The Initiative

Challenge addressed

Halandri is the biggest municipality in the North Athens Regional Unit of Attica covering an area of 10.805 sq.km, with a population of 74,192 inhabitants. The years following the economic crisis, recovery policies focused on supporting the market. The response of the city’s economy has prompted the development of a leisure and catering ‘theme center’ (216 new food & beverage facilities within 3 years, over 5.000 visitors each Saturday, etc.) in connection with wider development plans, (3 existing malls, a forthcoming casino, a new subway station, etc.). While this approach sought to provide development solutions for the revitalization of the local economy, it has not succeeded in addressing emerging challenges regarding people’s wellbeing and the city’s resilience.

The challenge to be tackled refers to the citizen’s low local cultural and natural heritage awareness with different points to be considered:

  • weak mnemonic policy: In Halandri lies the important subterranean roman Hadrian Aqueduct that is 20 km long, connecting 7 municipalities supplying Athens with water for nearly 1800 years (140A.D. – early’30s). Today hidden as it is underground but also «hidden» because it is unknown and forgotten.
  • lack of conservation and cultivation of local cultural capital: the lack of bottom-up processes weaken people’s sense of ownership and belonging and the city’s heritage branding compared to Athens historical centre.
  • weak access and walkability in quality green spaces the stream surroundings form a large green space which remains inactive. Low parks per resident ratio at 2sq.m., compared to Athens average at 4.8.

Cultural H.ID.RA.N.T. aims at addressing the challenges by contributing to the activation of Hidden Heritage Potential, both natural and cultural and both tangible and intangible, pointing to the improvement of Local Wellbeing. Moreover, it aims to create a paradigm shift in the present perception of the periphery of the Athens Metropolitan Area, which has very weak heritage branding compared to its core.

Solution proposed

The main goal is to activate local Hidden Heritage Potential to enhance Local Wellbeing. Cultural H.ID.RA.N.T. will employ Hadrian Aqueduct as a vehicle to reveal local cultural capital, tangible and intangible heritage and natural and man-made resources. At the same time, the revitalization of the community/ies through participatory processes will operate as an innovative way to re-introduce a roman monument of high cultural and natural significance.

Within this framework, three aspects of Hadrian Aqueduct operationalise the project’s objectives, forming three Implementation WPs related to Hadrian Aqueduct as

  1.  Heritage Commons (WP4)
  2.  Water Commons
  3.  a Community Network (WP6)

WP4 sheds light upon tangible and intangible aspects of Heritage, keeping the Aqueduct as a pivotal point, though going beyond. WP4 includes three activities focused on data collection & creation, the co-creation of a Local Archive and its co-management and promotion. Experiential walks, desk research, oral history recordings and historical/ sensory/aspirations mappings will inform a raw material repository. On a next level, raw material will be curated to build up the Local Archive, feeding in turn, a digital “HIDRANT” platform with visualized story-telling content presenting the Aqueducts Heritage Finally, the Local Archive will pass to the hands of the local community through a series of events to facilitate the management, promotion and expansion of local archive together with identified stakeholders. A local HIDRANT Festival will be collectively organised as output of the local archive’s promotion.

WP5 reintroduces the natural water resource, as major evidence of the hidden Aqueduct and a vital component of local heritage. The aim is to map, analyse & bring forward Hadrian’s Aqueduct as a water commons. WP5 also organizes & delivers participatory design workshops for public space on urban regeneration areas (WP7) & other selected spots in the wider area.

The project proposes an innovative process/methodology to reintroduce natural resources in close relation with heritage monuments by developing the so-called “cultural hydrants”. These are places, but also activities, people, networks & relations that spread cultural capital throughout the city along with the mobile water supply.

WP6 is about planning for & with communities. It combines activities for the Community Engagement in HIDRANT’s vision, in a 3-day set of performative actions within the Rematyas Festival 2020, with the constitution of an informal community of Water Solidarity Economy aiming to be scaled-up towards a Hadrian Network of Neighbourhoods.

Finally, Investment WP7 will result in the regeneration of 8500 sq.meters of public space (incl. the Hadrian Aqueduct, Reservoir & Roman wells; the Halandri stream banks; 4 ‘natural/cultural nodes’ defined through participatory processes); the construction of 5km water network system and the procurement of 2 mobile water tank trucks.

The innovation

The proposed solution has 3 innovative aspects:

  1. it re-introduces a cultural heritage asset beyond the usual ‘sight-seeing’ approach and towards reconstitution of its contemporary use-value as heritage and water commons and potential community network. In this way, Cultural H.ID.RA.N.T. will raise heritage awareness through the re-exploitation of Hadrian water, the regeneration of Hadrian routes, the co-transformation of certain spots into Hadrian-watered ‘urban gardens’. As a result, water becomes a cultural heritage ambassador, while cultural heritage re-initiates sustainable water use;
  2. focusing on the re-introduction of the monument it aims to create positive momentum for the improvement of local wellbeing, in two main ways: by proposing participatory processes in order to engage people in the co-governance of their natural resource and heritage branding, cultivating a sense of community; by developing quality green spaces, accessible to all;
  3. it chooses to ‘test’ the vision in the periphery of the Metropolitan Area, aiming to create a peripheral heritage branding beyond Athens historical centre. In this way, it aims to create alternatives to the leisure and catering ‘theme centre’ of Halandri and contribute to more endogenous, resilient urban development strategies.

UIA

Urban Innovative Actions (UIA) is an Initiative of the European Union that provides urban areas throughout Europe with resources to test new and unproven solutions to address urban challenges. Based on article 8 of ERDF, the Initiative has a total ERDF budget of EUR 372 million for 2014-2020.

Approximately 359 million people – 72% of the total EU population – live in cities, towns and suburbs. Urban areas face multiple and interconnected challenges related to employment, migration, demography, water and soil pollution…

But, they are also engines of new ideas and solutions, dynamic places where changes happen on a larger scale and at a fast pace.

To answer the increasingly complex challenges they face, urban authorities need to go beyond traditional policies and services – they need to be bold and innovative.

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