Saturday, 13 October 2012

Daydream / Nightdream, a story ‘Made In Athens’ #4

[Daydream/Nightdream, model and photograph by draftworks*architects]

There is a woodcut of M.C.Escher, called Day and Night [1] where a flock of black birds flying in a day sky coexists in the same picture with a flock of white birds in a night sky. At a zone in the middle of the painting a magic transformation occurs as the black birds change into white birds and the day changes in the night. With his mastery of optical illusions Escher creates a threshold where the exact moment of transformation becomes untraceable. The fourth story of Athens, Northwest Passage, is the story of Leontis, a tribe that have a similar idea about the threshold between reality and imagination, comparing it with the undefined threshold between day and night. Leontis believe that dreams are the catalysts between the two realities. They don’t just speculate that the dreams are some kind of indication of their imagined desires; they actually believe that dreams are true experiences of their desires. In a similar way the city for them consists of two realities that fit into each other. They believe that we actually live in both realities.

In our wooden model we recreate the miniature world of the two coexisting worlds in the form of two typical opposing resident blocks in the city and introduce the threshold between the worlds as an opening and closing of a cupboard. 

Excerpts from the story Daydream / Nightdream, part of the project 'Athens: Northwest Passage', by draftworks* Exhibited at the 13th Venice Biennale, Greek pavilion [curators: Panos Dragonas, Anna Skiada] 

This is how the story starts:

‘There was a time in this city, that, as I was walking ‘many times in the night’ I could listen to people’s breaths through the open windows.  I could listen to their erotic conversations, their whispers, their agonies for insignificant or important concerns. And the more I was getting far from the neighbourhood, the more I was entering into the transparency of their world.  At that time the human presence at the neighbourhoods and the suburbs was omnipotent. As well as the presence of love. A love that was moving in the streets and was transforming the whole city into an erotic workshop’   [1]

Leontis, Day 2, A Dream Within the Dream


They also believe that dreams should have their proper space in the city. They say that there is a second dream-like city that wakes up within the first one every time they go to sleep. Constructed by the material the desires are made of, Leontis do not just believe in this second city as a fable, they believe in its actual materiality. Having mixed the two cities in their minds sometimes they confuse the threshold between being awake with being asleep and they often can’t even tell the order of things: do they first make things happen and then they dream of them or is it the opposite?


All these people from the opposite flats may have never met, and may also never meet in their entire life. However, for Leontis, the worst fear is not that, it is not having a dream to share. 

[1] M.C. Escher, Day and Night, 1938, Cornelius Van S. Roosevelt Collection

[Daydream/Nightdream, model and photograph by draftworks*architects]

Saturday, 22 September 2012

‘Practicing’ Nature as a form of creative Εco-tourism

‘Passive’ and ‘active’ tourism: The bond with place.

In a recent article the American economist Paul Krugman notes:
One of their [Greece’s] major exports is tourism. Greece exit [from Eurozone] could create a very ugly scene for six months or a year, but after that there’s tons of package tours of British lager louts [sic] going to the Greek isles. It sounds awful, but compared with 50 per cent youth unemployment, maybe not so bad.’[1]

The term ‘lager louts’ describes the swarms of intoxicated tourists that every summer reach Greece, as well as Cyprus and other countries of the European South and the Mediterranean. Krugman uses this term, not with a purpose to underestimate this kind of tourists, but to describe lively what he believes to be the fate of these countries, especially in a climate of economic recession: The ‘lager louts’ that bring easy and fast money are preferable to a local youth unemployment that reaches 50 per cent. Which, however, is the condition that this kind of tourism brings along with it to the place that accommodates it?

This kind of tourism is offered as a commodity product that promises to its consumer -mainly young low or middle class people from some centre-European country- one or two weeks of unrestricted hedonism and escapism. Whilst on the other hand, it promises to the local community an inflow of currency, creation of new working places and fast economic growth. What does though a growth based on ‘escapism’ mean? For the place that hosts it, this kind of tourism means the creation of enclaves, cut off from the reality of the place, a kind of ‘thematic park’ or a ‘coastal Mall’ in which the tourist experiences a simulated reality. The same, happens with similar enclaves destined to higher incomes, where again a kind of ‘park’ is offered, only a much more luxurious one. The result is, what Jean Baudrillard calls simulation[2] of reality, that is, a copy of the real, a simulation of it that becomes more real than the prototype itself. The tourist experiences a ‘Cyprusness’, namely a copy of Cyprus, that becomes as a condition more real than Cyprus itself. In this condition, the interpretation of the place, the practical bond with it, is either impossible or mediated by a simulation. [Fig.1]


