CULTURE

International prize for Pikionis’s pathways beneath the Acropolis

The jury of the Benetton Study Research Foundation has decided unanimously to assign the Carlo Scarpa International Garden Award for 2003 to the Pikioni paths beneath the Acropolis. The award, the 14th of its kind, acknowledges the unique work of Dimitris Pikionis (1887-1968). An architect, town planner, painter, philosopher and poet of the Attic landscape, Pikionis designed and made the unique paths at the foot of the Acropolis, true to tradition and in keeping with the ecology. Tomorrow, at the Gennadius Library at 6 p.m., there will be a meeting of the committee on the prize. The leader of the jury, Domenico Luciani, will officially announce the award, which comes with a prize of 20,000 euros. The committee’s report explaining the jury’s decision will be published in Kathimerini tomorrow, together with photographs of Pikionis’s paths as they appear today. According to the jury’s report, it is not only the uniqueness of the work that is being recognized, but also the dialogue between two personalities with foresight: the late President Constantine Karamanlis, minister for public works in 1954, when he assigned Pikionis the task of shaping the area surrounding the Acropolis, and the artist-creator himself. The work was finished in 1957 and is loved equally by Athenians and visitors. The paths, set in the footsteps of the ancients, lead to the Parthenon and the Philopappou monument via paving stones which Pikionis carved himself, with the vision of an architect and the mind of a craftsman. Broad steps and deeply shaded pathways lead the visitor from the theater of Herod Atticus to Philopappou, with a pause on the way for reflection at the church of Ai-Dimitris tou Loumbardiari, made of wood and old marble, with a tiled roof and decorative elements which blend in with the architecture and folk tradition. Pikionis asked the Greek National Tourism Organization that the nearby cafe serve only Greek coffee, water and spoon sweets. A work of art in itself, with shady wooden verandas, paving stones and Attic vegetation all around, the cafe is an ideal spot to rest and reflect. On May Day, of course, when these photographs were taken, the crowds change the atmosphere, but they also justify Pikionis, who thought of offering visitors to the Acropolis somewhere to rest. Referring to the sum of money which accompanies the award, the jury’s report stated «with all due respect» that it would like the sum to be offered to new topographical research studies. «The paths go through olive groves in whose shade the pathways join in dialogue with the dazzling light of the Acropolis, little stones, specks of terra cotta, ancient stones, all the infinite fragments put together, and their symbolic and mythological meanings relate a unique ‘incomplete aesthetic diary’ in a language both ancient and very new,» says the report, as it examines the spirit of Pikionis, who in 1935 had realized that universality had to be linked with nationality. That is what all his works of architecture were based on. And this recognition of their importance might pave the way for the return of the Parthenon Marbles, which are an integral part of a unique and universal monument.