Five Greek architects speak out

Kathimerini spoke to four Greek architects who were directly involved in an equal number of Olympic works. Not all had the same experience: Some were given the opportunity to design their subject from the start, while others were brought in halfway through. Everyone, however, acknowledged the enormous time pressures and the Games’ lack of an architectural heritage. * Dimitris Potiropoulos and Liana Potiropoulou are probably the lucky ones. They were given the chance to control both the study and design for the Olympic tennis center. «Despite the fact that [it] was put out to tender with the study-construction system, due to special circumstances, it was surveyed and designed entirely by our office,» said. «This gave us the chance to follow the plans from their inception to the last construction detail. In addition, our cooperation with the consortium assigned to build the center, as well as with inspection teams, was conducted in a very good and creative climate, which meant we had a very high-quality final result.» But this positive experience did not stop Potiropoulos from adding, «I’m not sure other Olympic works now under way were given the same chance.» Appraising the overall picture a few months before the Games, Potiropoulos reckons «the end-result will be deficient, chiefly due to the procedures that were followed.» He contrasted Athens, with its express-train study/construction system to Beijing, with its architectural competitions. * Kyriakos Kyriakidis was one of the architects who saw their work completed within the prescribed time limit. «We were involved in the architectural study for the MPC during both the bidding and construction phases and we certainly regard that as positive,» said Kyriakos Kyriakidis, head of an architectural office of the same name. «Our experience, generally speaking, of cooperation with the construction company and with the monitoring committee was very good, constructive and gave us the opportunity to have first say in the choice of construction methods, chiefly of the facades, materials and paints. I believe the result justifies the huge efforts and it is one of the buildings that was delivered on time, despite tight deadlines.» * Alexandros Tombazis (Olympic sports center at Galatsi) does not hide his disappointment at how architecture was marginalized. His personal experiences cannot be summed up in a single word. Although the initial outlines of the study were maintained to a large extent, there were changes in the choice of critical materials which could prove definitive for the resulting quality. While acknowledging that a huge number of construction works were carried out within stringent time limits («it’s easy to criticize from the outside»); at the same time he speaks of a «huge, wasted opportunity.» «The architectural capacity of the country was not utilized. The Games won’t leave works behind that are significant from an architectural point of view.» * For Harry Bougadelis (Olympic Equestrian Center and new Athens racetrack), the question of Olympic works is above all «political.» He is to be numbered among those who claim that the quality of the architecture produced during this period was of a lower standard than what could be expected of an Olympic city. He explains: «Unfortunately, most of the works that were undertaken for the Olympic Games were not the product of architectural competitions. Tight deadlines severely limited architects’ freedom of movement. Greek architects did not get the same amount of time as their foreign colleagues to submit their proposals, which an architectural competition allows. This is what we’re seeing today in Beijing.»

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