The developmental trajectory of urbanization in the region of Volos has diachronically been accompanied by the regulation and taming of the floodplain’s natural landscape. The city’s expansion followed the pattern of a densely arrayed grid that rationally reshaped much of its watercourses to open sewers as it co-evolved with priorities of industrialization and networked infrastructures that linke port to rail activities. With the recent de-industrialization and the shift towards services and tourism economy, public spaces (such as the waterfront) and cultural amenities (such as the conversionof former industrial complexes) received a renewed interest.
Despite the elevated notion and need for open spaces, Volos, now a city of 145.000 people, relies on a segregated network of small green space summing to a mean ratio of  4sq.m. per inhabitant.

Paradoxically, the remarkable and extensive hydrographic networ that informs much of Volos’ territory, besides its two fold value as discharge drain and irrigation of the city’s agricultural periphery it  evades any aspect of cultural and environmental re-appropriation.
Still, the city’s steam network relies on an obsolete engineering approach and an outmoded pattern of land-stream development that make little response to the heavy and intense rainstorms, tied to climate change.

Recently, official flood risk charts unveiled the most blatant indicator for the failing nature of the stream’s hard infrastructure ideal, rendering necessary a new infrastructural synthesis involving technical, environmental and creative interventions to re-establish and heal the relationship between city and stream.  This context underlines the scope of “Volos: Re-streaming  the city” workshop, involving multidisciplinary research by design and strategic reactionary planning methodologies to develop new policies for the integration of novel stream-city infrastructural prototypes enmeshed to the urban morphology  in order to heal the broken relationship with water and watersheds but also respond to developmental and climate change imperatives.


Annalytical Brief

During the last century, urban expansion along the soft alluvial deposits of three streams Xirias, Krafsidonas and Anavros (lined up from west to east) heavily transformed a sinuous discharge regime, partially allocating their natural watercourse to halt flush-floods from lowland residential areas.  This same process technically modified bed-profiles into channelized artificial boulders with concrete–lined conduits. But there were also further implementations of large technical infrastructures that lead to the alteration of the natural regime. These include: the expansion of the port activities to the delta of Krafsidonas; the ad-hoc vegetation clearings along the stream’s banks; the municipality’s monopolized interest to transform the stream banks into impervious driveways; the lack of provisions for adequate open public spaces with temporal allowance to mitigate excess floods. As a result, the streams’ bio-physical identity and ecological function have been discouraged swiping away any aesthetic comfort or recreational aspect that could be associated to its “first-nature” value. Volos’ current economy strongly relies -amongst other sectors- on services and tourism. In fact, the market’s tendency has built affinities with the rehabilitation of post-industrial sites and the cultural domestication of natural resources such as the waterfront. In this frame it remains a paradox why the official urban planning stance has not made any effort to integrate or recover the marginalized stream banks and segregated environments that alternatively might have supported a robust green corridor supporting social cohesion and mitigation of floods, besides an expanded open space network. In spite of the prevalence of contemporary discourse around resilient urban planning and design focusing on the implementation of green infrastructures into the urban landscape, traditional planning standards and codes show little regard for the threats posed by climate change. Even the growing skepticism and understanding of the streams’ cultural and ecologic value supported by local groups has been marginalized by the municipality, the latter still encouraging the stream’s role as an open sewer.

It is widely acknowledged that urban planning in Greece has relied heavily on the regulation of land uses. There is still a notable gap within the spatial planning instruments, such as the “General Urban Plan” (ΓΠΣ) to incorporate regulations that recognize, monitor and adapt to transitional aquatic-terrestrial ecosystems, such as streams. Besides the formal rigidity of protection measurements for the physical and natural environments it still remains to develop a deeper understanding of land use patterns that may adapt and develop in synergy and not against nature’s dynamics. Although climate change has introduced more frequent and intense rainstorms that led to severe flood incidents bearing social and economic consequences, local planning is still under-performing towards this alternative stance. Recently released flood-hazard maps for the GR08 floodplain of Thessaly, conducted under the Directive 2007/60 EU, indicate that in the lowlands of Volos region, for a return period of T = 50 years, the flood exceeds the boundaries of the channelized stream’s bed diffusing flush-floods within the Municipality. The situation becomes more unfavorable at flood periods of T= 100 years resulting to even greater hazards (see cover photo).

Flood‐prone zones estimated for a return period of T=100 years exceed stream discharge capacity and widely affect urbanized areas of Volos Municipality. Image by: Io Carydi, based on the Flood Risk Management Plan for Thessaly, (Ypeka, 2017)

Since it is widely recognized that excessive floods are associated with the failing nature of grey infrastructures as well as with the aggressive urbanization which has lowered infiltration capacity of densely built-up areas to zero, there is a strong challenge to:

• Introduce reformative policies that recover the streams cultural and ecologic value, besides recovering their role as resilient systems against climate change.
• Investigate how the re-organization of the streams as urban water systems improves the whole city structurally.
• Design synthetic landscapes of living and biophysical systems that operate as novel green infrastructures capable to re-shape open space morphologies.
• Research how these green infrastructures may develop synergies across different economic sectors with an impact on Volos’ urban economy, on future expansions and re-discovered cultures.

The Scope of this Workshop is:

• to expand the need for a multidisciplinary thinking and collaboration between different scientific disciplines over current urban issues that involve environmental and developmental parameters.
• to introduce novel design methodologies capable to relate natural dynamic environments to current urbanization trends.
• to introduce novel representation  tools that enable as to exemplify complex and dynamic trends that affect urban planning.

The Department of Planning and Regional Development
The Research Unit of Infrastructure, Technology
Policy & Development (