Pax Piraeia – Den Piræiske Fred

Tilbage sidst i 2009 blev der udskrevet en åben arkitektkonkurrence om renovering/ modernisering/ færdiggørelse af det 24-etageshøjhus, der står og rager op som en mægtig sort klods i midten af Athens havneby Piræus. Højhuset er fra 1974, men foreløbig har det kun været de to brede etager med indkøbscenterarealer i stue og 1. sal, der har været færdiggjorte og benyttede.

Personligt er jeg ingen tilhænger af højhuse. I mine øjne er er de kun berettigede i hovedstæder i forholdsvis store nationer, hvor der er et behov for eller en drift imod en meget stor koncentration af virksomheder og offentlige institutioner. Er der ikke et udtalt behov for denne helt ekstraordinære bymæssige fortætning, så er der så mange andre byarkitektoniske layouts, der frembyder markant større kvaliteter end højhuse. Og hvor højhuse i mine øjne bliver direkte frastødende er, når man tillader opførelsen af et enkelt højhus i et ellers sammenhængende kvarter med ensartede lavere bebyggelser. Sådanne højhuse fortæller i mine øjne en historie om en uciviliseret vilje til at føre sig frem og dominere over andre.

Jeg følte mig således ikke tiltrukket af arkitektkonkurrencen om Pireaus Tower, fordi jeg så en mulighed for at lave min egen overlegne højhus-statement, men tværtimod, at arkitektkonkurrencen slog mig en enestående mulighed for at kommentere på..

1. Vores feterede individualisme, herunder vores trang til at føre os frem og ihærdigt forfølge sager som tjener os selv, samtidig med at vi lader hånt om vores store kollektive udfordringer.

2. Vores trang til at prøve at opnå en dominerende position, ikke mindst igennem hierarkiske magtstrukturer og magtudøvelse ved top-down-dekreter. Den formaliserede arrogance. Og med den det formaliserede medløberi, som den ikke-bevidstgjorte skyggeside, som går hele vejen op.

3. En alternativ vision for lederskab, som ikke er hierarkisk og dominerende men tværtimod er integreret og støttende, og som er baseret på en veludviklet integritet hos alle parthavere.

Som sagt blev konkurrence udskrevet sidst i 2009 og løb over første kvartal af 2010, og således var konkurrencen sammenfaldende med den vågnende bevidsthed om den europæiske gældskrises dybe sorte afgrund, som Grækenland jo mere eller mindre berettiget blev centrum for. Men allerede dengang stod det klart, at selvom grækerne givetvis havde levet over evne (ligesom alle andre), så blev Grækenland gjort til prygelknabe for nogle mægtige strukturelle ubalancer, som i realiteten havde deres årsager i en international finanssektor fanget i ovennævnte løbske egoisme samt de mere og mere centraliserede og obskure og korrupte hierarkiske magtstrukturer.

Titlen på min konkurrencebesvarelse Pax Piraeia, Den Piræiske Fred, handlede på den ene side om erkendelsen af det gradvise sammenbrud af det seneste halve århundredes Pax Americana, anskueliggjort ved USA & partneres illegale krige i Mellemøsten (og alle de andre former for illegal indblanding i andre landes interne forhold) samt sammenbruddet af det angloamerikanske finansielle overherredømme med finanskrisen i 2008. Alt sammen momenter i et sammenbrud af de herskende dominerende magtstrukturer, og den gamle sorte monolitiske Piraeus Tower og dette højhus relation til det omgivende samfund kunne nemt tages som symbol for de herskende dominerende magtstrukturer.

Det var det ene aspekt af ’Pax Piraeia’, og det andet var så om en vision om en stor reformdemokratisk revolution, hvor en ny sammenhæng mellem den enkelte borger og det samfundsmæssige lederskab etableres. En ny samfundskontrakt gennem dels at realisere internettets enestående mulighed for at udvide og formalisere den offentlige debat dels at udbygge og formalisere de mandater borgerne giver deres politiske repræsentanter. Og denne store demokratiske fornyelse så jeg for mig ville føre til en fornyet gyldighed af ’The Democracy Peace Theory’, eller med andre ord, jo mere åbent og kommunikerende og grundfæstet et demokratisk system er, jo mere fredelig vil den kollektive adfærd summere op til at være.

