An icy architectural challenge

The four-member, Athens-based architectural team Anamorphosis, consisting of Nikos Georgiadis, Panayiota Mamalaki, Costas Kakoyiannis and Vaios Zitonoulis, is currently in Finnish Lapland, where one of this year’s most eccentric artistic initiatives opens today. The Greek team’s suggestion, built in the small town of Rovaniemi, is an open amphitheater made out of snow and ice, which will only last for a few days before melting down after the end of the harsh Arctic winter. The «Snow Show» project is the meeting of 16 architects and artists, who have been divided into eight pairs of architects and artists; each pair is to suggest a joint creation, which can only be made out of snow and ice. The fact that the Greek team was invited is quite significant, considering that top architects like Zaha Hadid from Iraq and Arata Isozaki from Japan are also participating. Among the artists, the names of Kiki Smith and Rachel Whiteread stand out, while veteran Yoko Ono, always a great appeal for the media, is collaborating with Isozaki. The Greek team is hoping to make its mark in this international environment, which is rather unusual, for Greek architecture. The Greek suggestion is a semicircular amphitheater, with a structure vertical to the ground, which has three separate areas: the spiral-shaped tiers, which also host the work of Irish artist Eva Rothchild; the protected area of the stage; and more rows for the spectators, built above the ground, which, on the outer side, form a pyramid. Five ice slabs, to be used as video walls, are located on the exterior. The Greek idea is interesting, in that it adds the energy of intense movement to the otherwise motionless snow. It resembles the conflict of two forces: the vertical structure is, in essence, a reversed pyramid. A game For Nikos Georgiadis, participation in the Snow Show is an excuse for a game, although the main idea is very serious: It is the relationship between art and architecture. «Artists and architects represent two different worlds,» said Georgiadis to Kathimerini. He added that the Snow Show indicated how much an architect can break the boundaries of functionality and how much an artist can handle a problem in a practical way and make it accessible to the entire society. The architectural team of Anamorphosis believes that the problem today is that architects are more interested in making their own mark, while contemporary artists are often unable to communicate with the public. The Snow Show’s strict restrictions regarding the use of material creates a sense of self-discipline on both parts, so that they can focus on the joint work. The Greek National Tourism Organization (EOT) is sponsoring the Greek team.