— by B. Kondilis
The buzz of energy is around us everywhere! In the “positive psychology” movement the belief is that if one focuses on the positives and is able to reframe a negative situation — it changes one’s brain chemistry resulting in better mental and physical health. In this context, architects, engineers, environmental specialists know how important “space” is for both individual and community well-being. For the past year, we have been seeing buses in the city with the logo “Rethink Athens” — the European Architectural Competition for the Creation of a New City Center in Athens organized by the Onassis Foundation. The recent exhibit of results held in Syntagma square (pictured) from March 14th – March 26th was a beacon of positive energy, adding excitement for the onlooker and hope for a better and more sustainable city center.
The idea behind the project is to transform Athens’ center by the year 2016, extending it from Amalias Avenue and Syntagma Square to Omonoia Square and the Archaeological Museum, making these areas public space where citizens can meet in both commercial and leisure activities. The implementation of this competition involved a legal agreement with the Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change, the former Ministry of Transportation, Infrastructure and Networks (currently renamed the Ministry of Development, Competitiveness, Transport, Infrastructure and Networks), the metro of Athens (Attiko Metro S.A.) and collaboration with the Attica Prefecture and the Municipality of Athens. All the projects were winners in my book as each added an interesting perspective ranging from facing current challenges, being resilient, building a more accessible and vibrant city (First Prize winners) to a utopian neighborhood (Utopian Proposal Award). The exhibits included the use of eco-minded materials, modes of energy (including emphasis on improving eco-mobility), increasing more “open” and green spaces.
Along the same lines, other initiatives such as Ecomobility ( see photo) featuring over 10 years of ideas by young people, like the Ecofans Club of the Hellenic American Union that holds various environmental education events for younger children including sharing their vision for a greener, more hospitable city (see photo featuring their “dream city”). The Greek company for reusing and recycling materials, EEAA, started their social marketing campaign in the city’s metro on recycling properly “Say Yes and Begin Recycling Properly” (πες ναι και ξεκίνα να ανακυκλώνεις σωστά – see photo) and (finally!) the mass media is catching on! SKAI is now doing several socially-minded events over the past years (ranging from tree planting to medicine gathering in various communities throughout Greece), and now ANT1 too has turned to the more positive psychology of campaigns, such as that centered around the “Best Things in Life” — see photo of metro poster calling for us to “Have a Positive Thought at Each Stop” – κάνε μια χαρούμενη σκέψη σε κάθε στάση) where one can upload one’s own images and videos. There is also an upcoming media focus on “Heroes Among Us” (οι ήρωες ανάμεσά μας) where one can suggest a local “hero”….
It is time to “Rethink” beyond and further than Athens, to all of Greece and into the next decades; but these initiatives in Athens have indeed begun the focal point of actions toward creating a sustainable environment; one that is more socially responsible, involving positive individuals for a more positive nation. As the Greek adage goes “hope dies last” (η ελπίδα πεθαίνει τελευταία): the key as always has been to have faith and continue to hope. Giving “possibility” is what we need in these times of challenge. As the English philosopher and logician Bertrand Russel (1872-1970) said “The greatest challenge to any thinker is stating the problem in a way that will allow a solution.” We need solutions in Greece, not more problems, and not more negative energy: “Don’t you see the glass half full rather than half empty?”