aerial view of Athens

HYDRA CITIES: Athens, Greece

Studio at CCA: May 23–27, 2011 [1 week]

In Greece: May 30– June 10, 2011 [2 weeks]

Instructor: Nataly Gattegno (CCA eLAB)


Land and sea again appear to be a pair, or two halves of a single world. Yet the site of this contemplation is the shore, the interface between raw democracy (sea) and political organization (land) . . . as interfaces between worlds, they form a perpetual wilderness with limitless surface area—always newly minted, and often underexplored. However rough they may be, these seas are also spacious, mixing different waters and different political constitutions.

(Keller Easterling, *Enduring Innocence: Global Architecture and its Political Masquerades*)

Ports are places where the geological, economical and technological tangles of our cultures collide. They are machines, not only in their capacity to pump goods into and out of the city, but as systemic connectors of cultures and economies.Athens, Istanbul, Beirut, Alexandria, Venice are Eastern Mediterranean port cities, linked by both culture and water, and often used for the study of historic urban artifacts. They have seldom been explored as contemporary cities facing extreme global environmental changes in addition to the infrastructural, political, and economic challenges that will have an immense impact on shaping their architectural futures.

This workshop speculates on the interface between land and sea by exploiting the “newly minted and often underexplored” realm of “the shore” of Athens, Greece. It introduces students to the alternate hyper-dense Mediterranean urbanism by exploring and using the city of Athens as its laboratory. Participants explore the classical and modern city and work with a range of cartographic and data-based methods for visualizing urban and environmental systems. They develop an analytical database for understanding the intertwined cultural, political, and geographical histories and the ways these have shaped their architectural and urban development.

Students document the port of Athens [Piraeus] and the existing port-to-water and port-to-city conditions, while speculating on new urban-to-water interfaces for the Athens waterfront. Alternative interdependencies emerge as the city orients itself to its port and the port addresses the city’s needs for public space. These relationships describe an architecture steeped in a history of diverse cultures simultaneously located in hyper-dense, urban, water-bound environments. Similar to many cities along the California coast, these cities are readdressing their waterfront relationships while dealing with the emergent ecological, infrastructural and environmental needs of that growth.

Hydra Cities has a dedicated work space in downtown Athens in which to do research and work. Though Athens is the base camp, the class visits a number of sites beyond the city limits to further understand the relationship of human settlement and urban growth relative to water. Participants study and explore Athens—both classical and modern.

Visits include the Acropolis, Lycabetus, Mycenae, Cape Sounion, Santiago Calatrava’s Olympic complex, Bernard Tschumi’s Acropolis Museum, EeroSaarinen’s old Athens airport, as well as Greek architects’ designs for the polykatoikia typology, and the multiple and culturally diverse neighborhoods of the city. Participants will also be introduced to various design proposals in progress: Renzo Piano’s design for the Faliron Bay promenade, the new proposals for the waterfront Ecopark and the Kifissos River redevelopment.

The class begins with a one-week design charrette in San Francisco, investigating the history, culture, and intertwined ecosystems of both the Mediterranean and Athens. Students then travel to Athens for two weeks, where the class directly engages and collaborates with faculty and students from the University of Patras. Lectures, discussions and work reviews have been organized with local architects, landscape architects, and urban planners.

About the Instructor

Nataly Gattegno is a member of the architecture faculty at California College of the Arts and CCA’s eLAB project coordinator. She is a founding design partner of Future Cities Lab [], an interdisciplinary design and research collaborative that was recently awarded the Van Alen NY Prize in Systems and Ecology [2009]. FCL’s work has been widely published and exhibited.

Gattegno has previously taught at the University of Virginia and was the 2008–09 Muschenheim Fellow at the University of Michigan TCAUP. Her research and teaching delves into issues of context, nature, ecology, and technology in urban planning and design; it investigates the relationship between information and design and the opportunities of a design process inextricably linked to research. She has been exploring the opportunities of design in extreme environments as a vehicle of investigating the relationship between energy and form.

Gattegno is a native of Athens where she has practiced and participated in workshops, design charrettes, and discussions about the architectural and urban future of the city. She was awarded the Stanley Seeger Traveling Fellowship from Princeton University for research on the urban condition of Athens. Her interests were furthered by extensive research in the work of urban planner ConstantinosDoxiadis and his vision for the city of the future as a networked, ecosystemic, ekistic entity.

She is on the board of Ecoweek, a nonprofit organization founded in Athens that mobilizes young designers and students to rethink the sustainability and interrelationships of their urban environments. MA, Cambridge University, St. Johns College; MArch, Princeton University


Undergraduate: completion Architecture Studio 4 and Instructor approval
Graduate: MArch Studio 2 and instructor approval.

In addition students must be in good academic, conduct, and financial standing for the 2010/11 academic year.

Course Satisfies

This course satisfies 3 credits of an architecture studio elective or open architecture elective.

Program Fee

$4,450 + $50 summer registration fee
Fee includes
3 units, housing, local transportation in Greece, breakfast, museum/field-trip entry fees.

Program fee does not include
Airfare to and from Greece, lunches and dinners, travel insurance, medical or personal insurance.

Please make sure you read the related links in full:
Financial Aid
Passport, Visa, and Insurance
Code of Conduct

Registration begins March 1 for all summer study abroad courses. Students should register by March 31, but may register on a space-available basis after this date. Please contact the Office of Special Programs at 510.594.3710 if interested in registering after March 31.

Interested students should contact Nataly Gattegno,, right away to start the approval process for registration.