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Participation in the exhibition “The Minimum Structure” curated by Apostolis Artinos (Romantso, October 2014).

Panos Dragonas, Varvara Christopoulou, Architects.

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From mid-19th century on, the desire to escape from the city is at the heart of many fascinating narratives. At Martin Heidegger’s hütte in the Black Forest, at Le Corbusier’s cabanon in Cap Martin, as well as Michelangelo Antonioni’s “L’avventura” on the Aeolian Islands, the modern subject is looking for moments of peace and mediation away of the city buzz. The heterotopia of the hut is created in parallel with the development of the 20th century metropolis. The hut is a small residential structure in remote locations. Its primary form seems rooted in the ground. While the minimum dimensions of its cabin may cover only the basic living needs.

The Dawn of L'avventura [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IlHcReu_w3U]

Michelangelo Antonioni, L’avventura, 1960.

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Edward Hopper, Office in a Small City, 1953 (Source: http://www.metmuseum.org)

During the 21st century, there are no remote locations. The planet has been explored and digitally mapped in every latitude and longitude. The media and social networks bring the public sphere in every corner of the world. During the new Great Depression, the city dweller’s opportunities to isolate and mediate become increasingly difficult. More than ever, the post-modernist subject remains trapped between the real space of megacities and the digital world of computer networks.

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The indisputable dominance of the urban condition and the exploitation of the countryside, are shifting the quest for new heterotopic structures in the urban area. The new hut is not created on the natural ground, but on the urbanscape of the Athenian terraces, only two meters over the rooftop of a typical “polykatoikia”. The minimum possible distance from the urban surface allows for the contemplation of the city from a different viewpoint. In nine square meters of surface area, the cabin provides the minimum equipment that is required for temporary escapes and contemplation. Offering views of an artificial landscape, consisting of antennas, solar panels and insulation materials, the new structure allows for the minimum detachment from the suffocating environment of the contemporary Greek city. The urban hut creates a voluntary isolation cell over the ruins of the new Great Depression. The hut returns to the city both as a primary form and as a standard of minimum living, and establishes a heterotopia in the stepped skyline of Athens.

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Three Countries. Two Lakes. One Journey.

Diploma Project in the Department of Architecture, University of Patras, February 2014

Maria Bourdi, Architect

Tutor: Panos Dragonas

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The region of Prespa consists of two lakes, which are shared by three countries: Greece, Albania and FYROM. Starting a parallel journey through time and space, this design thesis attempts to define the identity of a place in constant transition. Deconstructing its long history, five time moments are selected. These moments define an imaginary journey throughout time and lead to the selection of seven points of intervention in space.

PowerPoint Presentation

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Για τον Ορέστη Δουμάνη

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Η αποτίμηση του έργου του Ορέστη Δουμάνη θα δυσκολέψει τους μελετητές της ελληνικής αρχιτεκτονικής. Ο Δουμάνης καθόρισε περισσότερο από κάθε άλλον την πορεία και το περιεχόμενο της ελληνικής αρχιτεκτονικής ιστοριογραφίας. Δεν έγραψε όμως παρά ελάχιστα κείμενα ενώ μίλησε μόνο μία φορά δημόσια [1]. Στους 91 τόμους των Αρχιτεκτονικών Θεμάτων και των Θεμάτων Χώρου + Τεχνών, το μεγαλύτερο μέρος των αφιερωμάτων υπογράφεται από τους συμβούλους και συνεργάτες του περιοδικού. Ο καταγεγραμμένος λόγος του εκδότη και διευθυντή των Θεμάτων είναι περιορισμένος παρ’ ότι τα αφιερώματα, αλλά και πολλά από τα άρθρα που δημοσιεύτηκαν εκεί, ήταν αποτέλεσμα συνεργασίας και γόνιμων συζητήσεων των συντελεστών του περιοδικού με τον ίδιο. Στο κείμενο που ακολουθεί, καταγράφεται η προσωπική εμπειρία από τη στενή συνεργασία με τον Δουμάνη κατά τα 15 τελευταία χρόνια της ιστορίας των Αρχιτεκτονικών Θεμάτων. Παράλληλα, διατυπώνονται ορισμένες σκέψεις για το μέλλον των μέσων δημοσιοποίησης της ελληνικής αρχιτεκτονικής, μετά την απώλεια του ανθρώπου που επί 50 συνεχή έτη πρωτοστάτησε στην εξέλιξη τους. [2]

