The collapse of “powerful Greece”
For Greece this critical eight-year period (2004-2012) had three landmarks:
The summer of 2004 is the landmark of “powerful Greece”: The successful hosting of the Olympic Games was the peak of a period of optimism and economic development. Correspondingly, December 2008 was a moment of a violent awakening. Greek society, hypnotized by the hunt for good times that typified the previous years, is shaken to the core by the outbreak of the economic crisis and of social unrest. Finally, seeking recourse in International Monetary Fund assistance, in the spring of 2010 marks the end of the delusion of a “powerful Greece”. The collapse of the economy and a contestation of national sovereignty usher the country into an era of depression and dejection.
The international financial crisis broke out suddenly in 2008. However, the cultural and ideological crisis of modern Greece become clear quite a bit earlier. This crisis is a consequence of the phenomenon of globalisation, which had grown greater as the decade progressed. The volatility of the economy, the migration of people and the transfer of information lessens geographical distances and contributes to the deconstruction of local identities. Artificial economy development, based on borrowing, encouraged the spread of consumerism models and created a simulated feeling of good times. Long-term institutional weaknesses in the Greek political system contributed to a dramatic exacerbation of the country’s economic troubles. Finally, the phenomenon of economic migration overturned the anthropogeography of traditionally homogeneous Greek cities.
The aforementioned problems are reflected in Greek cities: The creation of new, massive malls – consumer palaces of doubtful viability; the degrading of traditional public spaces; and the creation of pockets of transgressive behaviour and privation, led to a decomposition of urban space. Greek society appears incapable of dealing with these problems, but also of making use of the opportunities created by the phenomenon of globalisation and is faced with an unprecedented economic, social, and cultural crisis.
D. Michalakis, Burnout, 2010, 2012.
The rise and fall of the consumer lifestyle
Up to the outbreak of the crisis, economic activity was positively influenced by simulated economic development. Preparations for the Olympic Games and access to cheap borrowed funds made construction one of the basic foundations of the Greek economy. During this period, the course of Greek architecture is defined solely by private sector commissions. Despite the large number of significant public works that were carried out up to 2004, the contribution of the public sector to the evolution of Greek architecture is limited. During the same period, economic well-being brought about a rise in living standards and encouraged the spread of new consumer-based models of living. The consumer lifestyle constitutes a central element in the identity of local society and develops into a defining factor in the evolution of architecture in Greece.
The outbreak of the international economic crisis in 2008 showed everyone the weaknesses of the Greek economy and led to a breakdown in construction activity as well as a shake-up of the consumer lifestyle. After a decade where consumerism was dominant, local society starts to display an interest in the commons. The degraded urban and natural environment returns to its place at the focal point of interest and creates an opportunity to establish new commonalities: Within a relatively short period of time, numerous citizens’ movements were formed, which would attempt, each in its own different way, to take up action and to defend their right to public space. Years would go by, before the state would express any deed-based interest in the problems of urban centre degeneration. However, the private sector is also restructured in a corresponding manner. In the field of real estate, new entrepreneurs appear who invest with respect to the particular qualities of the Greek natural landscape and cities. At the same time, such an extended period of involvement almost exclusively in the private sector along consumer lines, has led to a weakening of the social reflexes of architects. Given the economic crisis, as well as the disintegrated institutional framework for exercising the profession, gaining a social role is a difficult enterprise for architects in Greece.
Self-managed park on Navarinou Street.
The generation that commenced their career in the 2000s includes creative people, who grew up in the dysfunctional Greek city of the 1980s and came to age within a broader climate of populism and of the race for happiness of the previous years. This generation was particularly lucky during its studies, as it was offered increased opportunities to travel, a breadth of post-graduate work availability and professional experience around the world. It remains the first generation that is fully familiar, from the time of their studies, with the use of electronic means of communication and representation. This generation utilises the new media, not only to design, but also to be informed, to communicate, to shape its public image. Internet media abolish limitations of geography, and provide an opportunity to collaborate with colleagues overseas. The heterogeneity of new creative teams in Athens is unprecedented, as new forms of collaboration being shaped also include a significant number of architects who have emigrated, or who move to different cities, and maintain the capacity to collaborate thanks to new digital technologies.
If 20th century mass media, such as cinema and television, encouraged the transmission of images from various places, contemporary media accelerate the transmission of images that are unfettered, both from place and from material reality. The perception of natural space is specified by digital mapping, while social space is subbed by digital social network media, such as Facebook and Twitter. Essentially this is the configuration of a new hyper-reality, where the natural world is augmented, but also distorted by its digital complement.