Manifestet, som jeg ledsagede min konkurrencebesvarelse med, følger nedenfor, og det var velsagtens kontroversielt eller på anden vis træls. Der var i hvert fald var der ingen anerkendelse af mit forslag, og det kan der have været mangfoldige grunde til. Jeg synes selv, at den grafiske assistance jeg fik var skuffende. Omvendt er det typisk en stor udfordring for grafikere at skulle indarbejde større mængder af tekst. Det giver præsentationen en tyngde og en træghed overfor en ren og mere eller mindre selvforklarende visuel kommunikation. Så måske gav grafikeren lidt op overfor opgaven, da han så de mængder tekst jeg kom med. Heroverfor havde jeg et meget fint samarbejde med grafikeren på mit konkurrenceforslag til udvidelsen af Stockholms Stadsbibliotek, hvor jeg kom med en tekst på 12.000 karakterer, og hun sendte den tilbage med beskeden, at jeg kunne maks få det halve. Og jeg måtte stramme teksten meget op, hvilket den faktisk blev bedre af.

Men apropos det med det kontroversielle, så var der også det forhold, at konkurrencen var foranlediget og finansieret af den multinationale kemiske koncern DuPont. Og store erhvervskoncerner er jo notorisk dårlige til at håndtere kontroversielt stof. Af temperament er de nærmest neurotiske, og jeg kan nemt have forskrækket dem med det skrev, og således bare ved det have diskvalificeret mit forslag. De tre præmierede forslag var omvendt påfaldende ved deres højest postulerede nærmest uvirkelige karakter. Men det kan erhvervskoncerner godt håndtere. At kunsten ligesom flagrer helt ud og miste enhver kontakt til virkeligheden. Det anses ikke for et problem, og man fornemmer en vis overbærenhed overfor de fantasifulde og ustyrlige kreative begavelser.

Der var førstepræmien hvor højhusets facader var bestykkede med hundredevis af vindfølsomme stænger vinkelret ud fra facaden, som indenfor var fastgjort til en spole, og påstanden var så, at denne anordning kunne generere energi, et system uden nogen konkrete referencer hverken dengang eller siden. Eller andenpræmien, hvor højhuset blev omdannet til et permanent vandfald ned ad alle fire facader, og ikke i form af en rislende væg men simpelthen et regulært vandfald. Og ikke et ord om energiforbruget ved at skulle flytte de enorme mængder vand eller et ord om hvordan tætheden af facaderne skulle sikres ved sådanne ekstreme vandpåvirkninger. Og tredjepræmien, hvor facaderne var indhyllet i en konstruktion med paraplyer monterede vinkelret ud fra facaden, som så kunne foldes ud, når der er behov for solafskærmning. Måske ikke komplet urealistisk men ikke desto mindre med så store driftsmæssige udfordringer, at projektet fremstod hen ved lige så teoretisk som de foregående to. Men flotte og spektakulære projekter, som givetvis har vakt almindelig begejstring ved cocktailpartyet i forlængelse af offentliggørelsen.

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MANIFESTO

Dreams of dominance

Let’s face it. The erection of solitary high-rise buildings is rarely what common people wish for. A clique of sovereign business leaders and politicians share a dream of dominance, and manage to overcome whatever resistance there is from the public, thus succeeding in building these astounding structures. Once the solitary high-rise building is erected, the dream of dominance then becomes an explicit symbol within that community, an inarguable statement about the organization of society, no matter how misplaced those dreams were in the first place. Common people are then left with two choices, either to identify with the dreams of dominance or to resign to the realization that their society is governed by interests and proceedings that they find hard to relate to.