Fig.1: Amusement Park (Luna Park) ‘Catapult’, Agia-Napa, Cyprus.
Author : OldMuzzle.Source : Wikimedia Commons

With this article we don’t want to deny the importance of tourism as a national product of Cyprus, or of other countries of the European South and the Mediterranean. On the contrary, we admit the importance of the tourist industry, even the present financial necessity of this kind of ‘fast’ tourism. Precisely for this reason, however, we consider it important to place questions about the present and the future of this industry, about its possible development, and, why not, in terms of the market, for a qualitative improvement of its product. We then draw attention to the need for a balance between the visitor and the place under the umbrella of architectural design.

The American sociologist Erving Goffman, in his ‘Frame Analysis’ theory refers to the concept of ‘bracketing’[3], namely the cognitive brackets that we put subconsciously during initiating or terminating our conceptions of reality. In the world of Theatre for example, ‘bracketing’ refers to all the gestures that symbolically state that ‘now the act begins’ or ‘now the act finishes’, like the change in lights or the draw of the stage curtain. ‘Bracketing’ means the installation of a frame through which we can perceive and interpret reality. This perception and interpretation of reality however can be either imposed and passive or creative and active. In cases of creative theatre for example, the viewer does not remain passive, but participates in the construction of the ‘fictional world of the play’, by consciously entering the temporal frame of the ‘bracketing’ and by ‘co-interpreting’ the fictional world together with the actors. On the occasion of a tourist visit again a similar frame is constructed. Within the frames of a limited time period, the visitor is converted into the viewer of a play. He opens and closes the brackets within which he will be able to perceive and interpret the reality of the place that he visits. In the case of the tourist formation of ‘enclaves’ that we referred to above, this frame is artificial, pre-determined for the visitor and limits his capacity to interpret the place in his own terms, and by his own means. The visitor then is converted into a passive viewer of the place, consuming thus an interpretation that he has not co-created.

We stress here the need at the same time for a kind of ‘creative’ tourism. ‘Creative tourism’ is about creating the conditions for an unmediated bond to be developed with the place, as a relief from simulation. There are many new categories of tourists that pursue experiences out of the box of massive tourism and the consumption of a place as a product. There are new alternative kinds of tourism, where, for example, one can experience nature and open a dialogue with the place at the same time.  The ‘creative tourism’ consists of ‘practicing’ nature, namely actively ‘inhabiting’ nature, by paying the price of time, effort and personal involvement of the visitor. Turning back into past forms of tourism, when the category was not yet massive, it is interesting to look into how -when the term ‘tourist’ did not have the content we nowadays give to it- the one who travelled to visit a place was called ‘traveller’ or  ‘excursionist’. The traveller, many times ‘practiced’ nature, by applying time and effort into understanding and interpreting it through the use of art or narrative. Pausanias for example, the ancient Greek geographer and traveller, through his narrations of his travels, brings to us lively images of Antiquity, which at a degree, have constructed our own conception of it. Whilst the sketches and images of the Mediaeval travellers many times even today are considered important documents of the history of a place.

Designing infrastructure for the ‘creative tourism’: Two cases

We refer then to an incorporation of the tourist activity in each place, by developing an infrastructure of practicing nature. By this we mean an involvement with nature, which won’t be occasional but on the contrary will favour the dedication of time and effort from the visitor. The question then is the following: How is this involvement possible through architectural design and which are the tools? The last few years in Cyprus there appears an initial interest from state and local authorities for this kind of tourism. The most important expressions of this interest are the architectural competitions, which call both for programmatic ideas and for design expressions of these ideas in space. At this field of architectural competitions there are many ideas that emerge and which can be converted into interesting conditions of alternative tourism, if taken seriously by the authorities. For this article we will use as case studies two examples from our architectural practice[4], as we believe that our experience of participating in such competitions, is the most direct way to support our argument. For this reason, we will refer to two proposals, which discuss how design can get the visitor involved with nature and develope a ‘common ground’ between him, the visited place and the locals. These proposals are of two different scales, the first project for the ‘Centre of EnvironmentalInformation’ at the salt lake of Larnaca[5] being about an architectural scale and the second project for the ‘FishingHarbour and Park’ at Liopetri [6] being about a wider planning scale.