Η γνωριμία μου με τον Δουμάνη ξεκινάει το 1998. Την περίοδο εκείνη τα Θέματα αποτελούσαν ένα αναμφισβήτητο κέντρο αναφοράς της ελληνικής αρχιτεκτονικής. Ο αριθμός των αρχιτεκτόνων ήταν σχετικά μικρός και υπήρχε ακόμη η αίσθηση μιας πεπερασμένης κοινότητας. Κατά τη διάρκεια της δεκαετίας του 1990, το ενδιαφέρον των Θεμάτων είχε επικεντρωθεί στην καταγραφή του έργου των σημαντικών ελλήνων αρχιτεκτόνων μέσα από ειδικά αφιερώματα. Η καταγραφή αυτή είχε μεγάλη αξία για τους φοιτητές και νέους αρχιτέκτονες της εποχής. Ήταν η πρώτη φορά στην ιστορία της ελληνικής αρχιτεκτονικής που προσφερόταν η δυνατότητα μελέτης του έργου των παλαιοτέρων δημιουργών από τους νεώτερους. Στα Θέματα της δεκαετίας του 1990 είχε ήδη προσδιοριστεί η ταυτότητα της μεταπολεμικής ελληνικής αρχιτεκτονικής και είχαν διαμορφωθεί οι προϋποθέσεις για την εξέλιξη της. Τα Θέματα, μαζί με το Ελληνικό Ινστιτούτο Αρχιτεκτονικής, που ιδρύθηκε με πρωτοβουλία του Δουμάνη την ίδια περίοδο, παρήγαγαν σημαντικό έργο, έπλεκαν μια ιστοριογραφική δομή για τη μεταπολεμική ελληνική αρχιτεκτονική, και αποτελούσαν ένα πολύτιμο συμπλήρωμα της εκπαίδευσης των νέων αρχιτεκτόνων, χωρίς να αφήνουν καμία αμφιβολία για τον κυρίαρχο ρόλο τους στον χώρο των αρχιτεκτονικών δημοσιεύσεων. Continue Reading »

Landscape of memory at Plastiras lake

Diploma Project in the Department of Architecture, University of Patras, February 2014

Lia Dalaka, Thalia Poziou, Architects

Tutor: Panos Dragonas

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Plastiras lake in Karditsa prefecture was created in 1959 after the construction of a dam for potable and irrigation purposes. The construction of the artificial lake resulted in the traces of history the area being hidden under the water.

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During the German occupation, the area was used as an airport which aimed to ensure communication with the allied headquarters in the Middle East. The airport operated only at night, while during the day it was covered with vegetation so that it wouldn’t be visible by enemy planes.

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Made in Athens Exhibition Catalogue

The catalogue of the Greek participation in the 13th International Architecture Exhibition -la Biennale di Venezia is available online at academia.edu.

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Starting point: A Landscape

Diploma Project in the Department of Architecture, University of Patras, June 2013

Maria Chasioti, Ioanna Georgitsopoulou, Architects

Tutor: Panos Dragonas

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This design research studies the transformations of the abandoned Skalistiri mines at Euboea -GR. A tripartite narrative evolves through time and refers to a circle of actions caused by the mining activity. The landscape is examined as a field of strategic mapping, as a transformative mechanism and as a cognitive experience.

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In one of the highest points of the landscape a “chimney” stands alone. Its emblematic form is imposed on the landscape as if it has always been there. A single hole in its front view indicates the human presence. However, the chimney doesn’t emit smoke anymore, it is inhabited. Its inhabitant lives there for a reason. He perceives the landscape as a group of parts where each part has a specific value, it is unique. Every day, after having selected the most suitable tool from his toolbox, he begins to wander around the landscape in order to collect useful information. He studies both its quantitative and qualitative characteristics. As a result, the landscape is identified. From all those landscape parts that differ in value he collects soil samples. He creates a soil archive, a huge mosaic made of landscape pieces. As a result, the landscape is classified. Continue Reading »

Rio – Patras Tram Line. New public spaces for the city.

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Diploma Project in the Department of Architecture, University of Patras, February 2013

Dora Papamichail, Bettina Pavli, Architects

Tutor: Panos Dragonas

This is an urban design proposal for a new tram line that connects the suburban area of Rio with the new port of Patras. The tram line replaces the old railway overcoming the existing boundaries that divide the city and its waterfront. This new infrastructure gives the opportunity to create new public spaces along the tram line and activate the dead zones around the old rail network.

