The map will showcase different important aspects and places of Nikea's public sphere and will slowly include the full documentation of the courtyards and alleys.
Currently, it highlights key green spaces and public squares, areas of commerce and street markets, some key pedestrian streets, along with educational, cultural, and health & social care spaces.
The Minor Asia catastrophe and the compulsory exchange of populations between Turkey and Greece – specified by the Lausanne Convention in 1923 – led to a massive population influx in the Greek state. More than a million Greeks from Minor Asia were forced to resettle in Greece, increasing its population by 25% in two years and leading to a housing crisis. Among the many areas across Greece to be developed for refugee accommodation was Nikea, an area in the west of Attica with very few residents at that time.
Given the vast vacant land, the area was offered to house refugees through expropriation of private and public land. There were two main actors that shaped the refugee settlement and urban development of the area; the first was the Government's Relief Organization (RRF) between 1922 and 1925, and the further establishment of an international independent body, the Refugee Settlement Commission (RSC), active between 1923 and 1930. As most Asia Minor refugee settlements, Nikea developed very quickly through different mechanisms in the early years between 1923 - 1927, creating a plethora of minimal housing typologies. From two-stories high residences for multiple families and one-story high houses that did not exceed the area of 35 square meters, to minimal prefabricated houses made of panel-boards provided by Germany, as well as structures developed through self-housing on land provided or bought by the government. Another important typology found in Nikea is that of the long, two-story-high buildings with multiple units, arranged to create internal courtyards.
Over the last century, Nikea has changed socio-economically, culturally, and spatially. There has been a series of migration waves settling in the area; a domestic one taking place in the 1970s and a more recent one of foreign economic immigrants, leading to a diverse urban landscape, which reflects the socio-economic disparities found within its local population. This diverse context offers the opportunity to investigate the social life around the courtyards, and explore their potential of cultivating sharing culture, building social cohesion, and facilitating interactions between different demographics in the area.
Courtyards & Alleys
In a city like Athens with limited public space, the dense urban landscape of Nikea with its vast network of pedestrian alleys and courtyards presents a unique case study. Based on the municipality’s Strategic Plan, there are green spaces (courtyards or alleys) in approximately 77 building blocks. However, the existing courtyards and alleys across the municipality have not been fully documented yet. In the past, the courtyards often facilitated shared laundries, wells, and informal gardens. They became an extension of the houses, allowing for sharing between neighbors, and created threshold conditions between public and private. They have been places for social interaction in the past, but how are they being used today and what does their future hold?
In 2018, the municipality of Nikea embarked on the regeneration of a selection of six courtyards between the streets of Kyprou, Ilioupoleos, Amyradaki, and Amerikanidon Kyrion. The project was funded by the European Commission and the Operational Programme ‘Attica’. Through this program, the regenerated courtyards benefited from much-needed changes in the public realm, such as paving, lighting, seating, bollards to prohibit car parking, etc. In 2020, an additional study and report mention the regeneration of another 23 courtyards across the city. The municipality's approach to the courtyards’ regeneration does tackle some of the key concerns with regards to pedestrian safety in these spaces, which have not been addressed in years. However, they are realized in a top-down manner. Top-down regeneration of public space is common practice in Greece and many other EU states, given the lack of resources for urban planning, the public sector’s tendency for risk aversion, and the unrecognized value of empowering citizens to address local problems. Yet, the top-down regeneration of the courtyards allowed limited understanding of how the courtyards have evolved, are being used and by whom, and how they could be reimagined to build community cohesion in the future. In a sense, there is a missed opportunity to unlock the full social and environmental potential of these spaces through bottom-up activation.
There is rich literature on the history and sociospatial development of Nikea, as well as more recent documents outlining the potential of its future, such as the municipality's strategic plan, and the technical reports for the redevelopment of a selection of courtyards. Take a look at the resources on the left and explore the area's trajectory.