Athens: reclaiming public space

The rise of community initiatives

The Guardian reports that Athens is witnessing a shift in public space developments. The failures of governmental institutions gave way to a new wave of community initiatives that decided to take matters into their own hands and reclaim their active role in city making. 

Moments of crisis are the ones that bring people together and encourage creative initiatives. This has been visible in European cities after the economic crisis hit in 2008. Abandoned spaces, lack of funding for initiatives, all these led to an increase of bottom-up initiatives determined to make a change after the governmental failures.

Athens is no stranger to these transformations. Greece was the first country to suffer from the economical crisis. Facing a major debt crisis and EU pressure, Greece seemed to follow its history, and like Ulysses, embark on a new Odyssey into the unknown.

What we are witnessing is an explosion of social networks born of bottom-up initiatives” Stavros Stavrides

The Greek capital is becoming the centre for new urban transformations. The rise of Athens’ bottom-up initiatives has fostered a new typology of spaces, where creativity, emancipation and resistance are key elements opposing the past technocratic approach. A wide array of spaces, from abandoned offices to neo-classical buildings are being reclaimed by local citizen initiatives that want to make a change. Movements such as ‘Us Here and Now and for All of Us’ that united local residents in transforming a parking lot into a community-managed space is just one example.


Together with Gorges Kaminis, Athens’ progressive mayor, community initiatives seem to reform the mode of planning and give way to an active, participatory development.

Read The Guardian’s article about Athens’ rise of bottom-up initiatives here.


Involved city makers
Amalia Zepou
Vice Mayor for Civil Society, Athens
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