OLIAROS, a young property development company, called architects up to 35 years old to submit proposals for the construction of an affordable student housing complex in Kerameikos and Metaxourgeio (KM), an area in the historic centre of Athens, Greece.
Parasite Studio have shared with us their proposal for the competition. Their project, “Agora”, consists in complex living modules. Each module comprises a common space for six students and three bedrooms. Full architect’s description and more images after the break.
The student’s life consists of a mixture of private life, together with the need for individual seclusion for learning and public life, with public interaction and dynamic relations. We tried to find a space that would provide the support for this dynamic way of life, and we found that the model of the agora is the key for solving the complex organization of activities.
The agora has its origins in Ancient Greece, providing an empty support space designed for public interaction, hosting a large range of activities. It is in the broad sense also an informal learning space. The concept of agora as we make use of it in our design has its origins in the ancient Greek public space, without having a direct link with formal and spatial configurations with the historic model, but by providing an urban scene for discussions.
The student’s housing units are designed as a mix of private and public areas, providing spaces for retreat that offer a quiet private space for each student, where they can learn and retreat, in direct link with common facilities areas, spaces for public interaction, entertaining and communication. The mix of private areas and public areas is essential for informal learning, facilitating the interchange of creative ideas in a free and non-academic environment, thereby boosting individual evolution and a free exposure of ideas.
The spatial solution for housing this complex relational network was to provide a large empty living space, the agora, which is both interior and exterior, consisting of common student spaces, interior courts and roof terraces, which becomes the guideline for organizing the entire building. The main outdoor space becomes the support for all common activities, being a shared space that can organize the internal life of the student’s housing and that provides a room for the social interactions of the student’s community. The outdoor space is ambivalent, students having the opportunity to change freely the definition of space by closing or opening the interface of the common living areas that are oriented towards the inner court and therefore choosing to participate or to shut off from the community.
The project consists of complex living modules. Each module comprises a common space for six students and three bedrooms. The links within the module are very easy so that the common space becomes a place for continuous social interaction. One of the bedrooms is located on the same level as the living room while the other two on the next level. Through its orientation and internal organization the module offers both exposed spaces as well as private ones, spaces for common activities or for quiet retreat.
Every space is endowed with all the necessary equipments and is dimensioned in order to allow easy access for people with disabilities in every module of the building.
The concept shape allows a segregation of public and private areas according to spatial orientation, while remaining in a strong physical connection. The private and public always areas have an alternate configuration and outlook.
The common space is a space destined for gathering and for social interaction. The common living areas are oriented towards the inner court, which can function as a complex public shared space when all the living rooms are completely opened to the court.
Each common area can be used according to the activities that take place in a certain moment in the building, the students being able to choose where to spend their spare time based on the visual information of the activities taking place in the “agora” or according to a program of the activities shared by the housing inhabitants. Students are not bound to solely inhabit the common living area assigned to them; all living areas are common leisure areas for everybody. They can also choose to shut off their living area from the community life by shuttering the opening towards the court.
The living room wall, which supports the innner stair plays a double role as structural and functional element. This wall contains deposit spaces for living and bedroom areas, a library and a small cooking area.
The private space consisting of bedrooms and study areas is oriented towards the outside of the block, facing the street or the back yard. The street is considered a classic dynamic space ruled by the tempo of the city life, while the back yard is a quiet private garden, both being considered to provide a good medium for introspection and reclusion.
The bedrooms are each configured for two persons, containing study areas within the same space.
The detailed housing block of this project is a piece within a complex of buildings. Each of the buildings contained in the student’s complex can function separately from the whole, due to the fact that it provides itself all the spaces needed for a student’s housing, but only within the whole the buildings offer the entire range of diverse outdoor living spaces that the project tried to generate.
The common parking spaces are located in the underground level and are based on the same principle of common shared spaces, since the smaller buildings can provide parking spaces only for bicycles and motorcycles while the larger structures can accommodate car parkings. All of the parkings can be accessed by all of the students housed within, according to the vehicle they posses. The underground level provides larger common deposit areas and laundry service for the building’s inhabitants.
On the ground floor each of the buildings has a public commercial space destined for diverse retail activities, according to the specific needs of the students. Those spaces will provide enrichment to the services provided by the urban area at the moment of the completion of the assembly.
The green spaces are linked in between in order to form a continuous environment, doubled by a raised network of pedestrian pathways. The most important element of the agora is the roof terrace, which is a mixture of semi-public decks, green areas and pergolas. The roof is the link between all the buildings that are assembled in the student’s housing complex, creating a common gathering space for all students living within the complex. The roof therefore provides extended social interaction for students, with filtered access.
The shape of the buildings is studied to ensure the correct dimensioning and natural lighting of spaces, and also to orientate the facades and outdoor spaces according to the movement of the sun. The voids of the buildings are shaped to provide enough sunlight in the shaded rooms, and the facades exposed to the sun are tilted and cut in order to provide shade in the rooms. The walls and general shape of the courtyards have been configured in order to receive enough sunlight during the day.
The materials that are used for the building shell are meant to recreate the lightness of Greek architecture, by reflecting the sun and generating a local feeling of belonging in the place. We used for the outer shells towards the street polished sandstone with large glass openings and for the interior court a double layer of iron mesh and white rendered walls.