OKRA and UNStudio’s design wins third prize in TIF-HELEXPO design competition

Together with UNStudio (lead architect), Schema 4 and OKRA won the third prize in the International Architectural Design Competition to revitalise the Thessaloniki Exhibition Centre. The exhibition & conference center is situated in the heart of Thessaloniki, the second-largest city in Greece, occupying approximately 175.000 sqm. 

TIF-HELEXPO organised the design competition. The goal is to stimulate the redevelopment of a prominent part of the city centre that shall have a major impact on the economy of the city and the broader area of Northern Greece, contributing to the transformation of Thessaloniki into one of the top forward-looking cities of Europe and a leading international business hub and tourist destination. 

Urban forest
The overall concept presents the targeted area as a forested park with buildings as pavilions surrounded and covered by vegetation, softening the size of the new buildings and breaking the large and densely urbanised city’s hardscape. The envisioned urban forest includes a mosaic of woodlands typologies, combined with a 1226-meter-long elevated walkway through the crowns of the trees. Moreover, creating an elongated body of water inside the exhibition centre, from north to south, contributes significantly to stormwater attenuation and heat mitigation while celebrating the memory of the original stream cutting through the area.

Attractive oasis
‘The concept is carefully elaborated,’ says the jury chaired by Joan Busquets. ‘It is a strong statement and an attractive oasis in the heart of the city, while it merges smoothly with the surroundings. Extensive use of greenery, including the roofs of the buildings, gives huge sustainable possibilities’. 

The first prize was won by the consortium of Sauerbruch Hutton (DE), Gustafson Porter + Bowman (UK) and Elena Stavropoulou Architecture & Sustainable design (GR). 

OKRA has been working on urban design and landscape assignments for many years. It previously won a design competition to revitalise Athens’ city center and in 2019 received an honorable mention in a design ideas competition for the urban regeneration of Athens’ historic center.