Dimitris Panayotopoulos Tsiros: ‘Assessing the Potential of Urban Voids for Cohesion – The Case of Eleonas in Athens’

Abstract: Urbanisation, guided among others by political decisions, historical events and financial interests, often shapes the urban form following very specific land-use considerations. Eventually, this type of development spurs deep disparities between built and vacant zones, divides populations based on socio-economic and infrastructural assets and very often generates inhuman, redundant and marginal spaces, that are “urban voids”.

Discontinuities and “voids” within the urban and social spheres are at the heart of the post-industrial city where the significance of the historical urban space is erased and replaced with inhuman and ephemeral “non-places”. In the new “connected city” driven by the optimisation of flows and commodities, a new territorial unevenness emerges between the connected valuable spaces and the less-favoured switched-off ones. Thus, beyond the premium spaces, disfigured ones tend to remain invisible, eventually becoming spatial gaps exacerbating social and economic marginalisation.

Reconceptualising the urban void can play a role in exploring the agency of urban spaces and their implication in the division of the social and urban spheres. This research argues that urban voids are part as well as the result of the broader spatial, physical, political and social systems and should not be presented as standalone “other” entities, but rather as an inherent part of urban space and the inhibitors of diverse and complex urban conditions.

Dissecting urban voids in morphological, metabolic and social components allows to consider them not only as physical enclaves but also as areas bound by constrains of urban flows and imbued with different perceptions. This conceptualisation gives the opportunity to explore how “voids” are created, appropriated and possibly contested. This research aims to delve deeper into these concepts and unravel the intricate ways placemaking, spatial configurations and social dynamics are interwoven.

BioDimitris Panayotopoulos-Tsiros is a PhD student supervised by Susan Moore and Camillo Boano, investigating notions of “void” and “emptiness” in the urban setting. Trained in Architecture, he finished his MA-Arch in 2015 at the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) with High Distinction where he later worked in research for a year before embarking on his PhD in October 2016. He has also worked in an array of architecture offices in Brussels (BE), Tokyo (JP) and Sendai (JP) and has done research through workshops and projects in countries around the world including Belgium, Greece, the Netherlands, India, Taiwan, PR China and Japan.