Contemporary Athens is a city of strong contradictions: It is a city whose particular identity was shaped during post-World-War-II reconstruction. A city which has at its disposal an exceptionally talented cadre of young architects, international in orientation, well educated and with a wealth of professional experience. It is, however, the city that was most stricken by the current economic crisis. Currently the Athenian urban space is decomposing and there are increasingly frequent and greater disruptions of the social web. The younger generation of architects benefited from the positive aspects of globalization and today has come face-to-face with the harsh aspect of the global financial crisis, a plummeting standard of living and the need to redefine the priorities of architectural design.
These contradictions are shaping a particular dynamic in the city. Conditions are being created in Athens to expand the links between architecture and the city, both during the economic downturn, but also after it has passed; furthermore conditions are being created to bring to the forefront new ways of viewing the role of architecture, removed from the standards of well-being of the previous decade.
The Greek participation presents this idiosyncratic Athenian urbanism within two themes.
The first theme concerns local urban tradition and, specifically, the evolution of the Athenian apartment building or polykatoikia from 1950 to the present day. This theme will examine the relationships between anonymous and eponymous architecture and the process of producing an urban landscape through repetition of a basic unit.
The second theme concerns the fragmentation of and disputes over Athenian public space, focusing on counterbalancing and/or complementary urban forces. Urban decay is presented alongside attempts being made to reutilize central areas; while urban renewal programs are aided by alternative networks and activist initiatives.
The creative force of contemporary Athens is highlighted by an exhibition of works by architects and creative groups in the city. The exhibition focuses on eight narratives about Athens, fleshing out new design strategies and meditating on the developments taking place in the city.
A concurrent presentation of the design practice of creative groups in Athens, alongside the local urban traditions and the transformations of public space aims to chart the new common ground being shaped in Athens by this crisis. The aim of the exhibition is to highlight the positive forces being shaped in this crucial present moment and to foreshadow a better future for the city and its architecture.