Purros Square Ioannina, Greece

Architects for Urbanity propose a radical – yet contextual – redesign of Ioannina’s central square, one that restores its historic identity and opens up a new future perspective for its integration into the public life of the city.

Team: Marina Kounavi, Irgen Salianji, Karolina Szóstkiewicz, Harris Vamvakas, Tatiana Zoumpoulaki
Status: Competition project
Location: Ioannina, Greece
Program: Public space

The proposal for the new Purros Square in Ioannina suggests an open and accessible public space that creates a new identity and captures the imaginary of the city. Acting as an ‘urban balcony’ overlooking the lake of Ioannina, the new square presents a unified and flexible space for both everyday leisure time and large events to take place. The open space of the square is subdivided in three main programmatic clusters:

-           The Circle, a sunken and central circular space that involves the element of water, symbolizing the lake and its effects to the culture of the city. The Circle becomes a water mirror in spring, a foggy fountain in the summer, a hangout space in autumn and a frozen skating surface in winter. It includes 9 large water jets, 72 smaller water diffuser and more than 140 randomly placed spotlights that simulate the stars in the sky


-           The Urban Garden, a rectangular cluster of tall trees arrayed on a grid with rotating chairs and wooden benches in between them. This area offers shade and a playful green environment for small groups to hung out, while it retains visual and physical connection to the Circle


-           The Stripes Square in front of Café Oasis, an open space of monolithic benched positioned playfully along an array of travertine stripes, it functions and a generic relax space for users to sit individually or in groups under the sun.


The overall design refers back to the historic roots of the square, highlighting the qualities of unity, continuity and monumentality, while it corrects the recent design mistakes it received a decade ago when the underground parking was constructed. The project can offer Ioannina a modest landmark and a point of reference that blends elements from its culture, landscape and urbanity.

Moscow Standard Housing

Status: Competition Project
Location: Moscow, Russia
Client: Strelka KB
Team: Architects for Urbanity (Irgen Salianji, Marina Kounavi, Harris Vamvakas) in collaboration with Drom

Borovets Golden Triangle

Team: Irgen Salianji, Marina Kounavi, Karolina Szóstkiewicz, Tatiana Zoumpoulaki, Harris Vamvakas
Location: Borovets, Bulgaria
Total Area: 6700 m2
Budget: 30 mln Euro
Parking Spots: 200

Borovets is the oldest Bulgarian mountain resort and the one with the brightest potentials for future development. However, the Golden Triangle - the center of the village and its most precious property – suffers from the informal developments that have been scattered in the forest since the early 1990s and lacks a unified and characteristic identity. We propose a new clear zoning of development on the north-eastern edge of the Triangle that will define and frame the forest, while a set of activities and outdoors uses will make it attractive to the residents and visitors.

Боровец е най-старият български планински курорт и този с най-голям потенциал за бъдещо развитиеВъпреки това, Златният триъгълник – центърът на селото и негова най-ценна собственост – страда от неофициалното застрояване, разхвърляно в гората през ранната част на 90-те години на двадесети век и му липсва единна и характерна идентичностНие предлагаме нов, ясен план за регулация и застрояване на североизточния край на Триъгълника, който ще дефинира и рамкира гората, докато набор от дейности и приложения на открито ще го направят привлекателен за жителите и посетителите

The project suggests a new semi-urban center and a meeting point for Borovets, one that combines traditional elements of Bulgarian villages and universal design qualities of contemporary architecture. Most of the proposed buildings are condensed on the paved urban stripe that is located along the northern side of the plot, replacing the existing informal structures and minimizing further elimination of existing trees. To create a more public and sharp urban front towards the street, the majority of the largest buildings containing commercial uses are positioned close to the street. In contrast to the urban front, clusters of eateries, cultural and public uses are located towards the forest, opening up their outdoors activities to the wild nature and profiting from its unique atmosphere.

Inside the urban stripe and enhanced by the rotation of the buildings, a network of small paved streets and plazas unfolds, offering visitors opportunities to wander, meet and organize encounters or events in the heart of the community. Therefore, the proposed village scheme contains urban qualities, while it smoothly merges with the forest through the organic network of secondary intersecting paths that connect the scattered pavilions with the activities. As a result, a new identity of Borovets emerges, one of a modern - yet picturesque – mountainous resort that can offer to visitor both unique experiences and a functional and iconic physical space to inhabit and enjoy. Most importantly, however, the scheme proves that the village and the forest can coexist and blend smoothly within the Golden Triangle – yet the limits between nature and urbanization are set clearly, as for the future generations to inherit a well-structured development plan. 

