Skip to content

Transforming obsolete infrastructure into a restorative and resilient landscape that will become Europe’s largest coastal park

The Ellinikon Park

Lamda Development
Athens, Greece
600 acres (243 hectares)
Targeting LEED Sites Gold and BREEAM
Doxiadis+ (Local Landscape Architect); Atelier10 (Sustainability Consulting & Lighting Design); Pentagram (Signage and Wayfinding); Fluidity Design Consultants (Fountain Design); AREA (Park Architecture); Langan (International Civil Engineering); LDK (Local Civil & MEP Engineering); Kalliergos (Structural Engineering); Dr. Panayotis Dimopoulos (Ecology Advisor); Dr. Konstantinos Kosmas (Soil Science Advisor); ETM Associates (Operations & Maintenance)
Landscape Architecture
Additional Services
In progress
American Architecture Awards, Parks and Gardens Category
The PLAN Awards – Winner, Landscape category
Architizer A+ Awards, Finalist, Unbuilt Sustainable Non-Residential Project
World Architecture Festival Awards, Winner, Carbon, Climate & Energy Category
Fast Co. World Changing Ideas Awards, Winner in Urban Design category
American Society of Landscape Architects, Colorado Chapter, President’s Award of Excellence—Analysis & Planning category
Boston Society of Landscape Architects, Honor Award – Analysis & Planning

The Ellinikon Park is poised to become one of the most significant public spaces in Athens—an ambitious goal for a city celebrated for its iconic architecture and urban design. This park, however, is special. It will set a new standard for ecological restoration and will model a cutting-edge approach for the design, programming, and funding of future public parks across the world.

The design embraces the site’s abundant cultural heritage while establishing a 21st century ethos and identity for Athens that will resonate for the next 1,000 years. Once complete, the park will become the social heart of Athens and will provide novel experiences for visitors in a city that does not have a public park at this scale.

Learning from the Past and Looking to the Future

Throughout history, the site has been an inclusive, publicly accessible space ingrained in the collective memory of Athenians. After the decommissioning of the Athens International Airport in 2001, a funding and governance mechanism was established that would transform the abandoned space into Europe’s largest coastal park. The 243 hectare (600 acre) park is bigger than the entire principality of Monaco and represents a palimpsest of Athenian landscapes including prehistoric coastal settlements, productive agricultural fields, a 20th century airport, and a 21st century Olympic venue.

Greek society, however, is undergoing an unprecedented shift in demographics, enhanced by the economic crisis of 2008-2010 which accelerated brain drain and shifted entrenched societal standards. Historically, Athenians returned to family farms in the countryside on weekends, but as the Greek diaspora grew abroad, most contemporary Athenians no longer had access to a rural ancestral home, displacing the traditional cultural relationship with the landscape. Today, the majority of open spaces in Athens are either passive landscapes adjacent to ancient ruins or hyper-urban plazas and streetscapes. Working within this context, a foundational goal for the park is to engage Athenian society in a 21st century landscape that reinstates a relationship with nature and demonstrates Greece’s commitment to climate positive design.

Ecological Restoration as a Driver of Design

While the airport and Olympic histories provide an underlay for formal moves, natural systems offer opportunities to diverge from the rigid forms of the existing infrastructure. This duality has a direct translation to form giving. Curvilinear and organic visual languages highlight restored ecosystems and topography, and linear expressions reveal the site’s legacy of airport runways, its 2004 hosting of the Olympic Games, and its agricultural heritage. Most notably, the park presents an opportunity to restore vital habitat and ecosystem functions, balancing cultural expression with robust renaturalization.

While the site lacked maintenance for nearly two decades, a novel ecosystem emerged. While it is not possible to restore the landscape to a pre-anthropic ecological assemblage, rigorous analysis identified foundational plant species that provide key ecological benefits like habitat structure and food provisioning for local wildlife. Over 30,000 new trees representing 86 species were selected for their ecosystem services and adaptability to the site’s distinctive soil profile. The plant list was carefully considered based on 1) native status; 2) adaptability to local and regional climatic conditions; and 3) current distribution range in the Mediterranean basin and known occurrence on the Attica peninsula.

Plant materials are sourced entirely within Greece, which increases biodiversity and establishes a regenerative landscape strategy. Water scarcity is also a concern, requiring strategies to enhance water management and conservation. 100% of the irrigation water demand for the park is fulfilled through reclaimed water. Additionally, a 1.5 hectare (3.7 acre) lake repurposed from the former canoe/kayak Olympic venue collects and stores stormwater during the wet season, with reclaimed water offsetting evaporation during the dry season. The lake includes a recirculating flow-through wetland and serves as an emergency reservoir for drought and fire control. The combination of the constructed wetland, rain gardens, and bioswale network will make this the largest green infrastructure installation in Greece.

In addition to committing to a native palette for the park’s more than 3.3 million plants, the design team collaborated with Greek nurseries to create native seed mixes, increasing genetic diversity of plantings while also establishing a new standard for the industry to lead Greece towards a more sustainable nursery trade. The design also ensures that landscapes are continuously showcasing floral interest, even in the depths of summer and winter when Athenian landscapes are typically dormant.

Leveraging Existing Materials Resources

The team prioritized using durable, reusable, and long life-cycle materials that reduce the overall carbon footprint of the park. With an abundance of leftover materials from the site’s past lives, what would typically be discarded was repurposed and celebrated.

Using the Carbon Conscience and Pathfinder tools, design decisions were based on increasing sequestered and stored carbon and reducing embodied carbon. With this in mind, 28,720 m2 (309,140 sq. ft.) of concrete from the existing airport runways and tarmac is reused playfully throughout the park to subtly tell the story of the site’s past, transforming the banal into something beautiful.

Setting a New Standard for Carbon Neutrality

The Ellinikon Park will reach carbon neutrality within 35 years—a remarkable achievement for a project of this scale. The park is a landscape that embodies regenerative design, and will have a significant impact on Athens from a climate perspective. Through all aspects of the design—from soil management, material reuse, water systems, food and energy production, and habitat creation—the park is a working landscape. It is heroic in scale and ambition, which translates into a responsibility to reinforce the Greek relationship with landscape and reignite this ethos in a 21st century context—centering ecological restoration, climate responsiveness, carbon neutrality, and equitable access for all Athenians. Most importantly, it is a highly visible civic platform that embodies a commitment by the Greek people to provide a progressive model for a landscape that symbiotically benefits people and the planet.

For more information contact Michael Grove or Anna Cawrse.

Sasaki colorful logo Sasaki 中文