Volos in the Extremes
international urban design master class
26 – 31 October 2013, Volos, Greece

“Volos in the Extremes” is an international Urban Design Master Class open to students towards the end of their studies, recent graduates, and professionals, in architecture, urban design, and related design/project-oriented fields concerned with the study of the city and urban intervention. The master class is organised through the collaboration of an international team of professionals and academics. It is hosted by the Department of Architecture, University of Thessaly, in Volos.

The point of departure for this master class is the challenges faced by the city in response to the global economic crisis. As the predominant model of development, in Greece and around the world, is severely challenged, we are presented with a unique opportunity to re-invent it: to shift from growth to sustainability, from market-dependency to self-sufficiency, from individually-motivated consumption to publicly-useful production, a whole new paradigm is longing to emerge. How will the city respond to it? And how can urban design and programming contribute to this very emergence?

Through a 6-day programme of group work, site visits, lectures, and social events, the master class, organised into units, will produce a set of urban design proposals for different areas of Volos. Units focus on different geographies of the city, ranging both in scale and location, from building typology to the structure of the urban grid, and from the city’s water edge to its peripheral ‘strip’ extensions. Seen in its entirety, this set of final projects will constitute an extensive and thorough urban intervention proposal for the whole city.

Considering the crisis as a trigger for the re-invention of the city itself, we invite participants to use the tools of city-making in proposing radical urban scenarios for an uncompromised future. We shall aim at nothing less than a pragmatic utopia.



140 euros for registrations by 30 September
200 euros for registrations after 30 September

for further information and registration details download the master class programme

for enquiries contact

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Volos in the Extremes is an Urban Transcripts initiative under the auspices of the Department of Architecture, University of Thessaly, with the support of the Architects Association of Magnesia, the Union of Greek Architects, the Architects Association of Thessaloniki, and the Municipality of Volos – Municipal Centre for History and Documentation.

The IFHP (International Federation for Housing and Planning) celebrated recently one century of active engagement with cities and human settlement issues. Hosted by the Bartlett School of Planning, UCL, the IFHP 100 Centenary London Congress took place on 8-11 June bringing together a pluralism of international voices and perspectives. Participants coming from around the globe shared their experiences regarding urban growth. And this was one of the key elements of the Congress; discussions were based on ‘experiences’, on living examples-manifestations of urban prosperity or decay and of the shifting from the one to the other. From the challenges of urban growth, the visions and intentions – up to the policy making, the planning and the outcomes in terms of housing and social justice over time, one could trace the complexity of urban planning and the dynamics of public, private and civic sectors in the socio-economic processes of cities’ emergence.
The Congress Themes included resilient citiessmart citiesinclusive cities and cities in transition. Cases of regional planning, of masterplanning and of soft-urbanism, retrofitting and conviviality; issues of governance, infrastructure, land ownership, resource distribution and profit; climate resiliency; ‘smart’ as the new ‘green’; ‘garden cities’ versus ‘eco cities’; these were all topics discussed highlighting the ever-changing needs of urbanity and bringing to the fore the critical need for long term planning. Does the achievement of long term and adaptable solutions lie, as Charles Laundry (Comedia-Urban Futures Think Tank) suggested, in the divergence of our focus from the composition of laws, rules and regulations to the formation of frameworks, guidelines and suggestions? Food for thought…
For those more interested in the particularities of this event,

Does urban diversity dwell the same places as violent unrest?

by Yiorgos Papamanousakis

Exarchia. For Greeks, the name alone stands as a long-established semiological landmark for all things anti-establishment. This is the name of a district in central Athens, whose representations float among the ‘epicentre of socio-political struggle’, the ‘alternative scene of Athens’, and the ‘ghetto of the anarchists and the junkies’. Yet, in a more dispassionate view, it is one of the few places in the city’s centre still retaining a multi- functional and diverse character of a true urban community.

A study of the distinctive features and patterns by which space is constituted, as well as used and appropriated by its users and activities, reconfirms this later view (Papamanousakis, 2009). It is suggested that Exarchia’s socio-cultural heterogeneity and diversity coexist within and are supported by a distinctive spatial structure. In terms of spatial use, the area’s land uses are most balanced, both globally and at the scale of the individual building block, while its street life is animated through a mixture of day, night and time-flexible activities for locals and visitors alike. In terms of spatial structure, Exarchia is markedly distinguished by small block sizes, high street-grid connectivity, evenly distributed mixed use, an increased variety of building types, and an increased presence of public interface elements finely interweaved in its built environment. This spatial model of ‘small but different’ is demonstrated to actively support an animated and diverse urban realm. Critically, it is argued that its portrayal as an impermeable ‘ghetto’ is far from having any substantial credit; on the contrary it is a prime place for bringing together what is otherwise apart.

Back in London, following a rare wave of violent unrest last summer, the boroughs of Tottenham and Hackney have now one more tag added to their less than enviable reputation. A study by Space Syntax Limited (Space Syntax, 2011) has revealed the spatial character of these riots. Large post-war housing estates, near local town centres, seem to be prime places fro hosting social unrest. Interestingly, as shown in previous Space Syntax studies, these places are prominently characterised by segregation, low levels of mixed use, introverted local areas poorly integrated within the global city grid. Their spatial model stands as a counterbalance to that of Exarchia.

Despite an infamous ‘ghetto’ reputation, the spatial structure of Exarchia acts as the backstage for a diverse and heterogeneous urban community, bringing together what would otherwise be apart. Naturally, and rightly so, this includes the full spectrum of political discourse and action as well as the full manifestation of society and its culture. In the places of the London protests, the large housing estates intended to create harmonious homogenous ‘communities’, space in fact divides and segregates, amplifying social tensions, and quite possibly contributing its share into violent unrest.

It may perhaps be obvious that tension eases when and where differences have an opportunity to communicate with one another, and this may well be argued to be true of social and political as well as religious and ethnic tensions. It should also be obvious that space is a very effective tool, which can enable the communication of differences, a tool that can discourage social tensions and violence not through their suppression but through the effective support of diversity.


Papamanousakis, G. (2009), ‘Exárchia Athens, unlike the rest? The structure of diversity in urban space’, MSc AAS Thesis, The Bartlett School of Graduate Studies, UCL

Space Syntax Ltd. (2011), ‘London Riots’, [e-source, available at: < http://www.spacesyntax.com/project/2011-london-riots/ >]