Dr Konstantinos Moraitis, Professor, School of Architecture NTUA, Greece
Alexandra Mentekidou, Architect, MSc in Architecture
Title: ‘Sailing Cities’: Seascape Identity and Aegean Touristic Ports’ Network
It is normal to refer to place branding, promoting the quality of places ‘on earth’, and it is equally normal to refer to ‘landscape’, insisting on the prefix ‘land’, again in reference to the surface of earth. However it is obvious that coastal cities and territories possess unique characteristics, related to the sea environment, while sea-voyages and sailing in particular, offer mental as well as body experiences, non-comparable to the earth travel.
What is even more important, for a country with a mainland surrounded by extended coasts and hundreds of islands, is that we cannot understand its identity by just looking ‘inwards’. On the contrary, Hellenic identity has always been an ‘extrovert’ one, correlated to naval mentality and to maritime capacity, during peaceful or aggressive periods of history.
Reference to the above presented age-long culture and civilization of naval experience, is for sure a matter of political importance for contemporary Greeks, having to do with contemporary geopolitical challenges. Describing Hellenic Republic, in general, as a huge portal zone is a matter of metaphor. However it is a figurative expression rather suitable to the importance of Greece as an international and, even more, as an intercontinental node of maritime correlation. This international and intercontinental insight illustrates the contemporary strategic significance of Hellenic ports as Piraeus par excellence, Alexandroupolis, Igoumenitsa and Patras.
However, on a cultural level, a more ‘innocent’ approach could insist on the fact that Hellenic seas constitute the native place of an unparalleled civilization, being primarily erected on ‘liquid’ foundations. Athenian Parthenon could probably be compared, in historic significance, to the ancient Athenian naval power, while the isles of the Aegean archipelagos contributed the cradle of Cycladic Civilization. They circumscribe the important terrain of continuous cultural exchanges through Antiquity, Byzantine empire, Crusades, Ottoman expansion and closer to us historical periods.
The coastal zone of the Hellenic mainland and, even more, Hellenic islands are already internationally established as important touristic destination. Friendly climate, historic references as previously explained, the delicacy of the Mediterranean culinary and wine culture, local festivities, may offer unforgettable experiences. However the more impressive element of the Greek hospitality has to do with enchanting beaches and the seascape lyricism; with surfaces of azure salty water, adorned by the glittering backs of dolphins and the appearance of sailing vessels.
What Greek seas, Aegean sea specifically, may impel to, is not primarily the consolation of the earth vicinity or the islanding sites on stable earth, but the fascination of an amphibian existence; mermaid like, partly human, partly marine. In Hellenic folk-culture we may find the reference to “Mermaid Madonna – Panagia Gorgona”; a holy image making converge Christian orthodox sanctity with primordial legends, equally sacred for a people of
nautical origin. We could not re-establish the spiritual feeling of past times. However we can assert, in a more profane contemporary way, that the incomparable touristic experience, in the territory of Greece, has to do with the ‘amphibian’ sailing experience; connected to the sea, to the primordial feeling of the Mediterranean navigational tradition.
It was an historic duty for modern and contemporary Greeks to produce great yachtsmen and to host great yachting activities. They succeeded in both previous tasks and created a worldwide reputation of yacht athletes and yachting events. What our session wants to insist on, is not just the promotion of this already acquired success, but the fact that the development of important marinas, of touristic ports, could largely ameliorate the efficiency of the yachting tourism and its positive impact on the coastal cities, all around Greece.
We could accelerate the impact of such a development if we could speak not about isolated marinas, but rather about ‘a network of marinas’, spread around, in correlation to the already established naval sailing network. Moreover we could associate this sea network of interacting destinations, to a multiplicity of earth networks, concerning hotel accommodations, historic monuments of different periods, religious tourism, thermal springs and spas, culinary and wine ‘dégustation’ touristic destinations, and to all sort of touristic activities. Nevertheless, the real challenge has to do with the seascape experience in itself; the seascape experience that could even transcend conventional state borders and create a network of sailing ‘friendly’ destinations, in the wider extension of Eastern Mediterranean sea.
We shall define the previous network, as a ‘sailing region’, describing a spatial entity, not bound by strict geographical borders, but rather conceived as a geographically expanded ‘amphibian’ territory; a territory, which fully enables and supports sailing experience, by promoting rather an alternative way of being than just specific means of travel.
To whom the Session refers:
The Session proposed has the intention to bring in contact not only professionals from the disciplines of architecture, landscape architecture, urban design, planning and place branding expertise, but also:
- Professionals dealing with the design, organization and management of marinas,
- historians studying Hellenic naval history,
- and of course yachtsmen and people participating in the organization of yachting events.
The Session proposed may discuss issues related to:
- The promotion of yachting activity in correlation to Hellenic sea-scape and to coastal and islandic landscape,
- the promotion of yachting activity in correlation to proposals for the amelioration of the existing marinas function, and to their possible networking,
- the promotion of yachting activity in correlation to the place branding of coastal cities and coastal or islandic territories,
- proposals for the amelioration of the existing marinas function, in correlation to legal, economic and administrative support by the Hellenic state.