Проектът предлага нов полу-градски център и място за срещи за Боровец, такъв, който комбинира традиционните елементи на български села и универсални качества на дизайна на съвременната архитектура. Повечето от предложените сгради са концентрирани на павираната градска ивица, която е разположена в северната част на парцела, като заменят съществуващите неофициални конструкции и се намалява до минимум допълнителното премахване на съществуващите дървета. За да се създаде по открит и ясен градски фронт към улицата, мнозинството от най-големите сгради с търговска цел са разположение близо до улицата. За разлика от градски фронт, групи от заведения за хранене, културни и обществени места са разположение към гората, като разтварят своите дейности на открито към дивата природа и се възползват от нейната уникална атмосфера.

Вътре в градската ивица, подсилена от редуването на сгради, се разгръща мрежа от малки павирани улици и площади, които предлагат на посетителите възможност да се разходят, да се събират и да организират срещи и събития в сърцето на общността. Следователно, предложената схема за селото съдържа градски качества, докато гладко се слива с гората през естествена мрежа от второстепенни пресичащи се пътеки, които свързват разпръснатите павилиони и дейности. В резултат на това се появява нова идентичност на Боровец, на модерен и все пак живописен, планински курорт, който може да предложи на посетителите уникални преживявания и функционално и емблематично пространство за престой и развлечение. Най-важното, обаче, е че схемата доказва, че селото и гората могат да съществуват съвместно и гладко се сливат в Златния триъгълник и въпреки това, границите между природата и урбанизираната зона са ясно поставени, за да могат бъдещите поколения да възприемат добре структуриран план

  Having one of the largest surviving forest area in the region, the proposal includes the preservation of most of the existing trees inside the Golden Triangle. The largest portion, of the trees removed, are those that where in bad condition, placing the proposed volumes in a way not to damage the existing vegetation. The enrichment of the existing landscape is calculated to complete and define the main forest area as a viable, user- friendly park environment. The landscape is arranged, respectful of the present vegetation, with pathways unfolding around the trees connecting major points in and outside the Triangle. The proposed outdoor's activities include sports, cultural & social facilities, framing a mixed-use content around the forest and aspiring to a diverse operation of the park, both as a recreational territory and as a meeting point where visitors can interact with and appreciate the natural landscape. 

С един от най-големите живи горски масиви в областта, предложението включва запазването на повечето от съществуващите дървета вътре в Златния Триъгълник. Най-голямата част от премахнатите дървета са онези в лошо състояние, като сме поставили предложените обеми по начин, който не уврежда съществуващата растителност. Обогатяването на съществуващия пейзаж е изчислено да запълва и определя главния горски масив, като осъществима паркова среда, удобна за хората.Пейзажът е аранжиран, като е взета предвид настоящата растителност, с пътеки, които се разгръщат около дърветата и свързват основни точки вътре и вън от Триъгълника. Предложените дейности на открито включват спортни, културни и социални съоръжения, като обграждат занимания със смесено предназначение около гората и вдъхновяват разнообразното функциониране на парка, както като територия за развлечения, така и като място за срещи, където посетителите могат докоснат и да се насладят на естествения пейзаж. 

In an effort to preserve the human scale, the proposed volumes remain at maximum four (4) levels of height. The height difference between the edges of the Triangle is here used as a design principle,  maintaining an almost straight skyline of the roofs in the road connecting Hotel Rila with the initial Cabin Ropeway. Reaching the forest area, the height of the volumes diminishes, so that the users can walk the designed pathways and discover buildings of different qualities and uses.  The only structure that stands out is the proposed observatory tower, reaching the height of 24m. The wooden tower is designed following traditional construction methods of the broader region, as for example the Madan of Samokov. Ascending to the top level, the user has the chance to contemplate on the surrounding environment of Borovets and observe the natural landscape of the region.

В опит да се запази човешкия мащаб,предложените обеми остават в максимум от четири (4) нива на височина. Разликата във височината между краищата на Триъгълника тук е използвана, като принцип на дизайн, като се запазва почти права линия на хоризонта от покривите на пътя, свързващ хотел Рила и началната станция наКабинковатавъжена линия.С достигането на горския масив, височината на обемите намалява, така че потребителите могат да вървят по проектираните пътеки и да разкриват сгради с различни качества и предназначения.Единствената конструкция, която се откроява е предложената наблюдателна кула, достигаща височина от 24 м. Дървената кула е проектирана, като са следвани традиционните методи за конструиране в региона, като Мадан и Самоков, например. При изкачването на най-високото ниво, посетителят има възможността да съзерцава заобикалящата среда на Боровец и да се наслади на естествения пейзаж на региона.

