratochwill, Heba Mousa, Kondylia Seferli-Frantzi, Ioanna Tsakanika
Tutors: Fabiano Micocci, Stefi Filippopoulou


UNIT 2 | The City on the Sea

This unit looked at the correlations between the city and the sea, focusing on the west coast of the city – the Nea Chora district. In particular, the students explored the area that is bordered by the Venetian walls on its east side and the river Kladisos on its west side. The area is characterised by the relics of the recently demolished ”Xenia” hotel, neighbouring the west trench of the Venetian walls, as well as the abandoned building of the once thriving ‘ABEA’ soap industry. The nearby municipal aquatic centre overviews the Nea Chora seafront with its fishing harbour and sandy beach crowded with restaurants, which are frequented by hundreds of locals and tourists throughout the year. The area is shaped by tourism infrastructure and related land uses spread through an urban structure strongly defined by the lack of regulatory policies, which ends abruptly on the Kladisos river mouth.
In this context, the workshop explored the theme “Resilient Operations”, looking at strategies for the fragmented zones between the historic centre and the district of Nea Chora that:
– Are resilient to natural disasters, particularly to the risk of tsunami or flooding associated with sea-level rise.
– Contribute to a local economy and make the city resilient to socioeconomic shifts.
– Protect heritage, the environment, and create new collective spaces.
– Adapt and re-use abandoned sites.
– Re-appropriate public open spaces.
For doing so, participants followed this methodology:
1. Analysis of how socioeconomic shifts and natural disasters have affected the area of Nea Chora in the past and how the population has reacted to these situations. For doing so, the students carried out semi-structured interviewed with residents and tourists in the area.
2. Imagine hypothetical future scenarios in which major natural disasters or severe socioeconomic shifts take place.
3. The imagined scenarios would help to seek for strategies that make the city resilient to any unpredicted situation. These strategies would be grouped in two: resilient operations to respond to natural disasters and to face socioeconomic shifts.

Participants: Menna Essam, Matteo Benassi, Hady El Hajj, Styliani Kontogianni, Anna Nikolaidou, Christina Maria Diamantopoulou, Georgia Brazioti, Georgia Kelesi
Tutors: Pablo Sendra, Zacharias Ouranos


UNIT 3 | The Little Global City

The project focused on the Old Town of Chania and its port front, investigating the impact of global economy and tourism on local life, connecting the scale of micro local life with the dynamics of global touristic uses. The designers-researchers explored how the historic core of on old town can become a new global hub and thrive not due to size, but as a result of a network of localised urban affordances.
How can the urban fabric co-exist with global tourism and what strategies can be proposed for regenerating and reconnecting with the local dimension, the little global city? Re-visiting the concept of global tourism, the project proposes a new profile of the knowledgeable tourist that is positioned next to the connected local in a network of exchange and interaction. The proposal engages with the everyday life of the place and positions the tourist in an active mechanism of participation in the social construction of the Old Town.
In the urban context of a walled city, we applied a cross-disciplinary approach to explore the global – local dichotomy of the Old Town of Chania, in order to define a multiplicity of urban patterns that are not necessarily bounded in one territory. Walking in the streets and squares of the historic core and interviewing both tourists and locals we analysed the existing urban environment, investigated touristic, social and cultural dimensions, and proposed an urban design solution that creates a dialogue between the global touristic and economic activities and local everyday life. A series of diagrams analyse the existing dynamics between Halidon street, the port front and the ‘arc’ that is created by Daskalogianni street and the network of movement parallel to the sea front. Moving against touristic mono-cultures, the social interaction between locals and tourists become the engine to leverage other uses rather than leisure, cultivating diversity and social responsibility.
The concept is based on the re-connection of the local environment with globalised urban spaces and the creation of a network of local knowledge hubs interspersed in the labyrinthine small urban spaces of the Old Town.
Locally engaged, globally connected, the project brings to the forefront the network of small-scale urban spaces as the main infrastructure, heritage and architectural mechanism that defines the image of the Old Town of Chania and empowers the tourist to care for the city through the lens of a local. Change of uses and new activities are proposed in a series of high potential, abandoned and open spaces, rendering the supra-local as a new culture-specific locality and introducing new urban affordances based on the local microclimate, architectural heritage, socially-responsible use of space, promotion of local economy and small business, use of technology and diversity of interactions.

