The Oppositions of Kifissos

From Static Duality to Dynamic Coexistence

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The aim of this thesis project is to address a highly problematic landscape in an alternative conceptual way. Instead of following a problem-solving approach, I will try to see how the way a specific site works in space and time can be related to a number of concepts. Furthermore, how do these concepts become part of wider, both theoretical and practical discussions about the role and the limits of planned and designed human interventions on the natural and the urban landscape.
The landscape in question is Kifissos, a heavily abused urban river in Athens, Greece. Kifissos used to be a river. As the city evolved it became part of the city’s infrastructural network, functioning as a highway, a sewage and drainage collector. The river is strictly contained within heavy concrete boundaries. This condition is a result and expression of the conceived necessity to dominate and control nature, in order to guarantee for the safety and functionality of the urban world. The binary division between urbanity and nature is in our case expressed by the opposition of the two identities of the river and the highway as well as by the spatial isolation of the two systems from their surrounding environment.
The opposition between the over-controlled elements of the landscape and their unpredictable, uncontrolled dynamics is also reflected in the urban tissue, in the tension between the designed/formal and spontaneous/informal patterns of urbanization. By studying how the urban landscape of Athens has evolved through the years, we can see that the development of these opposing patterns is closely related to the underlying structure of the landscape and the introduced element of the highway.
Within this wider theoretical framework that describes the case of Kifissos not only as an urbanized river, but also as an over-controlled landscape and a ground for conceived oppositions, the design will not depart from the imposition of external forms and structures. It will rather be born out of an excavation on the site that will investigate the common ground between things conceived as opposites. Reading the existing landscape will result in a number of design tools, compatible with the identity of the city and the landscape, that will guide the design process.
The resulting designed landscape works as an experiment of how a concept driven design does not necessarily consists of distanced ideas. Rather it can result in a flexible landscape architectural framework able to incorporate social, environmental and technical aspects closely related to the realities of the existing milieu.
Furthermore, it explores and indicates how landscape architecture, as a discipline, has the capacity to work as an integrative common ground, bringing together conflicting notions such as natural and engineered, formal and informal, concept and reality, process and form, the designed landscape and the practices of everyday life.