Why isn’t urban development sustainable? An institutional approach to the case of Athens, Greece

Main Article Content

Antonios Tsiligiannis, M.Sc.


Despite the rise to prominence of sustainable planning, the state of urgency and the pressure imposed by the extreme competition between metropolitan territories reduces sustainability to a market-oriented doctrine for deregulated urban development. The aim of this article is an exploration of the current Athenian urban crisis, by centring on sustainable urban development plans, territorial planning institutions, and urban policies. To this end, the phenomenon of urban crisis is explained as a derivative of the failure of sustainability reforms. By establishing a link between the institutional framework governing urban development and the success or failure of sustainability reforms, this article seeks to contribute to the discussion around the attainability, scope and impact of sustainable urban development plans. Through the hypothesis that as long as territorial planning is used as means towards speculative urban development, it will only be equivalent to that of a real estate facilitating mechanism, it is argued that the urban development model of Athens, as well as the role that institutions have in its shaping, is incompatible with any notion of sustainability. The main contribution of this article is to potentially help towards developing a critical reflection on how projects, plans, territories and sustainability should be approached.


Download data is not yet available.

Article Details

How to Cite
Tsiligiannis, A. (2019). Why isn’t urban development sustainable?. Journal of Contemporary Urban Affairs, 4(1), 71-78. https://doi.org/10.25034/ijcua.2020.v4n1-7


Ascher, F. (1995). Métapolis ou l’avenir des villes [Metapolis or the future of cities]. Paris: Editions Odile Jacob.

Burgel, G. (2002). Le Miracle Athénien au XXe Siècle [The Athenian Miracle in the 20th Century]. Paris: CNRS Editions.

Burgel, G. (1976). Αθήνα, Η Ανάπτυξη μιας Μεσογειακής Πρωτεύουσας [Athens, The Development of a Mediterranean Capital]. (P. Linardos-Rylmon, Trans.) Athens: Exantas.

Chorianopoulos, I., Pagonis, A., Koukoulas, S., & Drymoniti, S. O. (2010). Planning, Competitiveness and Sprawl in the Mediterranean city: The case of Athens. Cities, 27 (4),
pp. 249-259. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cities.2009.12.011

Cluzet, A. (2007). Ville Libérale ou Ville Durable ? Répondre à l'Urgence Environnementale [Liberal City or Sustainable City? Responding to the Environmental Urgency]. Paris:
Editions de l'Aube.

Connolly, J. J. (2018, March 1). From Systems Thinking to Systemic Action: Social Vulnerability and the Institutional Challenge of Urban Resilience. City & Community, 17, pp. 8-11.https://doi.org/10.1111/cico.12282

Davis, M. (2006). Planet of Slums. London / New York, NY: Verso.

Dawson, A. (2017). Extreme Cities. London: Verso.

Dolowitz, D., & Marsh, D. (1996). Who Learns What from Whom: A Review of the Policy Transfer Literature. Political Studies, 44 (2), pp. 343-357. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9248.1996.tb00334.x

Dolowitz, D., & Marsh, D. (2000). Learning from Abroad: The Role of Policy Transfer in Contemporary Policy-Making. Governance, 13 (1), pp. 5-23. https://doi.org/10.1111/0952-1895.00121

Doxiadis, C. A. (1968). ECUMENOPOLIS: Tomorrow’s City. In E. Britannica (Ed.), Britannica Book of the Year (pp. 26-30). Chicago, IL: Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

Dragonas, P. (2011). In greeklish: Στοιχεία καταγωγής της νεώτερης αρχιτεκτονικής στην Ελλάδα [In greeklish: Elements of the ancestry of contemporary architecture in Greece]. Athens: Θέματα Χώρου + Τεχνών [Topics of Space + Arts]

Easterling, K. (2014). Extrastatecraft: The Power of Infrastructure Space. London / Brooklyn, NY: Verso

Economou, D., Getimis, P., Demathas, Z., Petrakos, G., & Pyrgiotis, Y. (2001). Ο Διεθνής Ρόλος της Αθήνας [The International Role of Athens]. Volos: University of Thessaly Press

Economou, D., Petrakos, G., & Psycharis, Y. (2016). National Urban Policy in Greece. In L. Van den Berg, E. Braun, & J. Van der Meer (Eds.), National Policy Responses to Urban Challenges in Europe (pp. 193-216). Oxfordshire / New York, NY: Routledge.

