>> PUBLICATIONS / Restructuring the city - International urban design competitions for Thessaloniki 1997/ 'Liquid Axis'/ A.Papadakis Publisher


Liquid Axis

"Liquid Axis" deals with the expansion and remodeling of metropolitan space. it determines the central role of the urban condition and the transposition of its cultural identity into a contemporary situation. Local city-space is constantly exposed to non-physical environments. Trans-urban, as a glo-cal matrix of new urban, economic and cultural systems, is generated and generates space(s) of material and immaterial flows. Urban density, a mediated rather than an architectural disposal, juggles with attractiveness by condensing information. Urbanism can no longer be obsessed with material appearance and representation, but has to deal with dislocated, disembodied and transmissible systems.

The classic question of articulating public and private space, localising boundaries and identifying built entities is now a question of being in a dynamic space-time matrix of connectivity, interaction and imagination. Urbanism is about the endless densification and diversification of reversible communication and information systems.

"Liquid axis" exploits "blank noise" to build an open urban system absorbing and condensing the total spectrum of information to increase the (potential) attractiveness of the urban factory. The cultural influences of 2,500 years of Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman and modern culture in Thessaloniki form a contexture of interwoven historical and contemporary traces. The project appropriates historical data, not only as a tool of representation and image, but as one of the significant fields of activity and interpretation that can be integrated into the contemporary condition.

The layer of the unrealised Hébrard masterplan is understood as an attempt to import a new structural element, opening up the city to the sea by way of a major central axis, but also as a feature of blind faith in the historicist vision. This paralysis has accentuated the conflict between historical heritage and irrevocable modernity. The absence of urbanism has turned the axis into an important empty space-an "urban ventilator" in an overcrowded city. "Liquid axis" reinforces the urban skeleton by implanting a new infrastructure network; by transforming the axis into a pedestrian zone; and by augmenting its surface.

A city scan records and samples the data of the axis. The digital information is exploited to determine the path of the foldings, tracing a dynamic space across the different time-layers.

Historical and topological time are fused into a new urban condition, as an interactive zone designed from bytes. This folded time grid is applied through the horizontal strata, city plates and vertical city boards, where the urban actor slips from one urban scenario to another. Liquid, as the fusion of form, time and information, erases the static references of space. Programmes are not simply juxtaposed; they are merged into a continuous mediated system.

The XL-PLEAT re-establishes the central role of the axis by assuming different degrees of virtuality. The platform culminating in a screen reactivates the ancient agora as a two-storey cultural machine. Agora 2000 becomes an unstable glo-cal space, a playground of time and space, exploiting technology to intensify interactivity and communication.

CITY PLATES form a transitory zone between the new urban system and the existing context. They form urban sequences such as the "live excavation park," which links archaeology, citizens and tourists, and the "sea-city place" where the sea expands temporarily into the city with the tide.

The S-PLEAT combines circulation and temporary installations.

These three spatio-temporal structures form an ever changing system of events. "Liquid axis" provokes urban experiences, moments of erosion.

Naziha Mestaoui+ Manuel Abendroth + Sigfried Peichler, Bxl 1998

liquid axis

© Naziha Mestaoui + LAB[au] 2000