In the past there have been numerous examples of city structures which have had a single, dominating erection at its center. Examples of this could be the step pyramids of the Maya culture, the stupas of  Buddhist communities in eastern Asia or the gothic cathedrals of Europe. Great religious structures, and as such, central symbols for the members of those communities. There are also astounding structures erected as seats of power, like for example The Forbidden City in Beijing or the Capitol in Washington, the former being the seat of a sacred sovereign and the latter a symbol of a shared creed in the foundation of that community.

In spite of their architectonic dominance, the solitary high-rise buildings typically convey no commitment towards the surrounding society. Just the dreams of dominance of some arbitrary clique. And the real might of the initiators is illustrated by the fact that they depend heavily on being able to rent out the majority of the spaces of the structure. The imposing size is actually just the common face of a compilation of a large number of different businesses. For these businesses, a share in the dream of dominance is obviously considered more important than the need to give their business a face of its own.

This is how we are left with these dominating architectonic manifestations which hold such meager meaning for the surrounding society. The hollow monuments of the 20th century. The absence of societal leadership made manifest. In the case of the Piraeus Tower, for different reasons even the commercial plans failed, and the unfinished and uninhabited structure became a common embarrassment and the dreams of dominance turned into a symbol of impotence.

Transforming a source of disgrace into a source of pride

As the cradle of democracy, the city of Athens stands out for all humankind and through all time as a place of unique importance. And through the port of Piraeus, the extraordinary culture of Athens has spread to the rest of the western quadrisphere and ultimately to the whole world.

At this crucial point in history, the people of Greece, and along with them the people of the rest of the EU, has a singular opportunity to take renewed pride in their democratic heritage, wake to their responsibilities as citizens and demand of their politicians the implementation of sustainable policies on a global scale.

No single people have to put up with all the suffering caused by clashes between different cliques and their respective dreams of dominance. Democracy can be propagated, both internally and externally, to the extent that even nations and multinational corporations learn to behave according to civilized principles.

This unreserved humanistic and global outlook constitutes the kind of vision that would suit the Piraeus Tower. As a solitary high-rise building, one of its major qualities lies in the majestic, panoramic views from the upper stories. The allegory of a global outlook is right at hand, and by securing public access to the top of the building, this outlook becomes a shared experience within the society. Given its the extraordinary dominance in the cityscape – the Tower is a focal point of the whole Piraeus region – but like a prism, this attention is now passed on and distributed far and wide.

Rendering the Tower to the city

In Le Corbusiers groundbreaking “Vers une architecture” (1923) the problems of density, pollution and noise of the late 19th-century cities were addressed. The solution presented was to gather the city in large, high-rise buildings in park-like settings, connected with a proper infrastructure for motorized traffic. Through the 20th century these recommendations were accepted on a broad scale.

In hindsight, it’s obvious that these solutions were not real solutions, but merely the treatment of symptoms allowing the problems to deepen gravely but unnoticed. The abolishment of traditional city layouts with streets and squares, along with the unreserved implementation of motorized traffic has had devastating consequences for the social life of our cities and communities. Though much work has been done in the last two or three decades to restore the traditional city environment, an architectonic element like the Piraeus Tower stands in defiance of any such measures. It is the exaggerated size and scale of the element, it is the constant attraction of attention, and on receiving the attention, the actual blandness of the large, uniform facades.

In order to incorporate the Tower into the life of the city and to transform it into an architectonic element dedicated to democracy, the Piraeus Tower is stripped of its bland, uniform facades, and is given a façade reflecting the multiplicity of its inhabitants on the one hand and on the other, a façade that enters into a dialogue with the surrounding city.







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6 tanker om “Pax Piraeia – Den Piræiske Fred

  1. Jeg husker ikke, hvilken vægt spørgsmålet om energibevidsthed og bæredygtighed havde i konkurrenceprogrammet, i hvert fald stræbte jeg efter med mit forslag at nå en state-of-the-arts-grad af bæredygtighed, særligt med udgangspunkt i cradle-to-cradle-principperne. Og produkter fra DuPont blev behørigt indarbejdede, som der mere eller mindre udtrykkeligt blev opfordret til i konkurrenceprogrammet..