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The design proposal focuses on five tram stations that are designed as nodal public spaces:

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Decontamination and Production Mechanism at Drapetsona / Keratsini

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Diploma Project in the Department of Architecture, University of Patras, February 2013

Konstantinos Alexopoulos, Architect

Tutor: Panos Dragonas

The former industrial area of Drapetsona – Keratsini is one of the largest “terrain vagues” in Attica. A few industrial monuments have survived in the area that is awaiting for a new use since the late 1990’s.

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The project aims at the decontamination of the ground and the reactivation of the area. The actual economic and environmental needs of the broader city are taken into consideration through the investigation of new means of production for the 21st century city.

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Open-air Museum at Kokkinopezoula mine, Mitsero Cyprus

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Diploma Project in the Department of Architecture, University of Patras, September 2012

Emily Koustae, Architect

Tutor: Panos Dragonas

Kokkinopezoula mine in Mitsero opened in 1953, when surveys showed copper pyrite deposits at this place. Mitsero was the center of the mining industry of Cyprus and its contribution was enormous for the social and the economic development of the country.

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From 1953 to 1959 the ore was mined with sub-surface mining method, and then until 1967, the last year that the mine operated, with open-pit mining method.

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Today the abandoned mine is considered as a monument of the mining history of the island, although its catastrophic effects against the nature. The project aims to reveal not only the interesting geological structure of the mine but also the fact that this landscape contains memories. This is succeeded through the wandering of the visitor in it, perceiving it as a monument, but also through the interpretation, comprehension and emergence of the unique identity of the specific landscape. Continue Reading »

Μετά το αυτοκίνητο

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Η πόλη του εικοστού αιώνα ανήκε στο αυτοκίνητο. Είτε ως σύμβολο νεωτερικότητας και ατομικής ελευθερίας, είτε ως δαπανηρό και ρυπογόνο μέσο μετακίνησης, είτε ως σύμβολο ευμάρειας και καταναλωτισμού, το αυτοκίνητο αποτέλεσε έναν αδιαφιλονίκητο πρωταγωνιστή στην καθημερινότητα των μεγάλων πόλεων. Ίσως είναι δύσκολο να το φανταστούμε σήμερα, αλλά η μελλοντική εξέλιξη των αστικών κέντρων δεν περιλαμβάνει έναν τόσο σημαντικό ρόλο για το αυτοκίνητο. Διαφορετικοί λόγοι, οικονομικοί, περιβαλλοντικοί, αλλά και πολιτισμικοί, επιβάλλουν τη σταδιακή απομάκρυνση των αυτοκινήτων από τα αστικά κέντρα του 21ου αιώνα. Ο περιορισμός της κυκλοφορίας των αυτοκινήτων δεν μειώνει την προσπελασιμότητα των κεντρικών περιοχών. Ο χώρος που απελευθερώνεται από την αποχώρηση των ιδιωτικής χρήσης οχημάτων αποδίδεται στα νέα μέσα μαζικής κυκλοφορίας, που καταναλώνουν λιγότερη ενέργεια και δεν ρυπαίνουν το περιβάλλον, στους πεζούς, τους ποδηλάτες, και τις ομάδες πληθυσμού που αντιμετωπίζουν προβλήματα κινητικότητας. Μία πόλη χωρίς αυτοκίνητα δεν είναι μια έρημη πόλη. Ένα αστικό κέντρο χωρίς αυτοκίνητα, αλλά με σύγχρονα δίκτυα μαζικής μεταφοράς, μπορεί να αποτελέσει μία πολύβουη, προσπελάσιμη, ανοικτή σε όλους τους κατοίκους, πόλη.
Μια σειρά από πολεοδομικούς λόγους καθιστούν την οδό Πανεπιστημίου ως το ιδανικό σημείο για να ξεκινήσει η ανάκτηση του δημόσιου χώρου από τους πεζούς και τα μέσα μαζικής μεταφοράς: Η Πανεπιστημίου επιτρέπει την επέκταση της γραμμής τραμ προς τα Πατήσια και τη μεταφορά του υφιστάμενου κυκλοφοριακού φόρτου παράπλευρα, στις οδούς Σταδίου και Ακαδημίας. Η Πανεπιστημίου συνδέει σημαντικούς δημόσιους χώρους της πόλης και περιλαμβάνει ορισμένα από τα πιο αξιόλογα δημόσια κτήρια της. Τέλος η Πανεπιστημίου, μαζί με την Πατησίων και τη Λεωφόρο Αμαλίας, επιτρέπουν τη σύνδεση του Μουσείου της Ακρόπολης με το Αρχαιολογικό Μουσείο, αλλά και τη σύνδεση του μεγάλου περίπατου της Ακρόπολης με την καρδιά της πόλης. Σίγουρα η οδός Πανεπιστημίου δεν αποτελεί το πιο προβληματικό σημείο της σημερινής Αθήνας. Όμως η ανανέωση μιας παρηκμασμένης πόλης δεν είναι αναγκαίο να ξεκινήσει από τα πλέον υποβαθμισμένα σημεία της. Στρατηγικά είναι πιο ορθό να δοθεί προτεραιότητα σε περιοχές που έχουν τη δυνατότητα θεματικής αναβάθμισης ώστε η δυναμική τους να παρασύρει την ευρύτερη οικονομική δραστηριότητα της πόλης.
Η ανάπλαση της οδού Πανεπιστημίου δεν αποτελεί έργο εξωραϊσμού αλλά έργο υποδομής. Δεν πρόκειται για μια ακόμη πεζοδρόμηση αλλά για μια ολοκληρωμένη στρατηγική αστικής ανανέωσης. Το συγκεκριμένο έργο ισχυροποιεί το κέντρο της πόλης απέναντι στην κλιματική αλλαγή, εξασφαλίζει την προσπελασιμότητα από όλους τους πολίτες και συμβάλει στην αναζωογόνηση των δραστηριοτήτων του εγκαταλειμμένου κέντρου. Η Αθήνα μπορεί να κάνει ένα βήμα παραπέρα. Αρκεί να το πιστέψουν οι πολυάριθμες, και ετερόκλητες, θετικές δυνάμεις της πόλης.

