“Builders, housewives and the construction of modern Athens”: Book presentation and film screening at Stegi


The book Builders, Housewives and the Building of Modern Athens advocates an architectural history that gives access to the conceptual worlds and imaginations of ordinary builders and city dwellers

A book published for the first time in Greek by Onassis Foundation Publications, as well as a documentary tell the story of the Athenian apartment building and the reconstruction of the city through the lives of the anonymous common people of the counter-provision. In the context of the presentation of the Greek edition of her book Ioannas Theocharopoulou, “Builders, housewives and the construction of modern Athens” (Onassis Foundation Publications, 2022), Stegi organizes on Friday 25 November a discussion about this importanceof the modern city, its special architecture and its history, as well as screening of the film of the same name Tasos Langis and Yiannis Gaitanidis.

Architectural historians tend to downplay the lack of formal planning and apparent uniformity of concrete “box” buildings. Considering the above as a unique element of informal urbanization with specific local characteristics – as a phenomenon that is generally found all over the world, and especially in the “developing” -, Theocharopoulos’ book offers a critical re-evaluation of the city based on its successful adaptation at the same time, it reinforces our understanding of urbanization as a genuine collective design activity.

The book “Builders, Housewives and the Building of Modern Athens” advocates an architectural history that gives access to the conceptual worlds and imagination of ordinary builders and city dwellers. As the author herself comments: “the approach takes as its starting point the structures designed exclusively by architects and designers, but proceeds to investigate the – economic, cultural and material – processes that were based on self-organized, community ventures. These improvisations and adaptations succeeded in creating a dense and vibrant city. So they can in turn help us imagine how to create more sustainable and livable patterns of urban planning.”

According to the directors of the film of the same name, Tasos Langis and Yiannis Gaitanidis, “Athens is our city, where we were born and live, and we love it as if it were “our village”. But it is contradictory and almost unknown, as the repetitive texture of the apartment buildings spreads around cloned. A space like a text impenetrable in its generality, incomprehensible, without obvious historical references, beyond the landmark of the Acropolis and a few scattered, disconnected monuments. “How was this all built?” one wonders. Certainly not by architects and urban planners. Based on and guided by the book by Ioanna Theocharopoulos, we searched the cracks of our modern urban history to find who and what these internal immigrants were, co-creators of our built environment. We started with the same preconceived notions (that they destroyed Athens, the “compensation of Karamanlis”, etc.). We do not know if these prejudices and myths about Athens will cease to exist. Simply, now one more story has been added, for the creation of the oldest new capital of Europe”.

The book and film were recently presented in Brazil, conquered New York, Toronto and Vancouver, followed by Los Angeles, Washington, Chicago, Chile and Rotterdam.

In the discussion that will take place on 25/11, the following will participate: Aphrodite Panagiotakou (Director of Culture of the Onassis Foundation), Ioanna Theocharopoulou (Visiting Lecturer at the Department of Architecture, Art and Urban Planning at Cornell University, author of the book “Builders, housewives and the construction of modern Athens”), Tasos Langis (Director), Yiannis Gaitanidis (Director ), Panos Dragonas (Architect, Professor of Architecture & Urban Planning, University of Patras), Michael Herzfeld (Emeritus Professor of Social Sciences at Harvard University and Emeritus Professor of Critical Studies of Cultural Heritage at Leiden University).

The discussion will be held in Greek, without interpretation in English, while it will have simultaneous interpretation in Greek sign language. The film will be shown with English subtitles.


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