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ISTHMUS HORIZON: Reconnecting Lechaion

Part 1 Project 2014
Anna Pizova
London Metropolitan University, UK
"Were we to try to conceive such spatial structure, we would accept the challenge of imagining a terrain with gaps or unclaimed areas, a discontinuous field, an uncommon ground." (David Leatherbarrow)

The Greek Isthmus presents a striking example of contemporary European 'terrain vague'. Archaeological remnants are interspersed with industrial activity, agriculture and sprawl. This ancient trade route is perceived more than ever as a place to pass through, the pathos of its transitional character being epitomised by the Corinth Canal, the nineteenth century realisation of a two-thousand-year-old ambition to connect the Aegean and Adriatic seas which is now obsolete.

This project focuses on the neglected coastal site of Lechaion, exploring the latent horizons of the Isthmus. The only man made harbour in the Ancient Greek world, Lechaion remains mostly unexcavated and largely unstudied, aside from the remains of an early Byzantine basilica, in its time the largest of its kind. Currently inaccessible, with little funding for excavations, the archaeological area sits alongside a highway, abandoned farms, a derelict abattoir, and a former WWII military base. These territories are located loosely between the ‘long walls’ of Ancient Corinth – the lost fortifications which protected the trade route from the coast to the centre.

At a time when Greece is seen to epitomise the European economic crisis, this proposal both responds to the region’s history of ambitious infrastructure and looks to the emerging economy of sea plane tourism as a way of bringing new life to a forgotten site. A 220m long structure re-imagines the ancient temple in steel, forming a strong horizontal datum against the peak of Acrocorinth and sheltering a miniature archipelago of more informal, ‘incomplete’ buildings: sea plane hangar and terminal, archaeologists’ offices, exhibition and teaching rooms and a beach café. The proposal gives order to the threshold between industry and archaeology, as part of a strategy to re-open the site to the outside world.

The proposal is emblematic - a projection which takes as its point of departure the current crisis but seeks to reconnect with the forgotten, deep structure of this place.

Anna Pizova


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