Sasaki is excited to announce that the Ellinikon Park was selected as a winner of the Fast Company’s 2023 World Changing Ideas Award in the Urban Design category.
The annual awards program hosted by Fast Company seeks to elevate designs that are pursuing innovation for the good of society and the planet. For the 2023 World Changing Ideas award program, Sasaki was selected as the winner of the Urban Design category for their design of Ellinikon Park in Athens, Greece. As a significant component of the largest urban redevelopment project in Europe, the 650 acre Ellinikon Park is transforming obsolete infrastructure into a resilient landscape that will set new standards for ecological restoration and carbon positive design while sparking a paradigm shift for future public parks across the world. The design presented a generational opportunity to create an oasis of biodiversity in an accessible landscape where all are welcome– providing spaces for solace, civic celebration, and democratic expression. Most importantly, it will be carbon positive in 35 years— a remarkable achievement for a project of this scale.
The design of the park is addressing the Greek relationship with nature, as well as its understanding of the acute impacts of climate change and regionally-specific ways to combat it. The park will also rekindle the city’s relationship to one of its most revered mid-century architectural marvels; as one of only three airports in the world designed by Eero Saarinen (with the TWA Terminal at JFK and Washington Dulles being the other two), the adaptively-reused terminal building is the centerpiece of a grand event space that terraces down towards the Mediterranean Sea, emphasizing its dignity and importance as an iconic building that connected Greece to the modern world.
The Ellinikon Park will have a significant impact on Athens from a climate perspective by improving air quality, capturing and reusing stormwater, and reducing urban heat island effect. Overall, the park reduces emissions by about 70% of current baseline construction standards for similar urban parks. Using the Carbon Conscience tool, design decisions were based on increasing sequestered and stored carbon and reducing embodied carbon. With this in mind, all existing concrete is repurposed and reused playfully throughout the park in signature fountains, massive retaining walls, custom furnishings, and various hardscapes. What would typically be discarded was reused, recycled, repurposed, and celebrated to reduce the project’s overall embodied carbon while telling the story of its history.
With over 3.3 million native plants, the park is the largest plant procurement project in Greek history, and is actively reshaping the Greek nursery trade and leading it to a more sustainable future. Over 31,000 trees representing 86 species are being sourced entirely within Greece and were selected for their ecosystem services and adaptability to the site’s alkaline soils. Furthermore, 100% of the irrigation water demand for the park is fulfilled through reclaimed water from an existing wastewater treatment plant. A 3.7 acre lake repurposed from the former canoe/kayak venue of the 2004 Summer Olympic Games collects and stores stormwater during the wet season, with reclaimed water offsetting evaporation during the dry season.
The Ellinikon Park 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 positive design, and equitable access for all Athenians. Congratulations to the Sasaki design team for this incredible recognition!