Αποσπάσματα του δημοσιεύτηκαν στην Καθημερινή στις 24 Μαρτίου 2013.

In the Museum of Images

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Diploma Project in the Department of Architecture, University of Patras, June 2012

Lisgara Ioanna, Moudatsou Theodora, Architects

Tutor: Panos Dragonas

“In the Museum of Images” is a proposal for a theatrical performance at the abandoned motel “Xenios Zeus” in Olympia that was designed by Aris Konstantinidis.

23 years after the abandonment of the Motel, the old building is in decay. In this project the modernist ruin is used as a theatrical scene.

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The performance “In the museum of Images” is based on Adolfo Bioy Casares’ “Invention of Morel”. The plot unfolds at a museum, which is located on an island without coordinates, and is mediated by an imaginary axiom: the conquest of eternity. The script of the performance is adapted at Konstadinidis’ ruined building. The abandoned Motel is transformed to a theatrical set, a representation of Casares’ museum. Continue Reading »

Network of Point Interventions at Larnaca Salt Lakes

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Design Thesis Project in the Department of Architecture, University of Patras, June 2012

Michalis Piroccas, Architect

Tutor: Panos Dragonas

Second place in the 2012 “Graduate Architecture Award”

Larnaca salt lakes are located in the southwest of the city of Larnaca. The area is a complex habitat, consisting of the Great Lake, the lake Orphani, the lake Soros and the lake Spiros. It is the second largest of the 4 coastal halophytic systems in Cyprus. The uniqueness of the area is enhanced by the fact that it contains the only super-salty lake in Cyprus, Aliki. The ecosystem is part of the “Natura 2000″ network, while the Great Lake has also been included, since 2001, in the list of Wetlands of International Importance under the provisions of the Ramsar Treaty. Continue Reading »

Once upon a time in Arcadia | An architectural tale

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Design Thesis Project in the Department of Architecture, University of Patras, February 2012

Georgia Syriopoulou, Architect

Tutor: Panos Dragonas

Through texts, mappings and myths, a fantasy about a place is constructed, an architectural narrative that reveals the intangible and fictional, however completely pragmatic in their conventions, interpretations of the place. A modern traveler is wandering across the artificial lake of Ladhon in Arcadia, in Peloponnese. Detached as he is from the landscape he enters it as a spectator and being aware of his position, he begins in his writings a parallel wandering in the landscape of his imagination. The means for this tour is the myth that he installs upon the elements of reality: the hydroelectric dam becomes the gateway to the garden of Esperides that the dragon Ladhon used to guard; a half broken threshing field becomes a mechanism that reveals the landscape as operation; the old stone bunds turn into an experience of the mythical chase of the nymphs by the gods, until Ladhon turned them into plants and saved them; and finally the three existing bridgings of the river are condensed into one compact structure reinterpreting the passage of the water in relation to the landscape. In this way the traveler fantasizes and experiences a parallel reality into which he can feel a sense of belonging, but also from which he can always turn away and depart, only to admit towards the end:

“… we will only be left with this story in our minds: representations of timeless events that took place once upon a time in Arcadia. Thus, somewhere between the uncanny but compact world of fantasy and the familiar space of reality I can in my turn say: et in Arcadia ego”.

Continue Reading »

The Renewal of Design Ethos

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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.

Burnuot 2010,2012

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.[1] 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.[2] 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.

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Self-managed park on Navarinou Street.

Digital reality

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

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. [3]

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

A. Antonas, Proposal for the Piraeus Tower.

Greeklish architecture

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[4]. 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. [5] 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

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* - Christiana Ioannou, Christos Papastergiou. "New Zidonians". Honorary mention in the international competition “Just Jerusalem”.

draftworks*, "New Zidonians".


[1] 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.

[2] A typical example is the company Oliaros, which is active on the island of Antiparos and in the Kerameikos / Metaxourgeio district of Athens.

[3] 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.

[4] 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.

[5] 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.

Made in Athens

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Greek pavilion at the 13th International Architecture Exhibition. Photo C. Louizidis & K. Glinou

September 29th – November 25th 2012

Commissioners – Curators: Panos Dragonas & Anna Skiada

In the summer of 2004, Athens successful hosted the Olympic Games. Major infrastructure and regeneration projects transformed the city’s image. The booming economy of the preceding years created conditions to showcase a new generation of architects, whose outlook was international, and who had the benefit of superior studies and a wealth of professional experience. This generation left its mark on the city map, seeking to live in forgotten neighbourhoods in the centre of Athens, such as Theatrou Square, Ghazi and Kerameikos.

Athens in 2012 is nothing like it was in the summer of 2004. The crisis in the economy has hit the city hard, its centre most of all. Phenomena indicating a disruption of the social web have become increasingly more severe and lead to urban decay. Two additional events had a major impact on the consciousness of young inhabitants of the city: the violent outbreak of street protests and riots after a fifteen-year-old high-school student was killed in December 2008 and the summer of the “indignant” citizens in 2011. The younger generation of creative architects, who benefited from the positive aspects of globalisation, are now facing the harsh aspects of the global economic turndown, a plummeting standard of living and severely limited professional opportunities.

These events are shaping a particular dynamic in the city. Conditions have been created in Athens at this time to redefine the priorities of architectural design. Through the current social and economic crisis, conditions are being created that bring to the forefront new ways of viewing the role of architecture, far removed from professional opportunism and the standards of well-being of the previous decade.

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C. Louizidis & K. Glinou, Athens Archive.

The Greek participation in the 13th International Architecture Exhibition, seeks primarily to highlight the positive forces that currently are emerging from the crisis and to delineate a better future for Athens. It investigates links to the idiosyncratic Athenian urbanity, focusing on two major issues: The first concerns the city’s tradition of the modern and the evolving tradition of the Athenian polykatoikia; while the second looks at the fragmentation of public space and the disputes over such space.

The Athenian polykatoikia constitutes a particular chapter in the history of modern architecture. Although it follows basic principles of the modern movement, the Athenian polykatoikia is essentially a product of vernacular architectural tradition. Trailblazing architects of that time introduced reference models, which dominated the international architectural scene of the period.  The widespread expansion of the polykatoikia model took place experientially, according to the limitations set by construction capabilities, town-planning regulations and, naturally, the system of antiparohi, where the developer covers the cost of building and the owner of the plot of land is repaid with apartments within the final building, which determined the economic development of the Greek city.

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Y. Yerolymbos, Athens Spread.