In the first case of the ‘Centre of Environmental Information’ at Alikes salt lake of Larnaca, architectural design aims at the construction of a small-scale infrastructure for initiating the visitor into the experience of the landscape. The landscape of Alikes is unique, both for its natural significance, and for its historical and cultural value. As a ‘Natura 2000’ protected area of 5, a hospitable eco-system for many local and migrating birds, but also a place of significant historical and cultural memory[7] it could be the flagship of a ‘creative tourism’ movement for the wider area. The Centre, with uses of recreation, information and education aims at this kind of tourism. At the site we recognised a network of paths, while, as the site is hidden into a small wood of conifers and bushes, the landscape is not easily revealed. Om the contrary it must be discovered through gaps in the clusters of trees and their foliages. [Fig.2] In our proposal we took advantage of these two qualities as well as the use of movement, the crossing passages and the selected views as main elements of our design. As a result the visitor is not meant to perceive a ‘ready-made’ image of the landscape, but is offered the opportunity to construct it by himself. This is made possible by his moving in space and the urge to make choices, to discover corners and hidden views in order to find his way. [Fig.3] Through the Centre’s programme, the visitor is able to perceive at the same time information for the natural and socio-historical context of Alikes.


Author: draftworks*


Author: draftworks*

Architectural design, in this case, aims at the construction of a ‘frame’ of perceiving and interpreting the place, though the composition of partial views. This composition is based on movement, which constructs an active relationship with the place. At the same time the close association of the recreation space and the space of cultural interest constructs a common ground between the visitors and the locals. At this place tourism can get rid of stereotypes and take the form of a love for nature, of a pilgrimage, of recreation, or just of curiosity. This renders the relationship between place and tourism a multivalent experience.

The second case of the ‘Fishing Harbour and Park’ of Liopetri[8] is one of a combination between a natural environment and coastal eco-system with some rare examples of recent vernacular architecture. [Fig.4] The natural environment of the Liopetri River and the structures of the amateur fishermen make the place an informal tourist destination. The interest of this area though lies in that beyond a tourist destination is also a space of light activities, which, at first look do not appear to be too much ‘tourist’ ones, like amateur boat-fishing and micro-cultivations. In our proposal we pursued the active involvement of the visitor with the landscape, through proposing the temporal occupation of the visitor with activities of fishing, nature preserving and micro-cultivating organic species. We tested this possibility through the idea of the ‘island’ as a unit of nature and at the same time an attractor of tourist activity and a possible micro-production of goods. As a result, a set of islands create an ‘archipelago’ of mixed nature and human activity. [Fig.5] The archipelago creates a common ground for the encounters of visitors with nature and with each other. The Archipelago, as a design strategy, offers the frame for a temporal visit, as an outcome of conventional tourism, but also offers the infrastructure for the development of ‘creative tourism’, through the involvement of the visitor with nature and the investment of effort and time in his encounter with nature. In this way the ‘islands’, either as ‘fishing islands’ or ‘cultivation islands’ are offered to the visitors over a short or a long period to inhabit and exploit them. The ‘nature reserve islands’ on the other hand, are islands of local protected natural fauna and flora and they are also offered to individuals or groups of visitors for purposes of education and familiarization with techniques of nature preservation and protection. [Fig.6]


Fig.4: ‘Liopetri FishingHarbour’: Fishermen’s huts
Authors: draftworks*, AA+U

Fig.5: ‘Liopetri FishingHarbour’: ‘Archipelago’ Map
Authors: draftworks*, AA+U

This second example expresses a problematisation about a category of active tourism, for which there is not yet a much grown interest in Cyprus. We must, however, underline the interest of local authorities and the organizers of the competition in ideas that had been submitted in the first -programmatic- stage of the competition by the participating teams. The interest for these ideas encouraged interventions like the correlation of nature protecting with tourism, cultivation with tourism as well as fishing with tourism, which are ideas not yet much discussed in a Cypriot context.


Fig.6: ‘Liopetri FishingHarbour’: the ‘Islands’
Authors: draftworks*, AA+U

‘But isn’t that beautiful?’

