Usually, in reunions, old classmates meet after years and drink and laugh until the early hours of the morning. In this case, however, they chose to travel to Greece to give new life to an abandoned park.
This is what 17 architects, from 13 different countries (Greece, Cyprus, Italy, Germany, United Kingdom, Lithuania, Spain, Poland, Netherlands, Sweden, Ukraine, India and Slovakia), who graduated together from their postgraduate degree of the University of Umeå in Sweden and since 2015 they have established the “Immediate Architecture Intervention Team”, with the aim of carrying out activities related to their profession, which however help and empower local communities.
The idea belonged to Greek architect Julia Eleftheriadou from Sidirokastro, Serres, who lives and works in Oslo, Norway and it was soon embraced not only by her former classmates, but also by their professor in the postgraduate course, Spanish Αlberto Altes Arlandis who personally supervises the projects. “We are essentially old classmates who studied at Umeå University in Sweden and our professor was Mr Altes. We like to work with wood and local communities. We hope that the knowledge we have gained will help to better the areas where we carry out our actions, inspiring us to continue”, Ms. Eleftheriadou tells protothema.gr.
This year’s Project was implemented in Neo Petritsi, Serres and in a formerly abandoned municipal park in a picturesque location with running water and centuries-old plane trees. During their five-day stay, the 17 foreign architects – who specialize in wood – have constructed three projects aimed at upgrading the park and making it more friendly to locals and visitors alike.
“We are in Greece and Neo Petritsi to implement a project we believe will help the local community through the reuse of a park that has been abandoned for years. We are very happy with the result, even though we have had to deal with extreme weather”, says Alberto Altes Arlandis, PhD, professor of architecture at the University of Delft in the Netherlands, who was in charge of general coordination and supervision.
The foreign architects specifically designed a multi-purpose platform that can host from small cultural events (music, theater, etc.) to group yoga sessions or family-friendly picnic gatherings. A table with one side overlooking the Sultanitsa stream, next to a stone fireplace for a barbecue or even friendly gatherings in the cold winter days. A wooden balcony overlooking the stream, resting on an old collapsed stone bridge, while interventions were also made on the damaged park benches.
Last Saturday, in a crowded room in the center of Neo Petritsi, the project “Lontzas Park 2019” was officially presented, followed by a short live on the park’s new wooden stage by young local musician Chrysanthos Iordanidis, as well as a theatrical event – inspired by Aristophanes’ comedy “Frogs” – from the Theatrical Group of the Neo Petritsi Cultural Association, which also included some of the foreign volunteer architects. The Olympian archery athlete Fotini Vavatsi, who comes from the area, “revealed” the secrets of her sport to the foreign volunteers, during some the breaks of the works.
The residents of Neo Petritsiou embraced the foreign volunteers, opening the doors to their homes and preparing pies and pastries for their breakfasts. Professionals in the area provided the daily meals and materials needed for the projects. The timber was bought with money raised by donations from the Petritsi Association of Thessaloniki, businessmen and residents of Neo Petritsi, as well as a sponsorship by the municipality of Sintiki that supported the effort. “We thank the residents of Neo Petritsi for the warm hospitality that moved us. They opened their homes and were right next to us in the project. To date, I have organized similar workshops in 22 countries around the world. Only in Greece and Serres did I see such hospitality, warmth and love”, Dr. Altes said, stating that the team will return to Serres again in 2020 to continue the exciting project. “We are sure we will come back again in 2020, because we now have good friends in Serres and Neo Petritsi”, he concluded.