Emmanuel, D. (1994). On the structure of housing accumulation and the role of family wealth transfers in the Greek housing system. London: Routledge.

Gallon, M. (1987). Society in the Making: The Study of Technology as a Tool for Sociological Analysis. In W. E. Bijker, T. P. Hughes, & T. J. Pinch (Eds.), The Social Construction of Technological Systems: New Directions in the Sociology and History of Technology (pp. 83 84). Cambridge, MA / London: The MIT Press.

Giannakourou, G. (2004). The Implementation of EU Environmental Policy in Greece: Europeanization and Mechanisms of Change. In D. G. Dimitrakopoulos, & A. G. Passas (Eds.), Greece in the European Union (Europe and the Nation State) (pp. 51-60). London / New York, NY: Routledge.

Graham, S., & Marvin, S. (2001). Splintering Urbanism. Oxfordshire: Routledge.

Gunder, M. (2010, 11). Planning as the Ideology of (Neoliberal) Space. Planning Theory (9), pp. 298-314. https://doi.org/10.1177/1473095210368878

Hansen, T., & Coenen, L. (2015). The Geography of Sustainability Transitions: Review, Synthesis and Reflections on an Emergent Research Field. Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions (17), pp. 92-109. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eist.2014.11.001

Heidenreich, E., Chtouros, S., & Detlev, I. (2007). Αθήνα: Η Κοινωνική Δημιουργία μιας Μεσογειακής Μητρόπολης [Athens: The Social Creation of a Mediterranean Metropolis]. Athens: Kritiki.

Karidis, D. N. (2008). Τα Επτά Βιβλία της Πολεοδομίας [The Seven Books of Urban Planning]. Athens: Papasotiriou.

Karidis, D. N. (2014). Athens from 1456 to 1920: The Town under Ottoman Rule and the 19th Century Capital City. Oxford: Archaeopress.

Karidis, D. N. (2015). Athens from 1920 to 1940: A true and just account of how history was enveloped by a modern city and the place became an event. Oxford: Archaeopress.

Karvonen, A. (2011). Politics of Urban Runoff: Nature, Technology, and the Sustainable City. Cambridge, MA / London: The MIT Press.

Koolhaas, R. (2014, September 24). My thoughts on the smart city. (E. Commission, Ed.) Retrieved March 28, 2019, from Digital Minds for a New Europe:

Lefebvre, H. (1996). Writings on Cities. (E. Kofman, & E. Lebas, Trans.) Oxford / Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers.

Leontidou, L. (1990). The Mediterranean City in Transition: Social Change and Urban Development. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Moran, M. (2010). Policy-Making in an Interdependent World. In C. Hay (Ed.), New Directions in Political Science: Responses to the Challenges of an Interdependent World (p. 27). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

OECD. (2009). OECD Environmental Performance Reviews: Greece (pp. 15-16). Paris: OECD. https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264061330-en

Paschou, A. (2008). Urban block in post-war Athens: Development, form and social context. (pp. 38- -42). Zürich: ETH Zürich. https://doi.org/10.3929/ethz-a-005810305

Peters, B. G. (1996). Political Institutions, Old and New. In R. E. Goodin, & H.-D. Klingemann (Eds.), A New Handbook of Political Science (pp. 205-220). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Petropoulou, C. (2011). Développement Urbain et Eco-Paysages Urbains : Une Etude sur les Quartiers de Mexico et d'Athènes [Urban Development and Urban Eco-Landscapes: A Study of the Neighbourhoods of Mexico and Athens]. Paris: L'Harmattan.

Prévélakis, G. (2000). Athènes : Urbanisme, Culture et Politique [Athens: Urbanism, Culture and Politics]. Paris: L'Harmattan.

