The task of this competition was to redesign the Helexpo fair grounds in Thessaloniki. MARELD entered this international competition with ALA Architects from Helsinki.
The natural landscape of the Thermaic Gulf is dominated by two elements: the Mediterranean Sea and the mountains. Thessaloniki is separating these two features with its dense urban fabric. In our vision Confex park unifies the two key natural elements and invites the people to enjoy them. It is a meeting ground for the mountain, the sea, and the city.
In the early years, the Helexpo exhibition grounds were an open space with buildings placed as pavilions in the main park. Through a series of new constructions, the area lost its park character and became a grey, enclosed, and introverted space disrupting both green-blue and urban connectivity. With sustainability in mind, we proposed a plan that renews the area in a way that lets nature and city life flourish in the same place.
Our landscape plan is a diverse mosaic of different typologies inspired by natural plant communities and traditional horticultural features. It is comprised of a roof landscape with meadows, phrygana (macchia) and groves, a shaded bosque, an open forest, pine stands, cascades with raingardens, orchards and urban spaces with dense tree plantings. Each typology has a distinct identity but they still act as one cohesive unit, since all of them have a Mediterranean character rooted in local biomes and culture. We emphasize the use of the native plants of the region. However, to ensure climate adaptation and resilience we also selected plants from other parts of the country as well as from abroad. These exotic ones are from areas where the vegetation is adapted to extreme drought and heat stress.
Besides heat we also kept noise pollution in mind and created dense plantings around the edges to create calmer areas that facilitate higher quality recreation for citizens, convention centre visitors and tourist.