Looking to the Future: Design, Sustainability, and Growth in Northern Greece

Following a recent administrative reorganization, Edessa, a small historic town with natural beauties in northern Greece, has become the capital of a larger area. The Mayor of the new expanded municipality seeks to reach economic and social prosperity utilizing the unique characteristics of the area and to provide an integral development plan.Our last year\’s design studio focused on the city of Edessa, its open spaces, and the development of the adjacent Agras valley, a 3 km valley along a river, with spectacular waterfalls at each end.This year\’s studio is an extension of the 2009 studio and focuses on the entire area, with the city of Edessa as the central point. The area includes a lake (Vegoritis), a small airport ideal for paragliding, a historic village that attracts many tourists in the winter season (Agios Athanassios) and pristine forests and wetlands. Distances among the various nodes are short and easily traveled. Thermal baths (Loutraki) and a winter sports resort (white mountain) are within a few km distance.Addressing the issues faced by the region and with the support of the Mayor and the City Council, the studio has a series of objectives. The overall objective is to focus on sustainability, at both the environmental and socio-economic levels, and propose developments that take into account the well-being of future generations. Within the umbrella of sustainability, the studio will propose to the municipality an overall development plan to reposition the area at the regional and metropolitan scales. Mobility, incentives in the built environment to make the area a choice for residence, and year-round tourism are some of the objectives.Then, individual design projects will follow. The design projects will be at the scale to be agreed by the instructors and each student, will be consistent with the development plan, and will propose interventions or new projects in:1.the shore of lake Vegoritida and the development of water activities2.interventions in the traditional village of Agios Athanassios3.development of new villages4.developments in the vicinity of the Agras wetland5.accessibility of the dense forestsThe common thread of the projects should be in linking Edessa with its region and making the entire region an attractive and integrated site for economic growth throughout the year and a place of choice for residence. The newly planned high-speed train will shorten the distance to the regional metropolis of Thessaloniki to 30 minutes, and will effectively make Edessa a satellite town to a 2+ million people center, with rich farming and proximity to nature.Site visit: The visit to the area is essential prior to engaging in design, so we will visit Edessa and its region in the week of September 20.