FABRIC BUILDING I
Are the cities that we live in, the cities we want?
The city of Athens in the last decade, has been facing the outcomes of the global economic crisis, that has simultaneously taken over the centre of the city, as well as the surrounding suburban areas. Rapid political, social and economic transformations, have been depicted in the urban fabric. Athens is an incoherent city formed by numerous neighborhoods, where the aspects of crisis have different effects. Nevertheless, a common aftermath is the urban decay that has been noticed throughout a major number of buildings. We focus on the most numerous buildings of a city, that form a physically cohesive texture, indicative of an underlying social fabric. “Fabric buildings”(2007 Matthew Frederick) are often subject to abandonment, under the severe urban crisis.
The number of vacant buildings and storefronts, growing everyday, is an indication of the lack of employment and the continuous shift of the social context from a coherent to a fragmented one. Opportunities are being risen for more temporary and flexible manners, of spatial planning and architecture. Reusing existing abandoned buildings, as a complex process associated with the urban regeneration of the city, requires a new scope in the act of designing. This process lead us to temporal spatial practices, thus “looking at our city in a more embracing way.” (Open City_Richard Sennet )
Acknowledging the dynamics of a city, there is a constant need for adapting architecture in the city’s constant evolution. “Interventions and little changes from the ground up contribute to making a city”.(2013, Saskia Sassen). As architecture adapts, it’s being identified through broader strategies, local and social assistance initiatives. It extends to other cognitive areas (public art, urban geography, anthropology and sociology of the city, political science, activism, media studies, etc.) through the sharing of knowledge.The profile of the architects change and their role evolve gradually towards process facilitators by creating new partnerships and relationships. On the other hand they become activators, stimulating and guiding the creativity of the local community, “capable of engaging new dynamics within the designer’s context.”(2014, Raffaella Fagnoni / Silvia Pericu).
Through similar urban temporal practices, the abandoned vacant spaces can be revitalized, and converted into active hubs in the city. The community is being drawn to participate into an urban activism within the city fabric. In a functional, future city, the local municipality and other authorities should embrace alternative ways of seeding the city’s prosperity and help in any way possible, private initiative that will result in a social, more sustainable way of living.
Frederick, M, 2007, "101 Things I Learned in Architecture School", The MIT Press, p.
Sennet, R, 2006, “The Open City”, Essay presented at the LSE Cities Literary Festival discussion, LSE, November 2006
Sassen, S, 2013, “Open Sourcing The Neighborhood”, Article on Forbes Magazine, Forbes, 10 November 2013
Fagnoni, R /Pericu, S, 2014, “Reactivate the city, sharing spaces for research on design and humanities”, Catalog of 4th International Forum of Design as a Process, EdUEMG | Editora da Universidade do Estado de Minas Gerais, Chapter 52
Focusing on the current urban challenges of Athens, “Fabric Building” is a temporary spatial installation, that is placed in front of a vacant space within the city. It aims to temporarily alter the city's landscape, by using and reacting to existing facades that are abandoned and left to physical erosion. Our approach is based on a rigid way of construction. An existing building method is introduced, the construction of gabion walls. The reuse of traditional gabion walls under a different filling context, will create innovative facades in front of the abandoned old ones. With the active participation of the local community, used clothing is being gathered. This fabric stock will be put in colorful plastic bags and fill the new gabion facade, constructed by assembling gabions of specific dimension typology that follows the original facade behind them. During 4 weeks the proposed time for “Fabric Building” our new facade becomes a live, interactive chart of people’s participation. Meanwhile the interior vacant space is being partly renovated and hosts teams and collaborations for workshops and seminars, thus becoming a live space once again. Once this action comes to an end everything can be upcycled. The old clothing can be given back to the community for the people in need, the gabions can be used as urban furniture in parks, streets or public plazas, and the building has become an active part of the city’s identity and is suitable for reuse in the future.
“Fabric Building” goal is to become a tool for the reactivation of vacant spaces while developing a variety of skills between groups of citizens. It is an active research, exploring ways of creating networks of urban interventions within the city. Through this temporal installation call for action, dynamic partnerships between people of different skills and approaches can be developed, while new useful practices in the city are suggested. A new methodology will occur, a possible model for managing the city's vacant premises, offering a flexible strategy that can be modified over time. Citizens are invited to actively participate in the
creation of this installation and with their own initiatives, come upon proposals throughout the duration of the action. Therefore they become “Powerful actors that remake cities in their image” (2013, Saskia Sassen). The identity of the neighborhood is strengthened through daily contact and through the interaction between the residents.