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Sophocles-inspired parks pave the way for a more sustainable Athens

Atenistas’ small-scale interventions in Athens create local impact, inspire community engagement and increase social capital, showing the way to urban sustainability.

Sustainable cities are a rather ambitious idea. Challenges such as little space, few green areas and pollution seem difficult to deal with. Even more so for a city like Athens, Greece’s capital, in a state of economic crisis. However, challenges aren’t insurmountable: even small-scale interventions such as pocket parks can create significant local impact, inspiring a sense of community and, eventually, the development of social capital by showing that change is possible.

Atenistas: citizens take charge of sustainable change

Atenistas is an open community of citizens who love Athens. Its philosophy is guided by the intuition that through innovative ideas and active participation in cultural, social and green small-scale interventions the city can improve, becoming a better place to live. The organisation was founded by Tasos Chalkiopoulos and a group of friends in 2010, all of whom believe that Athens is not a finished story but a vast field with potential for inventive and effective actions that can help people make the most of it. Being a citizen means being active seven days a week, every day of the year.

 

atenistas pocket park
A pocket park after the intervention © Atenistas

Sophocles-inspired pocket parks

Atenistas has transformed two pocket parks in the neighbourhood of Kolonos. The idea behind one of them was inspired by Sophocles, the dramatic poet born in the area in 496 BC. The park is designed to look like an ancient theatre, the plants and trees used are Mediterranean and the main wall is dedicated to the great ancient writer: a mural was painted to remind visitors of his presence there. In the second park the volunteers asked residents to recall the one and only value that can heal everything, even in difficult times: love. A small installation was created with driving cones spelling “love” in Greek to complete the famous saying by Sophocles, “one word frees us of all the weight and pain in life. That word is love”.

 

These two parks have had great success because since the intervention the whole neighborhood has been engaged in and embraced the change. All its citizens have been committed to maintaining the parks, watering the vegetation and planting more of it. This has created a sense of community and collectiveness.

 

atenistas resident
A resident watering plants after the transformation of the area into a pocket park © Atenistas

 

Community level interventions by both individuals and groups are especially important in big cities because they can create a multiplier effect, inspiring creativity and a feeling of connectedness in whole neighbourhoods. Urban sustainability is possible when innovation and creativity are combined with love to provide a better place to live in. And small-scale is a good place to start.

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