Martin Friedman narrates the following story about the American sculptor IsamuNoguchi:
‘In 1973, Noguchi was invited by the Indian government to built a park on a silt river mound across the water from Bombay. There was only one problem with the site, he learned –it vanished when the tide came in’

Friedman transfers the words of Noguchi:
‘I said, ‘well, how am I going to make a park when it disappears once a day?
They said ‘But isn’t that beautiful? All the birds come to it’
‘It just vanishes and a lot of fish come up there and a lot of birds come down to get the fish. I thought ‘Oh well, the only thing to do, of course, is like in the Indian Ramayana, to get the assistance of the animal kingdom. ‘So, I said, let’s make three large circular pools in there. In digging out these pools, you’d build up the land, and in the pools you’d have catfish and eel farms, a good source of protein. That would be the economy of the place, you see. Gradually the people who tended the eels and the catfish would bring their huts out there’[9]

The above reference shows the way in which architectural design can build the economy of a place, by putting forward its identity, contrary to a design that converts the place into a commodity. This is possible even for cases of countries of tourist-oriented economy, like Cyprus, on the condition that the design of tourist infrastructure focuses on constructing the experience of place or an eco-system that includes more than one actor.

In this effort the basic participating actors are two: On the one hand there is the role of the governmental and local authorities, who, like the Indians of the story, owe to embrace the peculiarity of a place and risk by providing opportunities to innovative ideas. Unfortunately, the initial interest of the authorities in many cases remains in suspension, on the occasion of the recent economic recession or the difficulty of decision-making. Even though the embracement of the ‘creative tourism’ actually triggered the development of local areas, as international examples have shown, many relevant ideas and feasible plans remain in suspension. On the other hand there is the role of the professionals that form space and especially the architects, who are trained to recognise the peculiarities of a place and to produce innovative ideas. Like in the case of Noguchi[10], architects many times are called to convert an -at first sight-  ‘disadvantage’ into an ‘advantage’ by unlocking the creative forces of a place.

As a conclusion, there can be a hopeful message: there is a growing number of people internationally who choose kinds of ‘creative tourism’ that develop bonds with the place as alternative forms of tourism. This is about a category that we could also call ‘eco-tourism’, as it puts forward the need for creating eco-systems where all different actors seek their distinct role. It mainly falls on the authorities to take initiatives, embrace this friendly form of tourism and convert it into an opportunity for economic growth, and at the same time a qualitative re-branding of a place.

Christos Papastergiou, Christiana Ioannou
[draftworks*2012. All rights reserved] 

[1]  Interview with economist Paul Krugman: ‘Greece will leave Euro zone within 12 months’ The Independent, 30 May 2012
[2]  Jean Baudrillard. ‘Simulacra and Simulations’, in Selected Writings, ed Mark Poster. Stanford University Press, 1998, pp.166-184.
[3] Erving Goffman, ‘Frame Analysis, An Essay on the Organisation of Experience’. Northeastern University Press, Boston, 1986
The word bracketing can be interpreted as ‘putting into brackets’
[4] draftworks*architects, Christiana Ioannou, Christos Papastergiou,
[5]  ‘Centre for Environmental Informationat salt-lake of Larnaca, Cyprus.1st prize at the architectural competition, draftworks* architects, project team: Christiana Ioannou, Christos Papastergiou. Project assignment by the Environmental Agency. At present the project remains in suspension at the stage of tenders. 2009-2011
[6] ‘Fishing Harbour at Liopetri’, 3d prize at a two-stage architectural competition. draftworks*architects and AA+U. Project team: Christiana Ioannou, Christos Papastergiou, Dr. Socratis Stratis, 2011-12
[7] Close to the Salt lake of Larnaca there is the ‘Soultan Tekke’ mosque, an important monument of Islamic culture. Till the 1980s the salt lake was a place for salt extraction, an economic activity that was a source of income for the local community for many centuries.
[8] In cooperation with Dr. Socratis Stratis architect (AA+U)
[9] Martin Friedman, Noguchi's Imaginary Landscapes, Design Quarterly, No. 106/107, (1978), pp. 1+3-99 (p.51)
[10] Noguchi was not an architect but a sculptor. He however had a very strong ‘architectural’ take on space.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Clair De Lune, A story 'Made In Athens' #3

[Clair de Lune, model and photograph by draftworks*architects] 

The third story of Athens, Northwest Passage is about Hippothontis, a tribe that believes it originates from the night sky. This is why they know everything about the night sky, all the stars and the constellations, with the slightest scientific detail. They however mix scientific knowledge with fables, myths and imagination and they can’t actually distinguish astronomy from astrology, or even sometimes reality from fiction. The most magnificent of Hippothontis inventions is the Planisphere. This is a structure that, like an inversed planetarium on which the night sky is engraved, covers the inner patios of their blocks. The Hippothontis people orientate their daily life according to this structure. Their friendships, the flat they live on, more or less significant moments in their life are linked with the view of the structure. At the end of each month, when the moon is full, the structure is lit from below and all the stars of the night sky glow in their patio just for one night. This is when the Hippothontis celebrate their biggest fair.

