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Urban Camping

2009-2010 | Prototype for creative reuse of vacant buildings
Team: Eleni Katrini, Ilda-Efi Oikonomidi, Dimitris Papageorgiou, Mara Papavasileiou

Architecture, as a depictment of the needs and the conditions of each particular moment in time, should be up to date with contemporary problems. The global crisis leading to a bankruptcy of architecture, was taken into consideration, through the larger spectrum of financial, social, and spatial parameters as part of the KAM workshop in Crete. Our proposal examined the spatial consequences of the financial crisis, including the destruction of local businesses and enterprises and the eventual evacuation of workspaces at central points leaving voids in the urban tissue. Furthermore, land ownership was questioned as land values constantly fluctuate and capital for large investments is missing. It seems that rules of property and ownership are not consistent with the constantly growing mobility of people nationally or even globally. Increasing mobility is also reflected on the way human need are expressed through space, e.g. working remotely eliminates the need for large offices.

These observations led us to the idea that people will seek an ephemeral ownership of small «packages» of space and equipment in order to fullfil daily needs as they travel. A flexible scheme of appropriation that can encapsulate the variation of changing modes of living, working, travelling, etc. This scheme of alternative living can be hosted in the evacuated buildings within the city centers, creating a species of urban camping.

To test and integrate the idea of urban camping in a particular context, the group has chosen as case study the building of Greek Telecommunications (OTE) at Chania, Crete. The building was evacuated at a great extent due to changes of the needs of telecommunications that now occupy less space. As a quite generic office building, with no specific architectural interest, we keep its concrete structure and use low-cost and low-tech solutions for further architectural interventions within the floors. Our goal was to revitalise and add value to empty buildings within the urban context, through a two-stage approach. Firstly, the creation of a common public space within the building of intervention. Consequently, the ground floor and the roof are given to public use and have their own independent public vertical connection. These public spaces are separated and can work independently to the floors in between. These public pockets of space allow for people and different groups to meet, intensifying the social aspect of the city and can take up several public uses. The ground floors are connected directly to the street creating plazas with atriums, green and water spaces, sitting areas and small kiosks. The rooftops can host uses such us open cinemas, bars, cafes, or meeting spaces with a view of the city. In both case, exhibitions, installations, performances can take place.


The rest of the floors are reserved to the «private» section of use, the urban camping, where the user can rent the necessary equipment (bedroom unit, working station, kitchen unit, bathroom unit) and create his temporary settlement. Urban camping is actually a very flexible system. The layout of the floors keeps changing depending on the current needs of its inhabitants. The constant mobility of users lists the evolution of uses and needs through time. The fact that the building can answer to the transformation of its inhabitants' needs consists a sort of a safety valve to its future continuous use and the avoidance of forthcoming evacuation.

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