CULTURE

Urban architecture boosted

An architectural competition held in 2006 by two private companies – the construction firm GEK and the architectural periodical Domes – calling for proposals for residential and commercial complexes in the capital’s run-down Metaxourgeio district, provided a glimpse into the dynamic developments taking place on the contemporary architecture scene. The Europe-wide competition was particularly successful, with 102 firms participating and three awards given, respectively, to: Katerina Tsigarida and Associates, and the firms of Torste Bessel – K. Diakomidou – N. Haritos and Y. Papadopoulos – G. Daskalaki. The third-place proposal will be the one to go ahead. What makes the competition especially interesting is its rarity, especially in Greece. The response by such a large number of architectural firms illustrates the thirst in the field to participate in interesting competitions whose objective is projects related to urban life. The competition also highlighted the potential of the private sector, which can (and indeed has a duty to) undertake initiatives that will help to fill the void of the state’s neglect, which is especially marked in matters relating to urban architecture. The GEK-Domes competition proves that much of urban residential architecture must pass into the hands of the private sector, as is the case in the rest of the civilized world. However, strengthening the architectural field via private initiative presupposes a sophisticated business culture that is sadly lacking in Greece. The competition for Metaxourgeio is one of the few exceptions, as it proved capable of drumming up significant interest, providing an inspirational example to architects and showing a new way of getting things done. A recent publication, titled «102 X Metaxgourgeio» (published by Domes), provides an assessment of the initiative and includes the 102 proposals which were submitted for the competition. Available at Papasotiriou bookstores, the publication may encourage similar initiatives on other fronts and help to change an Athens that can no longer wait for manna from heaven.