2nd prize: Interview with Angeliki Tzifa & Sofia Nikolaidou
1) Please tell us a few words about you and what motivated you to participate in the competition of Arxellence 2. Did you ever undertake/design a similar project (CBD) in the past?
a. Tell us a few words about the team that worked on the proposal.
b. How were you informed about the competition of ArXellence 2?
c. Did you ever undertake/design a similar project in the past?
The Green Hub was a collaborative effort between architects Angeliki Tzifa and Sofia Nikolaidou, both originally from Greece and currently based in the USA. Angeliki lives in New York City, has graduated from the University of Patras and holds a Master of Science in Advanced Architectural Design degree from the University of Pennsylvania. Sofia is based in Berkeley, California and holds a Diploma in Architectural Engineering from the National Technical University of Athens and a Master of Landscape Architecture Degree from the University of Pennsylvania.
We met during our graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania and have since collaborated on various design projects internationally. We have both worked for architecture and landscape architecture firms in Europe and in the USA, focusing on architectural, landscape, urban design, and large scale planning projects. During our professional career, we have been involved in the design of several business center projects worldwide. We were informed about the competition through an online architectural magazine and were excited to design a project in Thessaloniki, Greece.
2) Could you give us a description of your proposal? How did you approach the project and what was the main idea of your design?
a. Describe in a few words the structure of the CBD you designed (the main characteristics of your synthesis).
b. Describe the main idea of your proposal.
c. What difficulties did you face?
d. What would you say is the most innovative feature of your proposal?
Envisioning a synergy between architecture and landscape design, the Green Hub promotes sustainable coastal activation while protecting the area from sea level rise. Thessaloniki is one of the cities most vulnerable to climate change in the Mediterranean. The site is exposed to flood risks, high temperatures and increasing frequency of storm events. Rather than postponing the reality of climate change, the project transforms this pressing challenge into a central theme of design. The proposal draws inspiration from the site’s rich geophysical and cultural history. The area used to be a recreational destination with dense vegetation, beaches, and a popular waterfront park. This all changed drastically following the area’s industrial development in the early 19th century, which left behind a polluted waterfront and many underused buildings. The Green Hub is a contemporary take on the area's natural past, proposing waterfront re-activation through resilient design. The design echoes the landscapes of Greece, creating a hybrid between architecture and open space that respects the scale of the city. The proposed buildings emerge through a series of multi-level terraces, which serve as a continuation of the landscape. Outdoor atriums connect the spaces vertically and allow vegetation to pass through, creating a fluid green public space.
The proposed program includes new private and public spaces such as mixed-use offices, cultural event spaces and educational facilities. The design proposes the adaptive re-use of the existing historic buildings, which are surrounded by site-specific plazas and parks and become important nodes of the circulation network.
The design implements a series of resilience strategies that mitigate coastal food risks, filter and detain stormwater, restore native ecosystems, prioritize pedestrians and cyclists and promote renewable energy. These include rain gardens, bioswales, water detention basins, permeable surfaces as well as the use of topography. The project includes a larger scale masterplan that proposes the restoration of the adjacent river and wetlands, the expansion of the city’s bike network, the introduction of localized stormwater management systems and the creation of activated green pockets within the urban fabric. The Green Hub creates a continuous open space framework that performs ecologically, enhances equity and well-being, while raising environmental awareness. The proposal establishes a new vibrant destination for Thessaloniki - a sustainable and resilient Green Hub that functions both as civic space and as flood protection infrastructure.
3) What do you think made your idea stand out and why? What are the experiences you gained from the competition of ArXellence 2?
Our approach prioritized contextual integration while addressing the imminent challenge of climate change and sea level rise through innovative and resilient design. Inspired by the natural landscapes of Greece and the rich history of Thessaloniki, our goal was to create a contemporary and sustainable design proposal that respects its context, while protecting a larger urban area from the rising waters.
We are very honored to have participated in ArXellence 2 and to have been awarded the second Prize. We are both originally from Greece and have close connections to Thessaloniki. This competition was a unique challenge to generate and share ideas regarding the future of its western waterfront, and allowed us to look at Thessaloniki through a new lens. As we are based in the US, ArXellence 2 was a rare and very inspiring opportunity to work on a project located in Greece, and we hope to have more such opportunities in the future.