Square is a missing block / square is the missing post. The square retains a vital space in the city centre, literally forming the link between the city and the port, between the Central Business District and the reinstated old traditional market (Ladadika), lately transformed into one of the city’s leisure attractions.
The importance of the square in the life of the city has underwent dramatic change along with the transformations of its urban substance. From its glorified days in the beginning of the century as the first actual city square (although much smaller in size) the square was the protagonist in the city’s social and political life and host of some excellent examples architecture, scarce remains of which remain today. The dramatic event of the 1917 set the square in a “tabula rasa” state. The newly designed axis by Hébrard (Aristotelous) is to take the lead as the city’s trendsetter. Τhe redesign of the burned city introduces the hippodamus system on the Ottoman city relics. While the central area is emphasized by sophisticated urban plan to incorporate monuments and historic axes, the southwest area is characterized by geometric ordinance. Failure to realize the programmed City Post Hall, resulted with the city gaining (in the form of an unbuilt building block) the present Eleftheria Square.
Even if the epicentre of the city’s social life has long shifted elsewhere, Eleftheria square is undeniably the place where the heart of the business city beats. It is a place characterized by the latent dynamics of the expressions of enterprising (banking, commerce, services).
Τhe intention of the proposal is to fill in the void by reintroducing meaningful relationships in everyday urban life; movement, stop, play, memory.
The soft slopes of the new square channel the pedestrian flows in a serene tree-lined terrain. As a resting basin, it decelarates the hectic downtown activity. The interventions consist of parallel to the waterfront zones, escalating transversely from the higher to the lower level.
The first, descending with a mild slope from Mitropoleos Street meets the east-west axis connecting Kalapothaki and Oplopoiou Streets. It is planted with sour-orange trees evoking memories of fruit gardens of Neoclassical buildings, thus paying tribute to the square’s heritage. The next slope runs to the lower level of the square and it is planted with almond trees. They make an unobtrusive yet strong emotional statement deeply routed in the images of the surrounding Macedonian country. The lower zone reintroduces water and the materiality of the old waterfront by the means of a circular water basin and the use of tèrre batue. The basin inspired by the “voiliers du grand basin” in the Louxembourg jardin in Paris, familiarizes children with the principles of sailing and addresses the activity of the neighboring marine.
The fifth zone, a mild ramp reaching the Leoforos Nikis level, hosts the memorial for the Jews Citizens of Thessaloniki victimized by the Nazis. Fifteen granite blocks with the victims’ names engraved, arrayed against the horizon, break down the views from the square in a sequence of moving images.
The square’s pavement is made of poured blocks of treated concrete in a grid of 5X5m running along the diagonal north south axis of the square. It takes over the whole area of the square – including the perimeter roads transformed to woonerfs – to consolidate the sense of the place.