Where is it?
In the heart of Exarcheia, the block between Harilaou Trikoupi, Navarinou, Zoodochou Pigis and Didotou Streets.
What is it?
A free space, self-managed park.
How is it called?
It is usually referred to as Navarinou park or Zoodochou Pigis park or self-managed Navarinou and Zoodochou Pigis park or parking park ; while some others simply call it “the park”.
What used to be there?
This piece of land used to host a very popular clinic, which was built in 1907, and was originally known as “Geroulaneion Institute” and later as “Smparouni Clinic”. In 1972, the clinic closed down and the building was bought by the Technical Chamber of Greece (TEE). During the 1980s, the 4-storey building was demolished with a view to instead build a hall that would host the central offices of the TEE, but this plan never came to effect. In 1990, the TEE offered the land to the Athens Council in order to turn it into a square and provided it would be reimbursed by increasing its building coefficient allowance in one of its other properties in Maroussi. Due to several delays and changes in urban development law, this exchange never took place and this piece of land remained for years leased as an open-air parking space.
When and how was the park created?
Once the leasehold for the parking expired in 2008, the TEE brought up again the issue of re-developing the land, and this attracted the interest of Exarcheia residents. The Exarcheia Residents’ Initiative, which had already been working on the matter for a year and a half, informed the neighbourhood, took action and requested the immediate conversion into an area of high vegetation. On the 7th March 2009, along with the collective “Us, Here and Now and for All of Us”, it organised an event where all residents and enthusiastic supporters united to squat on the space and demand the obvious, that the parking turns into a park! They broke the asphalt with drills and cutters, they brought trucks carrying soil, planted flowers and trees and in the end they celebrated it. The response and determination of all involved exceeded any expectations and the park was born.
How was it organised originally?
As of the 2nd day of its existence, there were already open meetings characterised by lengthy discussions, opposing views and much good will and these defined its overall character: self-managed, anti-hierarchical, anti-commercial. The operation of these open meetings, which vary in frequency throughout the year depending on needs and availability, is crucial for the evolution of the squat. Every proposal for using or altering the space, for events, for response to invitations etc but also every other problem which may arise is discussed in these forums. Concurrently, several sub-groups are created in order to deal with more specific matters such as planning, gardening, a childrens’ playground, artworks etc and a donation box has begun circulation.
What happens there?
The park is a space for creativity, emancipation and resistance, open to various initiatives, such as political, cultural and anti-consumerist ones. At the same time, it aspires to be a neighbourhood garden which accommodates part of the social life of its residents, is beyond any profit or ownership-driven logics and functions as a place for playing and walking, meeting and communicating, sports, creativity and critical thinking. The park defies constraints relating to different ages, origins, educational level, social and economic positioning.
Can I make changes to the park?
The park is being co-created by an open collective and changes day by day organically. Every idea can be expressed and nothing is declined without dialogue and argumentation. However, the consensual decisions of the open meetings are binding for everyone.
What can I do for the park?
Your physical presence is important in itself. Your participation in the open meetings and co-creation of this project is even more important and of course any kind of offer of goods and services (cleaning, plant watering, daily activities, physical development, administrative work etc), know-how or money, is precious. A weekly rota for the cleaning and watering of the plants is circulated every Wednesday at 7pm.
What else should I be aware of?
The cleanliness of the park and respect of the neighbours’ right to live in «peace» are two issues that have troubled the open meetings regularly and remain troublesome.
How can I keep myself up-to-date with what is happening in the park?
From the notice board that is installed in the park or from the park’s blog: http://parkingparko.espivblogs.net/en
THE OPEN MEETINGS OF THE SELF-MANAGED NAVARINOU AND ZOODOCHOU PIGIS PARK TAKE PLACE EVERY WEDNESDAY AT 7pm.