For our final expo of the year, we were delighted to hear from Lena Knappers about the project she has been working on in Athens with colleague Eva Papatzani. Lena told a captivating story, taking us straight to the heart of the problematic in the city, where migration and lack of registered status and rights for many asylum seekers is putting pressure on the limited public space and resulting in tensions between these newcomers and the locals.
Lena presented not only a sophisticated design solution, but also an inspiring methodology for engaging with a vulnerable community and uncovering potential in the urban fabric. Her proposal to open up the interior courtyards of the traditional ‘polykatoikies’ (apartment blocks) provoked a fascinating discussion about how far architecture can create a new commons, and the role of social infrastructures in supporting such interventions. There were suggestions of useful reference projects elsewhere in the city and from the Netherlands, as well as reflection on the urgency of bold political action, to address the issues that architecture alone cannot solve. All in all, a thought-provoking discussion to end the year! If anyone has further comments, ideas or reflections for Lena, she can be reached via her website.