Rodrigue, J.-P., Comtois, C., & Slack, B. (2013). The Geography of Transport Systems. New York: Routledge.

Rogerson, R., & Boyle, M. (2000). Property, politics and the neo-liberal revolution in urban Scotland. Progress in Planning, 54 (3), pp.133-196. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0305-9006(00)00011-8

Sarigiannis, G. M. (2000). Αθήνα 1830 - 2000: Εξέλιξη - Πολεοδομία - Μεταφορές [Athens 1830-
-2000: Evolution - Urbanism - Transports]. Athens: Symmetria Editions.

Skagiannis, P., & Kaparos, G. (2013). Τα έργα υποδομών στην Ελλάδα και η παρουσία των μεγάλων έργων μεταφορικών υποδομών: Mεταβαλλόμενα υποδείγματα & προτεραιότητες [Infrastructure projects in Greece and the presence of large transport infrastructure projects: Changing patterns & priorities]. Επιστημονικό Περιοδικό Αειχώρος [Aeichoros Scientific Magazine], (18), pp. 12-65.
Retrieved from: http://www.aeihoros.gr/issues/el/issue/aeixoros-18

Stathakis, G., & Chatzimichalis, K. (2004). Αθήνα Διεθνής Πόλη: Από την Επιθυμία των Ολίγων στην Πραγματικότητα των Πολλών [Athens International City: From the Desire of the Few to the Reality of the Many]. Geographies, 7, pp. 26-47. Retrieved from: http://estia.hua.gr/file/lib/default/data/346/theFile

Stone, D. (2004). Transfer Agents and Global Networks in the "Transnationalization" of Policy. Journal of European Public Policy, 11 (3), pp. 545-566.https://doi.org/10.1080/13501760410001694291

Theocharopoulou, I. (2017). Builders, Housewives, and the Construction of Modern Athens. London: Black Dog Publishing Limited.

Torfing, J. (1999). New Theories of Discourse: Laclau, Mouffe and Zizek (1st ed.). Oxford / Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

Varnelis, K. (2009). The Infrastructural City: Networked Ecologies in Los Angeles. Barcelona / New York, NY: Actar.

Waldheim, C. (2016). Landscape as Urbanism: A General Theory. Princeton, NJ / Oxfordshire: Princeton University Press.

Εφημερίς της Κυβερνήσεως [Government Gazette]. (1929). Περί της Ιδιοκτησίας κατ' Ορόφους -
ΦΕΚ 4/Α/09-01-1929, Νόμος 3741/1929 [On Property Ownership of Storeys - GGI 4/Α/09-01-1929, Law 3741/1929]. Athens: Εφημερίδα της Κυβερνήσεως [Government Gazette].
Retrieved from: http://bit.do/e3sJP

Εφημερίς της Κυβερνήσεως [Government Gazette]. (1929). Γενικός Οικοδομικός Κανονισμός - ΦΕΚ
155/Α/22-04-1929 [State Construction Code - 155/Α/22-04-1929]. Athens: Εφημερίς της
Κυβερνήσεως [Government Gazette]. Retrieved from: http://bit.do/e3sJ8

Εφημερίς της Κυβερνήσεως [Government Gazzette]. (2013). Αντιμετώπιση της Αυθαίρετης Δόμησης - ΦΕΚ 174/Α/08-08-2013, Νόμος 4178/2013 [Measures Against Illegal Constructions - GGI 174/Α/08-08-2013, Law 4178/2013]. Athens: Εφημερίς της Κυβερνήσεως [Government Gazzette]. Retrieved from: http://bit.do/e3sKm

Εφημερίς της Κυβερνήσεως [Government Gazzette]. (2014). Νέο Ρυθμιστικό Σχέδιο Αθήνας Αττικής - ΦΕΚ 156/Α/01-08-2014, Νόμος 4277/2014 [New Regulatory Plan of Athens-Attica - GGI 156/Α/01-08-2014, Law 4277/2014]. Athens: Εφημερίς της Κυβερνήσεως [Government Gazzette]. Retrieved from: http://bit.do/e3sKy