 The proposal suggests the reinforcement of the northern urban front connecting hotel Rila with the initial Cabin Ropeway. Setting a strong circulation-and-use zone in that area, allows for a more natural and undisturbed development of the forest area in its existing position. The total footprint on the given plot remains at  around 17%, to ensure an aesthetically pleasing relation between the forest and the Build-up area. With the exception of the Multifunctional Hall, the proposed 24 volumes maintain a small footprint, allowing for secondary paths between them to unravel, creating a “village within a village”, in an effort to boost the central identity of the Golden Triangle.  The final height of the volumes is composed so that the relation between size and height is as close to the human scale as possible, in correlation with each program.  Internally, most of the uses gather at the ground level, allowing the creation of open spaces and inner balconies that have visual connection with each other. Taking into consideration the all-year-round operation of the resort, the possibility of an outdoor expansion of each building is considered, with a range of semi-public open spaces attributed to each volume. 

Офертата предлага подсилването на северния градскифронт, свързващ хотел Рила с началната станция наКабинковатавъжена линия. Установяването на силна зона на циркулация и употреба в района, позволява по-естествено и ненарушено развитие на горския масив в неговата съществуваща позиция.Общият отпечатък нададения парцел е от около 17%, за да се осигури естетически привлекателна връзка между гората и застроената зона. С изключение на Мултифункционалната зала, предложените 24 обема поддържат малък отпечатък, като позволяват между тях да се разгръщат вторични пътеки, като създадат „село в село“, в опит да се подсили централната идентичност на Златния триъгълник.

 In terms of program and activities, a diverse type of uses is proposed to emphasize the maintenance of the previous uses, but also proposing new needed functions for the wider region. Most of the proposed buildings can accommodate different types of commercial and eating establishments with small spatial adjustments in the inside of the volumes. The northern urban front gathers the commercial and more public-use buildings while highlighting the identity of Borovets and its qualities. The eating facilities and administration buildings are appearing in the background towards the forest, almost hidden from the main street, recreating a secondary circulation road of a more natural flow. Following this pathway between the volumes, public spaces are designed, of different size and use, with the main plaza placed at a crossroad, surrounded by the Multifunctional Hall, Info center and few commercial use buildings, in order to recreate a central gathering point for the visitors and locals.

    At any given position within the scheme there is visual connection to  the park with different paths leading to and from the forest. The forest passages connect both the edges of the given area and different facilities, which blend with the scenery in an effort for internal rejuvenation of the Golden Triangle.

Окончателната височина на обемите е съставена така, че връзката между размера и височината е възможно най-близка до човешкия мащаб,в корелация с всяка една програма. Вътрешно, повечето от употребите се събират на нивото на земята, като позволяват създаването на открити пространства и вътрешни балкони, които имат визуална връзка един с друг.Като се вземе предвид целогодишната работа на курорта, възможността за разширяване на всяка сграда на открито се обмисля, с гама полу-обществени открити пространства, които се отнасят към всеки обем. 

 The initial phase of the construction includes the volumes framing the urban front, emphasizing on the re-installment of previous uses, for the easiest-possible transition to the new proposed plan. Working from the edge of the plot towards the centre while keeping the front to the West open, allows for a smoother forestation process. The enrichment of the cultural and public life of Borovets, is of outmost importance for this project’s proposal. The establishment of open-spaces is followed by a number of Cultural-mixed used buildings, aiming to inform, educate and entertain both visitors and locals.

По отношение на програма и дейности, се предлагат разнообразни типове приложения, за да се подсили поддръжката на предходни приложения, но също се предлагат нови, необходими функции, за по-широкия регион.Повечето от предложените сгради могат да помещават различни типове търговски и хранителни заведения с малко пространствено приспособяване вътре в обемите. Северният градски фронт събира търговските сгради и сградите за по-обществено ползване, като паралелно с тях подчертава идентичността на Боровец и неговите качества. Заведенията за хранене и административните сгради се явяват на заден фон към гората, почти скрити от главната улица, пресъздаващи второстепенен заобиколен път за по-естествен поток. Като се следва тази пътека между обемите са проектирани обществени пространства с различни размери и приложение, с основния площад, поставен на кръстопът, заобиколен от Мултифункционалната зала, информационния център и няколко сгради с търговска цел, за да се пресъздаде централна събирателна точка за посетителите и местните.

