An ecological & socially interactive approach to Polykatikia

2008-2009 | Architectural Diploma Thesis
Diploma of Architecture, National Technical University of Athens, Greece | website

This project focuses on polykatikia, which is the typical block of flats in Greece. This work was an attempt to reconsider the way polykatikia is constructed today by identifying methods and means which would create social interaction as well as beneficiate by the Athenian climate’s assets to create a better building envelope. For my final project during my undergraduate career, I decided to study further the methods and principles of sustainable design and how they could be implemented in the structure of Polykatikia, proposing a new way of living. The site of the proposed building was a small plot (22m x 19m) in the tight urban context of Piraeus, the port of Athens. The project was set up around three basic principles: A. Viability and Social Interaction, B. Sustainability, and C. Construction. Each one of them was addressed in a way to achieve balance between contradictory demands among them.

First goal was to reconsider the typical block of flats of the Athenian landscape, applying simple design strategies early on in the decision process, in a way that the building could perform better as well as provide a more livable space for its inhabitants bringing them together on an everyday basis. As the construction industry tries to take advantage of all the possible buildable areas of a plot aiming for greater economic investment, the community spaces of the building are getting lesser, turning Polykatikia to a block of individual capsules. In response, the project addressed issues of open and closed community spaces creating a gradual access to the apartments in order to nest social interactions. The project defined a balance between social communication and issues of privacy, inspired by the old Athenian yard[1] and trying to reinterpret the model of the atrium based on current resident’s needs. Moreover, trying to avoid creating a block of identical flats and aiming to address different people’s needs, various scenarios of residents were consider, and each apartment is designed based on different needs. 

Second important objective of the project was the intention to create a high performance envelope, which would minimize the heating and cooling loads by taking into consideration the basic assets of the climate. The challenge was the integration of such a building in the urban tissue and its limitations. It is a fact that constant building activity has led contemporary cities to a non-viable condition. It is of great importance for architecture to discover new means and ways of construction in order to upgrade the urban landscape and its micro-climate. Finally, the third parameter of this work was constructability; even as an academic project great focus was given on the actual construction of the building, its materials, costs as well as the ease of dismantling the building at the end of it life cycle by minimizing the construction waste.

My intention with this project was to design a prototype building in real terms that could make a difference, both to the urban landscape and most importantly to the people that inhabit it. I believe that the construction industry has the possibility to amend the everyday life of people still living and working in the urban landscape. With this project I wanted to create a case study, a point of reference for future residential projects which could be applied to the rest of Athens. It was of great importance to identify the practices and guidelines that if applied on a real project, would have an impact on people’s way of living in the city.