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Known historically as the “City of Water”, Edessa is one of many ancient small hill towns situated in a forested river valley found at the northwest part of Greece's Macedonia region. Bordering with FYROM, Albania and Bulgaria, it sits at the edge of a plateau overlooking the historically rich Plains of Hellas; atop a vast agricultural plain that extends east to Thessalonica, some 120 kilometers. Small rivers run through Edessa boasting an intricate system of waterwayscanals, rivulets, and waterfalls-intertwined with small streets, walking paths and scenic overlooks. The rivers fall spectacularly 70m down from the ledge to the plain below. These waterfalls are a well-known and celebrated natural feature. The new extended municipality includes both towns of Edessa and neighboring town Anissa encompassing a rural “green corridor” agricultural area between them. It comprises the study area which extends in the valley of the River Edesseos, rising in the Agras Nissi Vritta wetlands and Lake Vegoritida. North of Edessa recreational itineraries include abundant ski resorts, ornithological reserves, lakes and archeological sites.

Unless the municipality of Edessa generates new economic growth, it will continue to lose a valuable human resource, its youth. The mayor wishes to create new hope and energy for the new municipality through economic investment and physical restructuring. Improvements here could reverberate throughout the region and potentially motivate further investment. Renovated small hotels and lodgings have emerged as outsiders begin to see the potential value of Edessa's future. Egnatia Motorway, the region’s greatest infrastructural project, has already transformed travel times and accessibilities across northern Greece bringing closer the emerging economies of Western and Eastern Europe. Environmental considerations for the region are underway as two transnational agreements, the EU's NATURA Network 2000 and the RAMSAR Convention of 1971, continue to ensure the preservation and protection of sensitive ecosystems and wetlands for the foreseeable future. But this green corridor, however scenic, suffers from inattention and minimal investment.

As many regions of great natural beauty dotted with small agricultural towns across Europe continue their dependence upon cultural and ecological tourism, questions that define and frame broader issues of design, sustainability and growth in northern Greece, were considered throughout the planning process: a) How sustainable development and design issues of a region can be sensitively addressed, while developing a strategy that provides socio-cultural, economic and environmental sustainability? b) How can landscape and infrastructure design work synergistically to address the demands of connectivity and increased capacity while also promoting a sense of identity and "placeness" for a rural region? c) How can issues of sustainability and environmental stewardship be calibrated to the specifics of local culture and geography? d) How can recent shifts in the regional geopolitical sphere be actuated to bolster tourism and economic development? e) How can strategic investments in landscape and infrastructure be leveraged to provide development opportunity for the larger region? f) Can a pronounced shift toward high-end tourism reposition the developmental future of the region? g) Can a new strategy of catalytic rural landscape and infrastructure investments improve the internal structure of the landscape and enhance its connection to the larger region?

Like many hill towns across continental Europe impacted by the shift away from small scale agricultural operations and the forces of an increasingly globalized economy, the structural relationship between town and country (in this case, the agrarian hinterlands) has profoundly changed. In the more targeted scope and scale of a municipality, fundamental questions remain: a) What uniquely defining characteristics does Edessa possess? b) What additional attributes does Edessa require? c) What actions can be taken to improve sustainable development and economic growth, while preserving natural resources, promoting cultural resources, and upgrading physical planning integration of Edessa’s urban and rural Mediterranean landscape?



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