Participants: Garyfalia Arvaniti, Asma Ibrahim, Alexandros Karageorgos, Alexandra Mukovozova
Tutors: Carolina Vasilikou, Sofia Xanthopoulou


UNIT 4 | The (un)Ordered City

Different urban cultures have co-evolved with, and within, diverse spatial configurations through time, creating diverse urban environments by adjusting the properties of, and the relationships among, the same key elements: accessibility network, private land, and public space – the constitutional elements the urban grid. Our work considers the grid as a playground whose various elements are analysed, de-structured, and recomposed, in order to produce a new basis for the city’s future development.
Chania’s urban grid emerges as a patchwork which different historical periods—Minoan, Byzantine, Venetian, Ottoman, Greek—have generated through their distinct approach towards urban order and space. Rather than having a dominant grid pattern, the city is characterised by a heterogenous system where different spatial patterns coexist. We interpret this heterogeneous city as a composition of ‘patches’. We define these patches following a neighborhood-scale urban study, delineating each one of them as a relatively homogeneous area in terms of morphology, atmosphere, and programme. A ‘patched city’, where the historic center is just one patch within the urban tissue and the ‘new-city’ acquires its own value not as its opposite half but as a rich collection of urban qualities.
In-between the patches exists a city which doesn’t display a particular pattern. It is in these spaces where most public facilities and services are located. These junctures where the continuities of their neighbouring urban patches deform to accommodate one another, compose the space from which the city can be understood as a whole. Our proposal aims towards the creation of a ‘loop’: a new circular city spine which can better connect the entire system of patches and ‘in-between’ spaces in order to enable the grid to meet the demands of the future city.
Programmed for new mobility infrastructure, defining a zone that connects key existing urban functions, and providing space for new ones, it will be used as Chania’s urban development tool. In this way, the loop can disperse the focus form the historic centre to the real, living, city core. It can not only reduce the segregation between the historic centre and the rest of the city, but at the same time become a new infrastructural route which beyond responding to existing needs fosters future visions and attracts new possibilities, yet unfulfilled.

Participants: Melvin Tan Jia Herng, Anna Galika, Evangelia Billa, Maria-Eleni Michalopoulou, Charikleia Tsamitrou, Alessandra Guglielmo, Marija Beg, Safa Ashoub
Tutors: Carlo Pisano, Yiorgos Papamanousakis


UNIT 5 | The Public City

The exploration of the cityscape of Chania using the tools of psychogeography introduced four basic rules that conditioned the walks through the city:
1. Follow the tree shadows
2. Follow different forms of sitting
3. Follow the old doors related to memories
4. Follow the abandoned spaces
The first two rules encouraged the collection and analysis of physical data and resulted in the definition of comfort zones around the city, while the other two rules implied the evaluation of social data, focusing on behaviour of actors in the city. The interpretation of quantitative and qualitative characteristics that were collected by this method highlighted a circular pattern that shows how the occupation of open spaces functions in an urban landscape:
characteristics define qualities, qualities encourage activities, activities attract actors, actors value characteristics
A closer look was taken at a group of distinct qualities that can qualify a space (dynamic, cosy, classy, playful) in order to illustrate the interaction between physical characteristics, the qualities of a space and the actors. In that way, variations of specific parameters like the light, the morphology, the accessibility or the ratio between public and private space can provide different qualities to a given space and therefore enable different kind of activities (e.g. karaoke, markets, music performances) that can attract different groups of actors depending on their age, their gender, their lifestyle etc.
The analysis of different scenarios in the city initiated the introduction of the network hypothesis in order to show the dynamics and vitality of cities and to provide a conceptual tool for ‘activating’ spaces. According to this hypothesis, the city represents a vibrant and dynamic network of public spaces, flexible enough to accommodate different qualities in an ever-changing procedure. The appearance of these spaces and the activities they host change accordingly.
A series of photocollages were used to illustrate the transformation of specific places in the city and the different atmospheres they can have depending on the characteristics that are activated each time and the kind of qualities that are subsequently defined. The narrative of Maria & Manos, a couple of local actors is used as a “key study” and reflect the desire of citizens to appropriate more actively urban landscape.
Since the potential of a city to host different activities in urban public spaces is endless, the creation of a mobile application is proposed. The app named “date your city” is designed to help urban dwellers to navigate around the city and find “the place to be” within the range of activities and qualities their city has to offer.