    MAIN CONCEPT AND MATERIALS

    1. An architecture celebrating multiplicity and democracy
    • Given the dominance of the Piraeus Tower on the surrounding city, for all intents and purposes the architecture has to sustain values which are com-monly shared. A question of legitimacy. (For elaboration on this point see ad-joined manifesto).

    2. A contemporary solution for the building industry
    • The Piraeus Tower competition as the prototype of a whole new type of product and service: The leasing of facades.
    • DuPont is envisioned to form a joint venture with a couple of other major manufacturers for the development, production and maintenance of the leased façade.
    • As the lifecycle of the leased facades forms a closed circuit and materials are chosen carefully, the elements of the façade are apt to become certified cradle-to-cradle products.

    3. Natural ventilation, night cooling
    • HVAC embedded in façade-elements
    • Major energy savings by fitting the distributed fancoils with compact cross-flow thermal exchangers
    • Air-intakes in each façade-element are designed to provide 0,3 m2 of free opening for night cooling
    • No suspended ceilings, thus harnessing the thermal mass of the concrete structure
    • Using the stack effect inherent in the existing shafts as “motor” for natural ventilation: At day to get rid of heat trapped in the double glass facades of stories 2-3 and 19-21, and at night for the cooling of the office spaces.
    • Wind towers at the top of the existing shafts will further support the natu-ral ventilation

    4. Façade-elements
    • The magic of glass is restored through the use of clear glass in limited areas instead of the endless use of coated glass
    • The depth of the façade-elements (~560 mm) as an integral part of the sun shading strategy
    • Apart from stories 2-3 and 19-21 with structural glazing (SentryGlas) the fa-cades are composed of 4 different façade-elements: one element with thin, translucent slices of white marble and three elements of white Corian

    5. Public areas, full transparency with double glass facades
    • Contemporary shopping atmosphere of openness and plenty of daylight
    • With daylight streaming through the ground floor even the passageway through the building becomes an attractive shopping area
    • Architecturally allowing the tower to have a firm base on the ground
    • The space between the tower base and the glass façade in ground floor plan provides department store display areas

    6. Internal organization
    • With this reskinning project the existing plans for the building can be im-plemented without modifications
    • Along the lines of this projects main objectives though, the more public functions accommodated in the building the better. Ideally the lower stories could be turned into a mediatheque/ culture center for the whole Piraeus region
    • Restaurants is proposed for the 19th and 20th floor as suggested in the sec-tions of the competition material. The 21st floor and the roof terrace are pro-posed as public sightseeing areas with cafés

    7. Artificial lighting
    • The lighting of the office areas and public spaces within the tower is pro-vided by acutely planned, lowkey downlighting. In the dark hours, this will ensure views from the inside to the outside world on the one hand, and on the other, it will make a quietly glowing, discreet appearance of the tower (cf. manifesto: A beaming tower at night would be dominance times one hun-dred)
    • The façade-element with the thin, translucent slices of marble (the ones with a regular window in the middle) will have a balanced backlight
    • The core of the tower, which is topped by the two windtowers, will be il-luminated by LED wallwashers. (The level of illumination varies with the open-ing hours of the restaurants and the occupancy of the tower in general)
    • The public spaces of the lower three stories will be flooded with white light

    8. Other ecological measures
    • Securing a sound indoor atmosphere through choices of materials along the lines of ecology and cradle-to-cradle
    • Recycling of grey waste water
    • Green roof on lower, horizontal part of building
    • General choices for fittings etc. with low consumption of energy and mate-rials

    9. Requested external staircase
    • Can be implemented without any particular complications
    • Architecturally though, an element of this kind is most likely deplorable. With this project all the involved parties of the façade reformation project are urged to seek alternative safety strategies and solutions.

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