Essence of Athens: Complete!

By Posted in - Competitiveness & Engagement & Public Art & Work on July 22nd, 2014 0 Comments

Athens, Ohio seeks locally-specific design to match its homegrown culture. The Essence of Athens: A Strategic Design Plan for Economic Enhancement and Community Competitiveness challenges landscape architects, architects, and other urban design professions to deliver a one-of-a-kind city is now complete!

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Here are 3 main ways to access the plan:

  1. Watch a slidecast presentation (Around 20 minutes instead of a 160-page plan. While 20 minutes seems like an eternity in today’s world, complex urban design cannot be packaged in a three-step process. Structures in Athens will last generations! Listen working out or watch in your spare time. Content times are included for easy travel through. Best on phones and tablets.)
  2. Download the low-res pdf (12 MB) here: Essence of Athens Plan (It will take a while, but the file is as small as it can get.)
  3. A limited number of published copies will be ready for a party for leaders, participants, and the greater community in a TBA date in September.

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Upcoming posts will include specific parts of the plan we would like to highlight such as these citizen-designed public infrastructure examples (above). Meanwhile, here are 7 reasons we believe The Essence of Athens is important:

1. It challenges Landscape Architects (and other design professionals such as architects and urban planners) by encouraging them to execute an ‘only-in-Athens’ esthetic. The resulting design framework relies on design professionals who will reveal a more authentic version of Athens. Athens-inspired design innovations will find life in new and improved municipal infrastructure and future development implementation.

2. It employs community design as a primary economic development tool by relying on design professionals. Ohio University needs Athens to appear memorable, lovable, and different so students fall at first sight and stay on the hook for the rest of their lives; tourism-dependent businesses want physical features that people like to be a part of and talk about; and entrepreneurs are drawn to special addresses that are unusual, gorgeous—even quirky. This plan is the way.

3. It researched, then extracted the “Athens Design DNA” as an ‘idea base’ to create Athens-based projects that fit. Over 500 photos and accompanying descriptions were submitted via Facebook, Twitter, email, and “snail mail” by citizens of Athens to identify what makes Athens special. (Some participants offered essays.) A steering committee thoroughly honed the entries and worked through Autumn 2013 on specific ideas and adjectives that could inspire citizens, designers, and developers to bring forth a unique Athens’ signature in every development and associated landscape project. The committee sketched out loose (quick and dirty, not to scale but still valuable) “napkin ideas” followed by more detailed thoughts and suggestions that would help realize these proposals. Professional designers will implement the details in public and private infrastructure and development proposals going forward.

4. It proves that small and individual projects combine to make places great. Every town can’t have an internationally-known park designed by someone famous, but they can design small things that add up to a remarkable community.

5. It is published on a variety of media for widespread coverage and understanding. Colorful 8X8 books, pdf files, and the podcast with slides are available for the community, designers, and developers. The slide video explains the process and its outcomes and will loop on Government Access TV. Even a children’s coloring book featuring the napkin sketches will be distributed to elementary schools. Professional/expensive video production other high-end media was avoided to keep the project reachable and transferable to other communities seeking their own essence.

6. It offers a clear lesson for small towns that want to try setting clear and localized public design expectations and policy. Too many small towns do not consider place-based design as important or possible. This effort allows community design to be accessible and understandable for a wide variety of people in diverse communities to discuss, take part in, and “own.”

7. It’s fun. The Essence of Athens doesn’t hide artistic ideas with stiff design codes that can sometimes kill ingenuity; it insists on unbridled creativity, making professional urban design more challenging and enjoyable for the people who do it.

We’ll make sure to keep up with Athens as they implement the plan over the years. Thanks to everyone who participated, including MKSK and the Essence of Athens Planning Committee.

What a fantastic project to be a part of!

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