Participants: Angela Wiest, Eftychia Parisopoulou, Jason Shenn Cheong, Matina Vrettou, Nada Taha, Nasia Rousaki, Nicole de Groot, Penny Pletsa, Walaa Rashdan
Tutors: Stefanie Pesel, Maria Saridaki


UNIT 6 | The Remembered City

Throughout its history, Chania´s seafront has accumulated several layers of occupation, forming the city as a dense threshold open to the vast sea. However, not all these layers are equally visible, and many of them do not have a presence in the everyday life of the city. Contemporary approaches to heritage and tourism tend to privilege the protection of the evidence of distant pasts over more hidden and recent histories, often over the memories of today’s inhabitants.
We explored the tensions between remembering and forgetting, arguing both processes are not opposite but overlap and interact in complex ways in the experience of cities. In Chania, we approached these tensions through a creative and critical lens, turning them into forces with which to shape meaningful contemporary public spaces. Our proposal consists of a series of interventions on the one hand exploring absent, hidden or erased recent pasts of Chania, and on the other looking at its distant pasts differently. This way we invite the city’s inhabitants and visitors to interrogate their relation with the remembered (or the forgotten) city, and make of it an evocative experience.
One of these interventions recreates the old Venetian chain used to close the entrance to the port, in the form of a floating, mobile bridge. By directly connecting the Firka Castle and the lighthouse, it offers a playful and flexible public passageway between two landmarks otherwise separated by a long walk.
Precisely, on that long walk along the wall that engulfs the port and leads to the lighthouse, another intervention uses reflections of mirrors and a water tank to produce the illusory disappearance of Chania’s most characteristic monument. By suggesting its absence, the project intends to provoke thoughts on the visitor about the ultimate meaning of the lighthouse.
Behind the wall that leads to that iconic structure, one of our projects addresses the memory of nature. It consists mainly of a linear concrete path leading into the sea. The intervention appears and partially disappears according to the changing tides that constantly cover and reveal the rocks on which it is built.
Inside the port, between the city and the enclosing wall, there is another path. It guides the visitor over the water to experience an immaterial structure suggesting the haunting memory of old demolished shipyards: a ghostly Neorio where people can gather and enjoy the views of the city.
On the side of the city, an urban void by the Mosque is turned into a public square that materialises the geometries of past structures now disappeared. Among other lines, the geometries of a modernist tourism pavilion give shape to the changing levels of a new public square. The pavements incorporate fragments brought from Tabakaria, an abandoned industrial port located nearby. These displaced objects embody forgotten memories of a place that once resembled the character of the old port of Chania.
Chania’s Xenia Hotel was a modernist building placed on the top of the Venetian wall, overlooking the sea. It was recently demolished to privilege the presence of the ancient monument on which it stood for less than 40 years. Nevertheless, the hotel has still a strong presence in Chania’s people as it took active part in the city’s public life. In the same place, one of our interventions creates a series of columns recalling the shape and geometry of the building, framing a secret garden mainly accessible to local people. At a distance, the structure resembles the ruins of an old temple, as an ironic comment on the attitudes towards history at stake in the city.
The series of interventions proposed here are linked by one project that plays an articulating role. It consists of subtle introductory signs –steps, pavements, walls and platforms– visually connecting each of the proposals. They help forming a mental map in people, who are able to connect the projects as recollections. We conceived the projects explained above as a constellation that becomes evident when putting its parts together like pieces of a puzzle, remembering them. This last project renders that constellation more legible, linking different experiences of forgotten, hidden or alternatives memories of the city of Chania.

