Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Aspra Spitia

Aspra Spitia is a small settlement planned by Doxiadis Associates for the company "Aluminion de Grece" to house industrial workers and personnel employed at itsnearby aluminum plant.

Aspra Spitia (modern Greek for "White Houses"), situatedon the coast of the Corinthian Gulf about one hour's drive from Delphi, was designed for a projected population of 5,000. The program proposed the construction of a totalof 1,100 dwellings, including one and two-storey houses,bachelor apartments, stores and shops, a customs house, a school and recreational and other facilities.

Doxiadis Associates carried out not only the pure planning work (general plan and layout plans for residentialcommunities and central areas), but also the study of the house types and buildings, the design of the infrastructure (water and electricity supply, sewer andstorm water networks), the compilation of the tender-documents and the supervision of the implementation. The project was assigned in 1961. The last house of theinitial program was completed in 1965.

When they started the planning of Aspra Spitia, DA'splanners were faced with the question of what type of settlement they should create on that coast of the Corinthian Gulf that would best serve the needs of itsindustrial population and still harmonize with theenvironment and its history; that would do no violence tothe marvellous site that had been selected, with its delicate lines formed by the surrounding hills and theolive trees; and that would constitute the proper settingfor the life of the workers who would be recruited mostly from the rural population of the surrounding area

It did not take them long to reject the idea of a typical industrial settlement with uniform apartment buildings where the people would feel like expatriates and refugees,and where living would be but a continuation of workingin the mechanized environment of the new factory. Onthe contrary, they decided that they should create a"Greek town" in which people could easily identify all thecultural traditions they were brought up with and couldpreserve them as a most valuable inheritance.

This was an easy thing to say. It was more difficult to decide how it could be achieved without reverting to superficial imitation, picturesque trivialities oranachronistic sentimentalities. How could visual richness and individuality of expression be effected without resulting in structural confusion and aesthetic chaos?

The conclusion drawn by DA's planners was that they needed a simple, clear and strong plan incorporating these desirable qualities and with its "invisible geometry" holding the varied parts together. That they needed asimple, strong and "primitive" architecture composed of natural, local materials, which the people could add to with flower pots and pergolas, rather than a modern architecture in which the visual equilibrium can be upset by the addition of a dot.

These thoughts are reflected in the general plan of the town: on the L-shaped site (the short leg of which isbordered by the sea, while the long one is flanked by two hills) four neighborhoods were created, each surroundedby a peripheral road and penetrated by culs-de-sac inselected locations only. At the junction of the two legs ofthe L, the shopping, business and civic center was set up,with the administrative center just below it. A zone along the water front was reserved for recreational and tourist facilities.

Then, each neighbourhood and the center were studied ingreat detail with particular attention to the feeling ofspace one would have in walking through its pedestrianways, small squares, streets and piazzas. The aim of DA'splanners was to create a sequence of spaces in whichscale, form and character would follow the sequence ofimportance of "events" in the life of the town. Each littlestreet and square were studied separately, using sketchesand three-dimensional models as well as the facades ofthe buildings that would constitute the main closure of space.

A comparison of the completed structures with aphotograph of the model and a sketch of a proposed rowof houses shows that the desired result was achieved to aremarkable degree. [ .pdf ]

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