Student architects competition: innovative design for the environment

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Following a weekend packed with activities, the first EUNIC environmental project in Greece, led by the British Council and organized jointly with the French and German National Institutes for Culture, came to a successful close, on 5 June 2010, World Environment Day at the 'A. Tritsis' Environmental Awareness Park, west of Athens.
 
At the core of the project was an innovative student competition, calling for new sustainable design ideas for the 'A. Tritsis' Park, the only park of environmental awareness in Greece, which is located in a suburb of western Athens and covers an area of approximately 900 hectares. A wide range of deciduous and coniferous trees, open grasslands, six artificial ponds, and at least 177 different bird species are just some of the park's characteristics that make it one of the few remaining important hubs of biodiversity in Athens.
 
The winners of the competition were announced on 5 June in a celebration that brought together delegates from the three cultural institutes and state officials, including the German Ambassador, the appointed president of the park's management organization, mayors from the neighbouring municipalities, architects, students of architecture and many other people.
 
"This was the first time the British Council and our EUNIC partners collaborated with local partners in Greece from the non-governmental and state sector to work on a project together right from scratch",said Richard Walker, British Council Director and current EUNIC representative in Greece.
 
According to Spiros Raftopoulos, Dean of the School of Architecture of the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA), one of the oldest and most prestigious academic institutions in the country and important partner to the project, the competition had a great educational, as well as environmental value: for the first time, students of Architecture were invited to take an interdisciplinary approach and collaborate with students of other disciplines in order to propose an idea that would successfully combine the principles of ecology, sustainability and respect to biodiversity with their architectural practice.
 
The project "Landscape, Environment & Architecture" run in partnership with the Hellenic Ornithological Society, a local NGO with a longstanding presence at the 'A. Tritsis' Park, and the support of the School of Architecture at the NTUA and ECOWEEK, another emerging NGO which works in the field of sustainable architecture. Apart from the architectural competition, a series of lectures was also organized, as well as a joint visit to the park for students of the three participating cultural institutes.
 
Following the award ceremony, the park's younger visitors were invited to a creative workshop and theatre play with the Hellenic Ornithological  Society, 5 June World Environment Day.
 
The competition gained the auspices of the Greek Ministry for the Environment, Energy and Climate Change. Twenty-one proposals were submitted, coming from 78 students of Architecture and other related disciplines from Universities around Greece.
 
The competition's jury committee, comprised of 5 renowned Architects and Professors of Architecture, met on 4 June to what resulted in a twelve-hour session to decide on the winners.
The design proposal that won the frist award (4000 euros) excelled for the minor interventions it ptoposed to the park's landscape, and for the fact that it took into consideration the park's special needs with regard to its biodiversity and the changing of the year's seasons. Two more money awards were given (2000 and 1000 Euros), as well as three distinctions.
 
The launch of the competition in January, as well as its successful closure in June drew wide media and press attention in Greece. Both events were covered by one of the most popular national TV channels, at their central news journal of environmental content, while press coverage included one TV interview, 8 radio interviews and numerous other radio mentions, and more than 10 newspaper articles and more are expected to be published this week.
On 6 June, a team of British Council Challenge Europe 'Climate Advocates' run an 'urban trash' gardening workshop to demonstrate how plastic trash, like old water bottles, or fruit crates can be smartly re-used to grow plants in!

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