The capital’s new cultural geography

When you are stuck in an office, working from morning till evening – as most Athenians do – you don’t really notice the changing rhythms of the city. Worse still, that image doesn’t come to you so much from personal experience (everyday comings and goings and brief weekend escapes), as from television. One recent day I happened to be walking past the badminton courts at Goudi, among the eucalyptus and pine trees. On the way I met two young women going for a walk and it struck me how that would have been unthinkable just a decade ago. With lenient checks at the entrance and national servicemen doing chores in the blazing heat, the site destined to be a metropolitan park is currently in a transitional phase. It is neither what it once was (an enclosed, strictly patrolled complex of army and police buildings) nor what it will become. More than the light, athletic gait of the two women in track suits, it was the deserted badminton facility that indicated what it will become. Goudi is the first cultural site one encounters outside the center of Athens, but far from the last. Long before we discovered what badminton was, Pireos Street had developed its own dynamic with Athens Municipality’s Technopolis, the new Benaki Museum, Bios and now with two buildings that Giorgos Loukos is using for the purposes of the rejuvenated Athens festival: Irene Papas’s School in the old Sanitas factory and the new amphitheater in the former Tsaousoglou factory at 260 Pireos, which seats 500 and is next door to the Athens School of Fine Arts.

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