The intention and the subject of the dissertation:
Looking around us in the city and living in it, we simultaneously and subconsciously detect not only one but numerous realities. Realities that belong to its past but determined in one way or another its maturation through time. Realities that coexist in present time and make any description of it difficult with stable terms. Moreover, realities that haven’t existed yet but they are getting prepared to happen in present conditions, making thus a part of the future predictable. In the phenomena of the urban space strategies, ideologies, heydays and crises are depicted.
Taking into account these general problematics and concerning the urban narratives in the metropolis of Athens in 2018, there are two terms that are investigated in this dissertation. The refugee crisis and the contemporary diffused and expanded urban landscape. There is no effort made in order to prove or support a one-way relation between these two. On the contrary, the aim of this paper is to investigate the role of the refugee fluxes in the chronicle of the urban sprawl of Athens. Hence, two different periods of refugee crisis are selected, in 1922 and in 2015, and is attempted to clarify the procedures and decisions which affected the reality of the city and created the urban environment of today. Through the time and space-restricted field of the birth of refugee settlements, the procedures of reaction and incorporation of the new formations by the city as well as the gradual expansion of the tissue become more clear.
So, how do the refugee fluxes interact with the urban system? How and according to which criteria are the refugee “cells” metabolized by the city organism? How is the phenomenon of the urban sprawl related to the policies for the management of refugee crises?
In order to answer the previous questions, both a macroscopic view and a pragmatic case study are necessary. It is useful not only to approach the exemplary case study of Athens but also to take under consideration general theories about the urban systems. Therefore, the logical structure of this paper is as follows:
At first stage, the term of urban sprawl and the relation of the refugee crises with the urban space are clarified. The imprint of the political decisions for the refugees in the city is described and the factors of urban sprawl are explained.
At second stage, the two specified periods of refugee crises are examined in a way that there is a focus on the space parameters. On the one hand, there is a study about the reaction-procedures of the city of Athens after the disaster in the Minor Asia in 1922. This disaster provoked an urgent and forced expansion of the urban system and set the starting point for an unprecedented urban sprawl. The directions of this diffusion were many and different and it would be insufficient to examine only one urban case. For the sake of a more complete perspective, 3 different pairs of refugee settlements are examined in the Attica space, Peristeri- Egaleo, Nea Ionia- Nea Philadelphia, Agios Ioannis Renti- Tavros, in order to underline the diverse organization and expansion stages. On the other hand, the contemporary refugee accommodation centers are studied and there is the aim to find their imprint in the urban tissue. Here, due to the short time distance from the facts, the research isn’t based on stabilized data and case studies. However, the purpose is to detect intangible forces, networks and future perspectives for the evolution of the relation of refugees and the city. The two examined crises, present many differences between them and their parallel research aims to focus exactly on these differences and their interpretation for the urban system. There are no parallel ways detected but a common denominator instead: the urgent housing problem and the inevitable consequence for the city.
To conclude, at third stage, there is the evaluation of the result of the research. Importance is given to the crucial role of the refugee element for the city and its social, economic and built map. Through a simultaneous study of influential theories from the fields of sociology, anthropology and space sciences, it is attempted to approach the role of the refugees in the image of the city nowadays. The final conclusion is stated as an interpretation of the factors that pathologically lead the city to react differently in the refugee crisis of 1922 and of today.