От всяка една точка в рамките на схемата има визуална връзка с парка и различни пътеки, които водят от и до гората. Горски проходи свързват, както краищата на дадена зона, така и различни съоръжения, които се сливат с природата в опит за вътрешно подмладяване на Златния триъгълник.

 Recognizing that a practical parking solution is of major importance to the smooth operation of the resort, an underground parking is proposed with capacity to fit 180 vehicles, with exits at both edges of the plan. To facilitate the operation of the surrounding facilities, a small number (23) of outdoor parking spaces is proposed for short-term daily use on the West & South-East end of the Triangle.  

OSSA '17 - The Great Beauty

Tutors: Architects for Urbanity (Karolina Szóstkiewicz, Irgen Salianji)

Participants: Gabriela Bratkowska, Karolina Krzyżanowska, Marcin Osak, Natalia Pośnik, Martyna Słowińska, Alicja Szyszkowska, Aleksandra Wróbel,

Attendant: Michał Czeszejko

AfU tutored one of the student teams of OSSA workshop in Poland last October. Under the topic of the Great Beauty, the students researched the notions of beauty and ugliness in art, fashion, architecture and politics and came up with a series of counter statements, research material, models and a final performance that provoke and extend our understanding of the Great Beauty in the contemporary society!

From the students:
Our work started with a search of the definition of beauty itself. It turned out that understanding it as an opposition of ugly is the most straightforward way. Yet swiftly we moved towards examples which connect those two contrary aspects. It is the juxtaposition, contrast and controversy in which we find the greatest value of beauty – its idea. We started to consider its materiality – can we express it, share it with others? Our fundamental belief was that human being is a generator of beauty. 

The beauty is perceived with emotions, and emotions are induced by adequate stimuli. What then stimulates us to perceive beauty? We pinpointed seven notions – timelessness, unknown, absolute, harmony, uniqueness, idea, ambiguity and co-existence – which we respectively elaborated on paper, in space and time. 

Our statements were summarized with live art in which human body is an ultimate tool to explore beauty.

Hybrid City / Sluisbuurt Amsterdam - Europan 3rd place

Project team: Irgen Salianji, Karolina Szóstkiewicz, Marina Kounavi, Charis Siaravas
Assistance: Marco De Vincentiis, Maria Akrivou, Antonis Athanasiou
Location: Sluisbuurt, Amsterdam

The discussion and criticism about the contemporary city’s continuous sprawl has increased over the last decades, alongside the inherited alienation and rigid functional zoning that the modern urban planning has imposed. Such urban planning failures in the Netherlands are numerous, including Almere and other housing areas that have been transformed into “ghost cities” due to the lack of mixed functions.  We strongly believe that this is a result of the following two facts: firstly, the mono-functional character of an area and secondly, its aging population. In the case of Amsterdam, urban expansion is also limited by its historical substance and rigid form, making the creation of new land on the Ij river the only option for densification and architectural experimentation. 

The development of Sluisbuurt will create an innovative, iconic and productive mix-use district in Amsterdam. The current master plan of the area proposes a dense scheme that combines high-rise buildings with neighbourhood feeling public spaces, however it lacks design elaboration and spatial integrity. Our proposal embraces the given scheme but expands it further towards a more productive, coherent and mix-use direction. 

The proposal introduces the notion of continuity and a sense of integrity in the given scheme, by linking the project site with the adjacent public spaces on the West. Understanding the site as a sequence of diverse urban episodes, the project introduces new alignments for the buildings and creates a series of interlinked public spaces in the heart of the two blocks.

Diversity and vertical connections are crucial factors for the development of a new city quarter. The integration of workspaces, leisure and housing in the high-rise buildings could lead to a mix-use neighbourhood with diversity of users and vibrant activities. We propose a hyper intense vertical accumulation of different functions and episodes that unfold their production in the green roofs and the public spaces in the centre of the blocks.

We define 5 different typologies of housing: the student, the expat, the single, the couple and the family unit that could lead to a mixed housing model. The different user’s needs are expressed spatially by the size of the unit and the sharing of functions like the kitchen or the living room.

Workspaces and housing were never as interconnected as they are today, considering the changes that digitalisation and the open-market economy have introduced in our lifestyle. The old model of the alienating office space does not work anymore and it needs to melt into and blend with housing - empty office spaces in the Netherlands should not be simply transformed into housing, but housing and workspace should work as one. 

The productive city is all about cooperation, start-ups, sharing knowledge and immaterial production. We propose vertical programmatic hybrids within the same building, so that housing and working can overlap and the sense of community can become omnipresent. We propose a Hybrid City!