The intermediated experience of architecture does not constitute a new phenomenon. The relationship between modern architecture and the media was indissoluble from its very conception. The spread of modern aesthetic models and capabilities of the construction industry couldn’t have been achieved without print media in the twentieth century. Nowadays information about architecture is provided mainly through the interactive platform of Web 2.0, which includes social media and web pages. Architectural representations are now transmitted in real time. Presentations of architectural projects are now compressed into 200 word documents and 600 pixel images. The precise position of the projects is recorded on the background of geographical information systems.
The strengthening of digital representations exercises considerable influence over architectural morphology, the symbolic dimension of architecture, as well as the ontology of the architectural project. Promotion of architectural projects using digital media remains image-dependent. The requirement to create emblematic images leads to a broadening of new architectural morphologies, as well as to the evolution of architectural presentations, which frequently express interesting visual arts pursuits. At the same time, the narrative force of architecture is reinforced. The capacity that contemporary architecture possesses to transmit messages now concerns more the representations of architecture than the spatial experience itself. Architectural narratives are capable of forming new imaginative relationships with the city and to lend to the art of architecture increased critical and deliberative force. Finally, the predominance of representations exercises considerable influence on the ontology of architectural projects. Digital technology brings the concept of the “real” up for judgment, as spatial representations are released from the constrictions of place and representations of the real world are no longer distinguishable from their simulations.
The aforementioned developments broaden the role of architecture in the information society. Given that the conceptual dominates the tangible, and the signified gains greater significance than the signifier, architecture is slowly evolving from an art of space and construction to an art of communication.
A. Angelidakis, Cloud House.
Post (Greek) modern
For the greater part of the twentieth century, a local idiom of the modern language of architecture dominated in Greece. The roots of Greek modernism are, to a very great extent, iconographic and not ideological. Greek society, which never experienced the enlightenment and the industrial revolution, is familiar with the modern more as a style than as an ideological framework. The reference standards for Greek architecture are designated by the pioneer architects and their oeuvre. International standards are adapted to local particularities, either with a critical intention or else with faith in modernity. In each instance, however, climate, the natural environment, the capabilities of construction science and the town planning status define the identity of Greek modernism. 
Over the past two decades, economic development offered an opportunity to produce a significant number of projects with worthwhile qualitative features. The intense construction activities of that period, and the promotion of Greek architecture through exhibitions, publications and very many references in the local media, all contributed to the proliferation and development of a modern language concerning Greek architecture. During this period there are numerous examples of projects with noteworthy features, as constant concern with the design and implementation of mainly small-scale buildings, has permitted Greek architecture to conquer the highest levels of morphological refinement. Modern iconography evolved into a dominant aesthetic principle, as a consumer lifestyle adopted a new modern or minimalist style.
During this very period, however, the first signs of a crisis are noted. The way specific aesthetic principles dominate the landscape and there is very limited capability to reconsider or alter existing planning, means there are very few opportunities for innovative investigation. It isn’t therefore random that, oftentimes, talented designers are trapped in mannered stylistic investigations. All these marks denote the existence of a cultural crisis, which led yet another period of brilliance of Greek modernism to its close.
A. Antonas, Proposal for the Piraeus Tower.
Harder to discern yet interesting is how the phenomenon of globalisation influences architecture through the architects themselves. Such influences require the passage of several years to discern. In other words, they require the time needed for academic and early professional experiences to be transformed into an architectural oeuvre.
Increased opportunities for travel, to study and to work, increase the significance of heterotopian references in architecture. External influences or references in the oeuvre of major architects, employers or teachers in post-graduate programmes, help define and shape the aesthetic ideology of younger architects. Correspondingly, the rise of computer culture and the internet multiplies references to cultural expressions, which have no fealty to geographic limitations. Movies, popular music and fashion constitute reference points for architects, going as far back as the 1960s. In our days we must add to these the new expressive capabilities of digital media and networks. Simultaneously digital representations of space, using mapping programmes, such as Google Earth or GPS systems, affect spatial experience. Perception of place is predefined by various capabilities of representation, which familiarize the user of contemporary geographical information technology systems with a complex network of possible destinations.
