The proposal borrows the typology of the Roman Agora (FORUM) as a tool for the re-composition of the social space in terms of “Theatricality”, rather than the existing imposing “Functionality”, where the public space is being considered as merely a transit area lacking cohesion and identity. Commenting on Vitruvius, Camillo Sitte highlights the connection between the identity of the space of commons, the Forum, and the emergence of the public sphere in terms of an Open-Air Theater.
Simultaneously, he introduces the notion of Enclosure as the necessary condition for this theatre of public life to emerge, where the social space is presented as an Open-Air Interior Space. This ambiguity of the interior-exterior quality of the space of the Roman Forum is adopted as the design principle of the project: the complex engulfs a network of accessible public voids that resemble open-air rooms, introducing the notion of intimacy as an active agent in the performance of the social life and the establishment of a sense of place.
Thus, the condition of enclosure is disconnected from the notion of accessibility: these open air rooms do not consist of an architecture of seclusion, rather they attribute to the public space the necessary sense of intimacy and familiarity that can allow for the emergence of the social functions. The functional organization of the complex is structured by grouping the separate functions in 5 themes: education, hospitality, socialization, sports and culture each with their respective exterior interior space (Forum), thus constructing an assemblage of interconnected Fora Civitas.
The typological reference of the forum, which is inherent in the city of Thessaloniki due to its roman-byzantine history, reshapes the public space with the insertion of the small scale which contradicts the multistory residential buildings surrounding the site. The open air atriums are degraded below street level so that the demanding and complex program can be accommodated with the minimum presence of the overall volume. Moreover, the complex is identified by its horizontality which contrasts the vertical development of the city.
The walk-through central atrium (Forum Socialis) which connects the two side streets of the site is the pivotal point of the design. It provides accessibility to all the social services (library, gymnasium, museum, office spaces, centre of elderly care, centre for citizen services, public infirmary, centre for short term accommodation) while it connects via internal galleries to the atrium of culture (Forum Culturae), the atrium of education (Forum Educationem) and the playground. Source by Leonidas Papalampropoulos, Georgia Syriopoulou.
- Location: Thessaloniki, Greece
- Architect: Leonidas Papalampropoulos, Georgia Syriopoulou
- Structural engineer: Marinos Kattis
- Mechanical engineer: Maria Mageirou
- Status: Architectural Competition/ 2nd PRIZE / Municipality of Thessaloniki
- Program: Complex of Municipal Public Services
- Area: 8,170 sq.m.
- Year: 2019
- Images: Courtesy of Leonidas Papalampropoulos