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"Maneuvers on the Map" of the "Intra Muros" Thessaloniki, Greece.
by George Koutoupis

Thessaloniki was destroyed by the fire in 1917 and was replanned by the french architect, urbanist and archaeologist Ernest Hébrard (in 1918). We think it is a remarkable example of (late) neoclassic urbanism, in the european continent. Our research has mainly to do with the evolution of the city plan (during twentieth century) and the showing up of its inherent characteristics. Hébrard's basic design operations and the syntax principles of the intramural urban space (which have been established by his plan), could be summed up as following:

a. monument-centered arrangement of the urban space,

b. quasi-rectangularity of the geometric organization,

c. establishment of organizing axies for the whole plan,

d. intension for wholeness (in terms of symmetry and analogy) at the articulation of the urban space.

At some stage, we have proposed a description design model of the city plan and we have examined some self-referential and trans-referential attributes of the design operations in the frame of a wide-range design tradition. We have used some points of reference in order to mark up the main characteristics of the plan. They are a kind of (tschumian) points of anchorage at some certain sites of the contemporary city - as an evolution of Hébrard's neoclassic plan. For the same purpose of (a conceptual) punctuation, we also might have in sight Sixtus V's interventions in Rome and the role of the obelisks for the whole plan. Thus, it is possible to describe (conceive and signify) the plan as a net of targets/monuments and/or a grid of movements/streets.

At a competition (in Sept94) for architectural ideas on the rehabilitation of a district (a half dozen of quarters) in the intramural Thessaloniki, we proposed a "communication node". It would be a structure/building, which would be located at a *characteristic* position of the plan of the district. It would be a passage/platform and an information nodal point for the users of the district:

a. it would provide informations (about the history of the district, the possibilities for business dealings, for recreation, cultivation and so on) to visitors and inhabitants; the way it happens at similar supervising points of archaelogical sites, museums, exhibitions, stations;

b. It would cover interests and activities in informatics and telematics; c. It would serve the necessities of the relative municipal sector or some kind of the district/neighborhood's self-government.

Obviously, this building would be related with similar buildings/points-of-anchorage in the historic part of the city. These "communication nodes" to be meant: not as some kind of "new monuments", but as key-sites/buildings/structures, like "windows" and empty/void/introversed buildings (if we insist on thinking with terms of "buildings"), "black holes" of the Plan. Even more, entrances/gates/arches which open the reading of the urban tissue to inter/hyper/textual combinations and connotations. Our proposal had to do with an intervention in the real time and space of the particular district - it had to do with "stones and walls"... Now (and with more coolness), we might think on some aspects of the communicative and tele-communicative role of this "node"-building. Let us consider three relations between: "node" and district, "node" per se, "node" in net.

"node" and district

a. this node would give informations about the "real" district, simulating its reality. It would inform you about "what is existing", "how you can find it", "it would help you to find something you are looking for" etc. with no need to walk around real space;

b. it could provide informations and visual simulations about the history of the district, about a past time;

c. but, why not even about a future time? In the sense, that it could offer alternatives or virtualities about the intervention in real space.

Since we can simulate all these and see them in a shorter time, instead of walking through the real district, then:

a. why should one visit the district and not only its "communication node", where one can see everything and get informed about anything and much more? b. but why should I run to the "node", since I could get wired by my terminal from somewhere else - my seat?

c. and finally, why should this "node" be located at this district, if it would be more convenient to be somewhere else?

Why do we need the "real" intervention at all - when we can have its simulation(s)?

We have to re-invent what has left for reality.

Previously, we pointed out the characteristic position of the "node" in the plan of the district, because it should play a symbolic role, because of its location (and not so much because of its use or form). After all, why is such a symbolism of location needed and in this way? Put there anything as symbol (a campanile, a billboard "I'm-a-node!") and the "node" could be anywhere (say at http://web.arch-mag.com/2s/coll/coll1p.html). Substitute the simulator, simulate the substitution and ...?

Since we can have this "information/reality" from anywhere else, what else can we expect from architecture in real space?

"node" per se

This node has some interesting attributes: the more it gets lesser in size (the more its volume is diminished) in real space, the more it gets a bigger "internal" spatiality in virtual space. Or, more properly, its material spatiality is indepentent from its "internal" spatiality, which is of another class: that of the immateriality. Thus, it can get smaller and smaller, its size/scale has no validity.

Already, we can draw the "logical square" or the "semiotic diagram" between these oppositions: [compression|expansion and materia|immaterial] or, equally, [big|small and "external"|"internal"]

Why should I insist on the importance of the point's location? Why should I insist on the (nodal) point - or the nodality of the point, or the pointness of the node? Were this point expanded in space? If it was (instead of a "communication node") about a "communication environment"? Then, I am dispersing what I tried to gather.

"node" in net

It is supposed that these "communication nodes" of the city plan would be inter-connected. This (both visual and digital) net would symbolize our conception of the city plan as a net of nodal points and/or as a grid of movements. Since the neoclassic city plan is articulated and hierarchical, we can easily recognize its/*the* central nodal point - the node of the nodes. What, then, do we need all other "nodes" for , when we can concentrate them all in the one central "node", which etc. - it will do for the whole city plan, what does the sole "node" for its relative district.

Do all these have to do with the arbitrary character of the symbolic sign or action? If it is only a matter of signification, do we need it? Or what do we need to signify? A signification without reference?

Couldn't we have done the same thoughts about, let's say, Sixtus' plan and its obelisks, anyway? Or, did we need this "internal" spatiality, in order to gain new insights of our "external"/real space and its architecture?

George Th. Koutoupis

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