For many years the polykatoikia was viewed as a failed model of urban development, an unfortunate Greek invention, which shifted the responsibility for reconstruction to the hands of private micro-investors during the post-war period. During the past few years, this position has undergone a reversal. Younger Athenians accept the polykatoikia as a basic element of their city’s identity. The specific model of the development of the Greek city constitutes the object of investigation in European schools of architecture. The research focuses both on the general architecture of the polykatoikia, as well as in the flexibility of its construction structure. It is now generally accepted that the polykatoikia’s capacity to host different programmes of public and private interest, has contributed to the formation of a varied, vivid, urban environment. More recent trends in the design of polykatoikias investigate new possibilities which concern: the morphology of the polykatoikia and the creation of point intensities in the uniform Athenian surroundings, the new lifestyles of the city’s creative class and particularly its younger members, the new strategies for urban development which permit integrated interventions on an urban scale, and, finally, the re-use of existing housing stock.

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D. Michalakis, Burnout, 2012.

For the greater part of the twentieth century, Athenians had only limited interest in public space. Athens, as a city which essentially was shaped during the years of post-war reconstruction, has no particular urban culture of its own. The city’s identity is not defined by its public spaces and its buildings, but by the vernacular architecture of the polykatoikia and its direct interaction with the micro-scale of the road. Interest in public space in Athens started to develop only during the past decade. In 2004 the Grand Promenade around the archaeological grounds of the Acropolis was completed, and constitutes the city’s most successful regeneration project. In the years that followed, dominated by the outbreak of a social and economic crisis, public space in Athens was fragmented and demands were made on it by various groups: the entertainment industry; criminal networks; new real estate investors; the homeless; the abject immigrants; extreme right-wing organisations; and finally, the many movements of the city, activists and initiative groups to save, or at least improve, problem-ridden public space. There is now no doubt that Greek public space has regained its lost political dimension. As far as urban planning is concerned, public space in Athens constitutes an ideal field to investigate new strategies for regaining and re-familiarising ourselves with such space, removed from the architectural standards of previous decades. Recent attempts to design public space are influenced by self-managed parks, occupation / squatting movements and alternative economy networks. It isn’t therefore a matter of chance, that the proposals presented at the exhibition investigate new strategies for direct citizen participation; new programmes for meetings and open assemblies; but also new models of production, such as the formation of urban plantations.

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Self-managed park at Navarinou Street, Athens.

By abandoning models of consumerism and the search for well-being, which dominated the previous decade, contemporary architecture has gained the capacity to recapture its social role. After a decade of professionalism and architectural opportunism, a turn towards research and experimentation can be discerned. Contemporary architecture has greater communications power than ever before, which allows it to investigate and propose new strategies for design, new ways to perceive the city, but also new models for living.

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Antonas Office, Πληθυσμοί αποσπασμάτων.

The Greek entry in the 13th International Architecture Exhibition focuses on eight architectural narratives about Athens from an equal number of groups. Specific projects deal in different ways with the problems facing Athens today. On the one hand there are proposals, which investigate new strategies for intervention in Athenian public space, which could be implemented immediately (AREA, S. Buerger & D. Katsota), and also proposals that introduce new models of living and urban behaviour (Y. Aesopos, A. Antonas). While, on the other hand, a series of representative examples of a new critical, deliberative architecture are presented, an architecture which makes use of the expressive media that architecture encompasses, in order to transmit messages and to point out new, alternative possibilities for the contemporary city (Point Supreme Architects). This line of inquiry includes narratives, which recount the evolution of the crisis from an allegorical standpoint (draftworks*) and make references to the history of the architecture of the city (A. Angelidakis), but also original records of a new Athenian anthropogeography (decaARCHITECTURE).

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draftworks*, Athens Northwest Passage.

A concurrent presentation of the design practice of creative groups in Athens, alongside local urban traditions and transformations of public space aims to chart the new common ground being shaped in Athens by this crisis. The common ground of new creative teams in Athens may be sought through the vernacular tradition of the polykatoikia and its capacity to host public interest programmes and common use programmes. It can further be sought through attempts to challenge for public space, activist actions by citizens and attempts to assimilate these into the design process. Finally, common ground can be sought by developing new communications and collaboration networks between creative groups in the city.

The Greek entry for the 13th International Architecture Exhibition sought to gather a wealth of presentation material from various creative groups in Athens. The heterogeneity of the material presented expresses the basic ideological position that the reconstruction of a city in crisis can come about only through the collaboration of all its creative forces, both from a top-down and from a bottom-up standpoint. Correspondingly, the particular manner in which the Greek pavilion will exhibit the entry, attempts to soften the differences that separate the creative groups in the city; creating a three-dimensional mosaic, in order to present the exhibits, merges disparate tesserae into a collective work and indicates symbolically the particular significance of a common – Athenian – ground.

 
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