Dispatches from the Transient City | M.Arch Thesis

Unprecedented levels of migration, displacement, and expulsions mark the contemporary moment. With the increase of protracted conflicts and environmental crises, the numbers of displaced persons fleeing war, famine, disease, or poverty has now surpassed levels seen previously only after WWII. As the world urbanizes, rural populations move in greater numbers to cities in the developed world and gentrification reshuffles historical settlement patterns.

The spatial technologies that surround this mass movement of persons have been inadequately explored and represented. A new form of urbanism is emerging—not static cities of migration, but conduit cities of populations in motion. This new form of transient urbanism will not replace the static city. Instead it is superimposed upon the existing city; it emerges from its obsolete artifacts.

The city of Athens, Greece, a gateway into Europe and confluence on the migrant route from the Middle East, is taken as a case study for architectural speculations into the ways transience alters the experience of cities. Athens poses numerous difficulties and opportunities as the state’s ability to formulate meaningful action is challenged by the ongoing government-debt crisis which began in 2009. Another consequence of the crisis is the hollowing out of the city center: vacant building stock increased to the tens of thousands, reports journalist Yiannis Baboulias.

This thesis takes the form of a manifesto that aims to replace the camp imaginary with correspondences from the transient city. The proposal projects not a utopian vision of the future but a provisional project already in the process of becoming. Drawing is used as a tool to heighten and amplify the transformations now underway.