Participants: Ahmed Atia, Dimitra Tsangari, Emmanouela Tzerani, Fivos De Brito Karagiorgas, Margarita Micha, Maria Papageorgiou, Sara Mohamed Roshdy Soliman, Marinos Skouras, Rabaa Hashem Mohamed Gomaa
Tutors: Felipe Lanuza, Evangelos Maistralis


UNIT 7 | The Hybrid City

Digital media are noticeably changing the qualities of urban public spaces, which can no longer be considered a purely physical construct. Yet, the extent to which contemporary digital media can be used to promote other forms of spatial agency remains a critical issue. Whereas the impact of technology from a macro perspective offers a globalizing and homogenizing image, its role in the production of space at a local scale is less clear. This unit explores the role of digital media in the production of social spaces in Chania. In particular, we will focus on the landscape of emergent nonprofit organizations and independent groups of people that create a vibrant cultural scene, but whose activity seem to manifest itself only when it is being realised in the city.
We take a socially responsive design approach, drawing upon the concepts of weak place, temporary autonomous zone, and tactical media, we explore the potential of digital networks to support unplanned and temporary uses of the city.
– How can the concept of hybrid space help the actions of those groups reach out to citizens and contribute to produce novel experiences?
– How can digital networks provide new modes of visibility of urban activities, and encourage the emergence of more groups that will be active within the urban grid?
– How can hybrid relationship between information and communication technologies and this specific urban culture provide to the momentum that the city has gained during the last decade?

Participants: Jornik Kambanis, Vassilis Kalabogias, Abdelhamid Bedair, Christine Gatsou, Léa Zeitoun, Anastasia Kapsani, Sofia Lousa, Jan van Vierken
Tutors: Lara Salinas, Michalis Kantarzis



A project by Urban Transcripts in partnership with the Centre for Mediterranean Architecture and with the support of SADAS-PEA | Greek Architects Association – Chania section, the Technical University of Crete – School of Architecture, and the Technical Chamber of Greece – Department of Western Crete.

Workshop Team

Workshop Director Yiorgos Papamanousakis / Workshop Coordinator Eleni Lionaki / Scientific Advisor Amalia Kotsaki / Workshop Advisor Sofia Xanthopoulou / Host Tutors Vaggelis Maistralis, Maria Saridaki, Carolina Vasilikou, Stefi Filipopoulou, Yiorgos Papamanousakis, Zacharias Ouranos, Michalis Kantarzis / Guest Tutors Fabiano Micocci, Felipe Lanuza, Carlo Pisano, Lara Salinas, Stefanie Pesel, Pablo Sendra, Sofia Xanthopoulou / Speakers Irini Perdikogianni, Afroditi Papadaki, Eleni Vagiannou, Maria Androulaki, Nektarios Kefalogiannis, Amalia Kotsaki, Dimitris Tsakalakis, Alexandros Vazakas, Alexis Tzompanakis, Despina Dimeli / Invited Jury Amalia Kotsaki, Ana Labrinou, Amalia Kotsaki, Alexis Tzompanakis, Despina Dimeli / Research Eleni Lionaki, Yiorgos Papamanousakis, Athina Vlachou / Community Engagement Carolina Vasilikou / Graphic and Web Design Support Marisa Daouti, Natasa Lekkou / Technical Assistance Leonidas Manolikakis, Michalis Kantarzis / Sponsorship Support Anneta Vrontoulaki



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