New Philadelphia & Little Manchester
The sky was a cloudy orange. Sand from the Sahara was being blown over the country.
There had been forests and farmland in this area. The cityscape was now a sea of concrete, much like the rest of the metropolis. One large building with an industrial chimney is home to discount supermarkets. It is made of yellowish bricks. The area was built by migrants who came from Asia Minor. They developped textile and carpet factories. So much that the area was soon called « Little Manchester ». It later followed the same process of deindustrialisation than its big sister (1).
The neighbour was howling. A sort of mourning song. They said he had mental issues.
In the park the tall roman nettles were in bloom. Strange towers of metal were rythming a landscape made of long trees, wild plants and dusty alleys. Some of the metal structures were much higher than others. A circled ladder led to a platform. And something looking between a gun and a panoramic telescope was attached to a barbed wire balustrade. Water guns. The area was very much prepared to fight a fire.
Many dogs were barking at once. It all came from a place that used to be a zoo and was now a kennel. Contained wilderness. No more monkeys, giraffes, lions or black panthers but some of the many street dogs waiting for sterilisation and maybe adoption.
The trees were high and varied. Some young ones were in the process of being planted. The ground was turned over in those areas and deep holes that looked like graves had been prepared. This last decade, quite a lot of trees were secretly cut for private heating.
In the middle of the park was a large pound. A scenic meeting point. On a fake island, the wind activated the wheel of a decorative mill. It was loud. The speakers of the nearby church were blasting Easter prayers. As they exited, devotees were digging a piece of cotton into an oil container before wrapping the infused cotton in a pre-cut piece of foil.
There used to be a cafe next to the pound. Now it was a car park. Built without authorisation, the cafe had been demolished after fifty years of activity. Passed the cars, a large dusty alley led to the north end of the park. Halfway through it, an abandoned building faced a popular dog fountain. Located on the highest top of the hill, it looked like a lighthouse or a surveillance center. Apparently, a few decades ago, it used to be a meteorological station. The fenced grounds had been broken in. A discreet bouquet of dried flowers had been attached to the barrier. Something like a forget-you-not.
At the south end of the park, a football stadium is being built, or rather rebuilt on a larger scale. The stadium will be named after the Greek cathedral of Istanbul “Aghia Sophia”. To allow this, the law has been changed. What was once a protected local wood is now a state owned park. The wood was protected. Claims against this decision were rejected as “unsubstantive and obscure”. Football fans avidly follow the progresses, staring and posing in groups in front of the building site, wearing the team’s official yellow and scarves.
As I exited the park, a small bridge made me cross one of the rare apparent rivers in Athens. There wasn’t much water and a lot of rubbish had been thrown over the bridge.
Series of abandoned industrial buildings were occupying each side of the road. Wild plants, as seen in the park, occupied the wasteland, together with cats and graffiti.
One of the factories’ doors was open. Endless series of folders containing carefully annotated receipts and trade records were spread all over the floor. Some attached together and organised per year. Traces of what had been and then withdrawn.
In 2017 Nea Ionia received a gold medal for its use of green and renewable energy.
(1) Mason, Colin. M. (1980) Industrial decline in Greater Manchester. 1965-1975: a components of change approach. Urban Studies. Vol 17. No.2 p.173-184
April 2018, Yellow Brick, Nea Ionia, Athens, Greece
Dried plants for remembrance. Useless weeds made precious. A tribute to forgotten layers of time and to systems of value. To the loss of a collective heritage. To the loss of land and forests. To the interconnection of Architecture and memory. To acknowledge the past in relation to the present. Can forms be infused and space claimed, to counter erasure. Can tools of celebration and mystification be used to showcase side narratives.
All content © Anne-Laure Franchette 2018