Redeveloping Athens’ Abandoned Airport into a Park
The abandoned Ellinikon International Airport in Greece is being transformed into a 600-acre park, playground and cultural centre on the coast of Athens.
The original Ellinikon International Airport in Athens was Greece’s main airport for over 63 years. However, this airport was closed in 2001 when the Athens International Airport was built to support the 2004 Olympic Games. The abandoned airport remained unused except for a brief period during the Olympics when it hosted softball, hockey, and fencing venues.
After 20 years, the airport will finally be repurposed and redeveloped into a 600-acre park, playground, and cultural centre on the coast near Athens. More than 300,000 square feet of concrete and tarmac from the old runaways will be repurposed to create pavement and benches in the new park. This will help reduce the total carbon emissions that the development will generate. Massive light poles from the former airport will also be reused for lighting giant lawn events. When the park is opened, carbon emissions will be reduced through the all-electric maintenance fleet and organic fertilizers and pesticides.
To get more people to explore this area and engage in nature, 50 kilometres of walking paths and 30 kilometres of bike paths will be constructed. The park will also consist of sculpture parks, sports centres, open-air theatres, restaurants and cafes. Visitors will be able to see the old terminal building from the airport, which will be preserved.
A 3.7-acre lake will be repurposed from the former Olympic kayak venue and will be open for recreational use. The developers hope that this lake will help combat water scarcity, and collecting and storing stormwater will be used to help irrigate the park.
The architects are working closely with Greek plant nurseries to ensure that only native seeds are planted. The seeds selected have ecological benefits that will thrive in the naturally arid environment. An estimated 31,000 trees from 86 native species will be planted in the park.
Although the site borders the Mediterranean Sea, the waterfront hasn’t been accessible to Athens residents. This area will be transformed into a one-kilometre-long public beach as part of the development plan. It will have an adjoining marina, making it easily accessible by boat.
The park’s first phase will include 250 acres around the central Olympic Square, on the city’s tram line, and the entire coastal front is set to be completed by the end of 2025. Developers hope to change the way Athenians use public space and hope the park will contribute to the public and ecological health of the city. The park will also contribute to the local economy by creating hundreds of jobs for locals and attracting tourists from all over Europe.
For a place like Athens that has very limited urban tree cover, this park will be important to greening the city, improving the natural environment and strengthening the climate resiliency of Athens.