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Re-visiting representations of ‘nature’ and city through the Long Walls zone

Aspassia Kouzoupi


The Long Walls of Classical Antiquity, linking Athens and Piraeus, illustrate a significant shift in the representation of inside and outside. The implied antithesis ‘inside vs outside’ is investigated in relation to concepts of ‘nature’ and their relation to ‘city’. Can we read the Long Walls zone in relation to the Aristotelian view of ‘polity as a natural construct’? The ‘infrastructural palimpsest’ is arguably the structure which represents the idiosyncrasy of the Long Walls zone today. The Long Walls zone during classical antiquity and since neoteric times to present times, has been an elongated space representing mobility. Historically, the area’s character has been under noticeable changes: from quasi-urban in antiquity, it changed to rural, and then became Athens-Piraeus’ historical industrial backbone during the 19th and 20th century. Today it could be characterized as part of the Athens-Piraeus’ rust belt. Understanding the area as a palimpsest could challenge the actual tendency to massive homogenous urban sprawl. Palimpsest is revealed as an intrinsic value of the Long Walls zone’s ground/soil, structuring the presence of historical traces.  These testify to the articulation between urban and rural landscape, along an extended timescale. The segmentation of landscape by infrastructure emerges as another facet of the infrastructural palimpsest, relevant to the di-pole ‘rural’ vs ‘urban’. The discussion ultimately focuses on the representation of spatiotemporal traces in a specific area among the Long Walls zone: investigated through mapping within an academic project, the exquisitely rich palimpsest of infrastructural layers and their embedded landscape traces emerges. Thus, the Long Walls zone cannot be characterized as ‘urban periphery’ but as a zone of historic complexity, comparable to that of a historic urban matrix.

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