The three studios are raising similar issues and propose overlapping ideas and design proposals, and directly or indirectly deal with some of the following overarching topics:
The Balkans, including Greece, are at the frontline of climate change. Located between rivers, mountains and the sea, countries in the region are faced with a combination of rising sea levels and temperatures, floods, forest fires and desertification, extreme rainfall and long periods of drought. In order to be able to respond to the inevitable effects of climate change, and to enhance their resilience, cities and communities across the region need to rethink and redesign their relationship with their biophysical environment. How can new ideas and developments help to restore the fragile balance between natural and economic values? How can people enjoy clean water and green parks, continue to live along the coast and generate their own renewable energy, without having to sacrifice the things they care about? Can we design for co-existence?
City and Countryside We live in the ‘urban age’, with the majority of the world’s population living in cities. However, in 2018 only forty percent of the people in Europe lived in cities, while the other sixty percent lived in either towns and suburbs or more remote rural areas. Historically, cities and the countryside in Europe were always intimately connected. Given the challenges of our time, from the slowly unfolding climate crisis to the sudden Covid-19 pandemic, we are all forced to rethink how and where we work, live, recreate, innovate and preserve existing values. Instead of thinking about cities and the countryside in terms of center and periphery and as being spatially separated, the time has come to reconnect them. Can we decenter the city and rehabilitate the ‘hinterland’?
Beijing in the Balkans China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) (一带一路), sometimes referred to as the New Silk Road, is an ambitious programme to connect China with other parts of Africa and with Europe via land and maritime routes. The port of Pireaus is already an important hub in this growing global network, with the Chinese state-owned shipping company COSCO largely owning and operating the port. The Croatian port of Rijeka is another potential entry point for Chinese shipped goods. Developing in the coming decades, the BRI will have a profound impact on Europe. It raises the question whether European cities and regions should see the initiative as an opportunity or risk?
Re-defining Europe The Balkans play an important role in the history and future of Europe due its strategic location and complex political situation. The countries in the region all have a very different relationship with European politics. For example, Greece joined the (predecessor) of the European Union in 1981. Croatie is a member country of the EU since 2013, while Albania is on the current agenda for future enlargement of the European Union. With the resurgence of nationalism in the region, partly fuelled by the influx of refugees, they all face questions about ownership and entitlement. Who belongs to a community or territory and who has the right to share in the local resources? And how will the conflicting forces of localism and globalisation re-shape our idea of Europe?