Correspondingly, we are able to ascertain that the significance of local idiosyncrasies isn’t as great in the oeuvre of newer architects as it was in the past. It is consequently obvious, that references to arguments concerning the Greek attributes of the 20th century, based on a particular perception of the Greek landscape, have only the barest of influence on architectural thought. Younger Greek architects display a trend to distance themselves from local idiosyncrasies.  Elements of origin that are heterotopian and atopian gain greater significance compared to local or national features, which are generally treated with suspicion. To a great extent, this stance is due to the exogenous experiences of a new generation of architects, who had the opportunity to enjoy this positive aspect of globalisation. Today, younger architects have a link to Greek space which is mainly bodily, or to be precise sensorial. This link mainly concerns the perception of typical phenomena of the Greek landscape, such strong natural light, water, or the varied terrain, which constitute a timeless group of references for Greek architecture.
The aforementioned conditions lead to the composition of an architectural expression, where timeless local singularities, such as the features of the Mediterranean landscape and Greek modern tradition are enriched by hetorotopian influences and atopian features. We could approach this phenomenon by drawing upon a term, which describes a corresponding crisis taking place with the Greek language. In youth circles, particularly amongst adolescents, who communicate through mobile phone and online messaging services, the use of Greeklish is particularly widespread. Greeklish isn’t, of course, a language: it is a particular manner of writing Greek using Latin characters and the frequent use of English words. The extensive use of Greeklish expresses a crisis of identity caused by globalisation. However, it is also an expression of the exciting contradictions of our times: multiculturalism and the potential of forming choices which bear no ideological charge.
Point Supreme Architects, Hortus Conclusus.
The renewal of design ethos
Architecture in Greece is not a victim of the collapse of the economy, easy though that might be to conclude, as much as a victim of the cultural crisis, which characterises Greek society recently. The extended dependence of Greek architecture on private commissions has led to a weakened social role for Greek architects. The inability of the dominant models to evolve has contributed to a decline in the cultural value of architectural work and its conversion into a consumer product. Greek architecture today faces the risk of its role shrinking to satisfying the functional and aesthetic requirements of the local economic elite.
Since the crisis broke out, Greek architecture has had to face a series of new challenges, which concern: Worldwide problems, such as the economic crisis, climate change and immigration; but also local individual issues, such as the disorganization of local identity, the disintegration of urban centres and the breakdown of local natural landscape. Individual needs, expressed through disparate standards of living that are appearing in Greek cities, but also new collective demands, which concern the preservation of common goods, such as renewing our public space and protecting our cultural heritage. Making use of new capacities to express themselves, which digital technology offers, and investigating the arrival of increased reality.
The work of young architects in Greece reflects many of the aforementioned challenges, potentials, as well as the difficulties of adapting to a harsh new reality. These contradictions will continue to be characteristic of new architectural creations in Greece. As often happens in periods of crisis, the upcoming decade is expected to constitute a period of experimental investigation. Making use of the communications force, inherent in architecture, could lead to an expansion of new design practices that include a critical, meditative dimension. Correspondingly, the capacity to absorb a wealth of atopian and heterotopian influences could lead to a renewal of local identity and the formulation of new narratives for the Greek landscape.
The heterogeneous community of architects in Greece is facing an unprecedented social, economic and cultural crisis. At the same time, however, it is also being offered a unique opportunity to contribute forming the world that will arise after the end of the crisis. The first examples of a renewal of the design ethos have already begun to appear. Let us dare to be optimists.
draftworks*, "New Zidonians".
See the example of the improvised park on Navarinou Street in the Exarcheia district; the initiatives of MOnuMENTA to preserve more recent monuments in Athens, as well as actions by Atenistas to claim public space.
 A typical example is the company Oliaros, which is active on the island of Antiparos and in the Kerameikos / Metaxourgeio district of Athens.
 See P. Dragonas, “On the one-way street of the modern tradition: A critical survey of recent Greek architecture, 1990-2004” in O. Doumanis (ed.) Contemporary Architecture in Greece, Athens: Architecture in Greece 2005, pp. 8-13.
 The issue of the origins of the work of younger architects was introduced by D. Fatouros. See. D. Fabouros, Hint of Time. Narratives about recent Greek architecture, Athens: Kastaniotis Publications, 2008, pp. 56-58.
 The issue of identity in recent Greek architecture is sketched out in a brief text by A. Tzonis, see “DOMES 2010 Greece – Contemporary Architecture Edition, exhibition, prizes”, DOMES, 01/10 (2010), pp. 48-50.