The decommissioning of the original Athens International Airport presented a generational opportunity to transform obsolete infrastructure into a resilient and performative landscape. The park concept was driven by the idea of inverting the existing site conditions of mostly hardscape to mostly restored ecosystems, and adding the amenities of a grand municipal park currently absent in Athens.
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Athens can be a hot, high-density, city, with little shade. The park will create an climate and biodiversity oasis, serving as a climate refuge where all are welcome, providing spaces for solace and civic celebration. Connected with tram, bike, and pedestrian pathways, sporting amenities, and a 1-km long public beach, this park will be critical for the city’s future wellness and heat resilience.
This park began the planning and analysis phase from a carbon perspective, including extensive research into local ecosystems' carbon sequestration ability, carbon carrying capacity, and LCAs for local materials and manufacturing capacity. The park is designed to be nex zero operational carbon and embodied carbon neutral in 35 years due to the project sequestration of restored ecosystems.
The Ellinikon Park is heroic in scale and ambition, which translates into a responsibility to reinforce the Greek relationship with landscape and reignite this ethos in a 21st-century context—centering ecological restoration, climate responsiveness, carbon-positive design, and equitable access for all Athenians. Beyond re-establishing an emotional connection to the native Greek landscape, the park will rekindle the city’s relationship with one of its most revered mid-century architectural marvels. As one of only three airports in the world designed by Eero Saarinen, the adaptively-reused terminal building is the centerpiece of a grand event space that terraces towards the Mediterranean Sea, emphasizing its dignity and importance as the singular most important building that connected Greece to the modern world and maximized on design quality for carbon investment through strategic adaptive reuse. Through all aspects of the design from urban forestry, salt marsh restoration, destination fountains, material reuse, green infrastructure, food and energy production, and the creation of outdoor event venues, the park offers a lesson for how design decisions can consistently work to reduce carbon and still serve and support a resilient urban population. Most importantly, it is a highly visible civic platform that embodies a commitment by the Greek people to provide a progressive model for a public landscape that symbiotically benefits people and the planet.
George Seferis once noted that the only common definition of a Greek was a common affinity for language and landscape. Historically, Athenians worked in the city and returned to family farms on weekends and holidays, this is changing, with a growing majority of Athenians having no ancestral village to return to. A foundational goal for the park was to reinstate that relationship, enhance access and appreciation of natural processes, landscape-based narratives, and urban agriculture.
At Sasaki, we believe defining the future of place must be a collective, contextual, and values-driven exercise. We all have a stake in this work.
For seventy years, Sasaki has brought together the best of architecture, interior design, planning and urban design, space planning, landscape architecture, and civil engineering to shape the places in which we live. Out of our Boston, Denver, and Shanghai offices we are defining the contours of place and redefining what’s possible along the way. Today, we are a diverse practice of over 300 professionals who share a singular passion for creating authentic, equitable, and inspiring places.