There is never any end to Athens*
*Hemingway used the above phrase to express his overwhelming impression of life in Paris. In shortage of a contemporary equivalent to his reference, I authorize myself to borrow his words to open this issue, dedicated to the city of Athens.
Leaving any sentimentalism towards my hometown aside, I shall try to transmit the close link of life to this vibrant city, from the perspective of an architecture student. Either as a recurrent object of studies, or as a natural habitat, due to the location of the School of Architecture in the very heart of the city centre, Athens monopolises our days and nights with its unique vibe.
The period of studies of myself and my fellow students whose work will be exposed in the following month, coincides with one of the darkest times of the country, that was vividly reflected in the quality of city life. The architectural community was also deeply struck, seeing the future they had been dreaming to design fall apart. Construction got to be considered either a luxury of the very few, or at times, an urban myth. So how does the creative force of a society in distress react towards such doomed prospects?
Architects and designers have had to prove that their profession is a versatile and ever-transforming one. Soon recovering from the shock of the previous generation’s collapsed visions, they adjusted their practice to the new world they had to face, realising that architecture is no alien to contemporary conditions.
We shall see projects responding to the imprint left by the financial and ethical crisis in the city of Athens, by offering low budget, alternative solutions to public life.
Others were challenged to gather the un-hierarchised data of the city in one core-construction that classifies and contributes to the diffusion of information.
A really strong stream urges the familiarisation with technology innovation and its incorporation to construction, spelling little by little the vocabulary of the responsive design of tomorrow-or today.
There are those who find an allegory of the modern state in classic works of art, and we will see this direction in an interesting set design approach.
And those who don’t cease to be inspired by the greatness of the greek landscape, in the periphery of the country, and propose solutions enhancing touristic activity, history knowing and travel in space and time, through processes of initiation.
And of course, any reality that offers the opportunity for urban regeneration, is enough to provoke a series of creative visions of further development. That is the case with the construction of the new Opera And National Library in a metropolitan park, by Renzo Piano. This project has been feeding an architectural dialogue with the city, concerning the impacts of a such new radiant venue on the neighbouring areas, and has been a great architectural exercise of urban design.
The architectural community of Athens has been ever more active over these years. Difficulties seem to have motivated a re-evaluation of the importance of forming part of a whole, of communicating our works and concerns, of collaborating and helping out each other.
If you are looking for another european capital, you might as well be mistaken. Athens bears its very own genetic material and marks its own ways, where others would have encountered dead-ends.
Athens is a never-ending city.