Places of Togetherness / Κοινοί Τόποι
Places of Togetherness started as a research project (funded by the EU’s Horizon 2020) investigating the relationship between public space and social cohesion through the shared courtyards of Nikea.
Nikea is a municipality in Attica, founded as a Minor Asia refugee settlement in 1923. The Greco-Turkish War and the compulsory exchange of populations between the two countries –specified by the Lausanne Convention– led to a massive population influx in the Greek state, leading to a housing crisis. Among the areas developed for refugee accommodation was Nikea. The urban plan developed top-down included a plethora of minimal housing typologies, often laid out in building blocks with shared internal courtyards. These shared spaces still remain today in over 130 building blocks. Over the last century, Nikea has changed socioeconomically, culturally, and spatially. Beyond the initial refugees from Minor Asia, it has become home to newer immigrants. In this diverse context the research investigated the social life around the courtyards and explored their potential of cultivating sharing culture, building social cohesion, and facilitating social interactions.
Over the first year of the research program, there have been many encounters between people who live, work or grew up in Nikea. They shared stories, memories, and hopes about Nikea’s shared courtyards. These encounters led to the formation of an interdisciplinary team of scientists, artists, and researchers who have lived and worked on the city’s issues. Our team includes two architects, a historian, a director, and a visual artist. Our goal is to collaborate with residents and support collective practices that could reactivate Nikea’s courtyards. In May and June of 2023 alone, we managed to organise over 10 participatory events in 4 courtyards, bringing together residents and sparking unique conversations and collective action. We imagine the courtyards as shared spaces that are creative, lively, and open for all!
Places of Togetherness is a collaborative initiative in Nikea, an area that has witnessed diverse migration threads. The project originated as a research endeavour exploring the interplay between public space and social cohesion through the lens of Nikea's shared courtyards. The courtyards used to be lively places of social exchange, but have gradually fallen into disuse since the 2000s, due to several socioeconomic, environmental, and spatial factors.
Our team’s mission is to work with other residents on activities taking place in the courtyards and fostering meaningful connections.The goal is to reactivate the spaces through bottom-up collective action. By delving into the area’s daily rhythms and its residents’ memories and aspirations, we recently facilitated a series of participatory activities from oral testimonies, collective dinners, caring for the gardens, educational events, and discussions. We held over 10 events in 4 locations, with a total of over 150 participants. Through these actions, we sparked people’s urban imaginary about how the courtyards could again become a key part of everyday life, while aiming for self-organisation, inclusion of newer residents, and shared experiences across generations and backgrounds. As a way to expand our outreach, a local multilingual newspaper brought research findings back to the community.
Moving forward and beyond the scope of the research, our goal is to strengthen and empower the initial local networks created. We hope our team could become a supportive platform and an instigator for such bottom up activities to scale out in different locations but also scale deeper within the neighbourhood, empowering residents to regain a sense of ownership,while creating unexpected social connections. We hope to use LINA as an opportunity to reflect on our recent collective experiences through either text or film, share it with a wider audience and exchange ideas on how we could amplify the project’s impact meaningfully.