Excerpts from the story Clair de Lune, part of the project 'Athens: Northwest Passage', by draftworks* Exhibited at the 13th Venice Biennale, Greek pavilion [curators: Panos Dragonas, Anna Skiada] 

This is how the story starts:


‘I would cheerfully have died then, because I had lived through the most beautiful story I had ever read in my entire life. Perhaps I had found that we all look for in the pages of books and on the screens of movie theatres: it was a story in which the stars and I were the protagonists’
Umberto Eco, Six Walks in the Fictional Woods

Hippothontis, Day 5, Maupertius

Hippothontis is a tribe that is not too much attached to this world. Some people say that their origin is from the sky, the night-sky, and that is where they tend to return.

Their knowledge of astronomy is very precise, and yet they confuse astronomy with astrology, most likely on purpose. They have written countless books about each one of the stars and the constellations, extremely detailed with all their physical properties and exact distance from earth. And yet, if you ask them, they will tell you that according to the old myth ‘stars are the pinholes in the curtain of the night poked by blooming-birds trying to escape’, or they will passionately try to assure you that, ‘as the French scientist Maupertuis has taught the nebulae are openings in the firmament, through which the empyrean can be seen’. That is not because they are confused, but because they have an eccentric understanding of reality; most of the times they don’t want to distinguish reality from fiction, or precision from approximation. They sometimes take for reality events that they have imagined, or events that others have narrated to them, and the opposite; they may take a real event for a caprice of imagination. That is why when they talk to each other one may understand them as being ironic, or schizophrenic; and a foreigner may even be insulted, as he will not understand if they are true to him or tease him and making fun of him. And yet what I admired to them was exactly that: they can talk about something obvious as being totally irrational and make something absurd seem to you as the most self-evident true in the world. And you will know that they never lie about it.


And this is how the story ends:

Hippothontis , Day 12, The Moonlight Landscape Fair

For 29,53 consecutive days each month, in between the two full moons, the Planisphere is full-lit and the constellations shine as if they have moved from the sky to the ground, the walls and the roofs. However once a month, when the moon is full and the stars in the sky have disappeared, when the moonlight casts on the buildings top and blind walls, they celebrate their biggest fare. They all go below the Inversed Planetarium and raise their look up. This is when the stars become actual pinholes and the ceiling becomes a glorious nebulae, lit by the moon, and then they tell you with pride: ‘Here, now you see how Maupertius was right’. This is when they switch the constellations off for a day 'And through the quiet moonlight their songs rise’:

Votre âme est un paysage choisi
Que vont charmant masques et bergamasques
Jouant du luth et dansant et quasi
Tristes sous leurs déguisements fantasques.
Tout en chantant sur le mode mineur
L'amour vainqueur et la vie opportune
Ils n'ont pas l'air de croire à leur bonheur
Et leur chanson se mêle au clair de lune,
Au calme clair de lune triste et beau,
Qui fait rêver les oiseaux dans les arbres
Et sangloter d'extase les jets d'eau,
Les grands jets d'eau sveltes parmi les marbres.

[Clair de Lune, model and photograph by draftworks*architects]

[Clair de Lune, model and photograph by draftworks*architects]  

Clair1[Clair de Lune, model and photograph by draftworks*architects]

Sunday, 9 September 2012

The Unfinished Cathedral, a story ‘Made in Athens’ #2

[The Unfinished Cathedral, model and photograph by draftworks*architects]

The second story is that of Erechteis, a tribe that is famous among the tribes of the Northwest Passage for their love for Chance. As they totally rely on Chance’s schizoid routes, they are incapable of ever finishing a thing by their own. The text exhibited tells the story of the only time they agreed in something and achieved in finishing it: that was the temporary dome of their cathedral. And they agreed in that only by chance, because the dome was just a temporal substitute for the real dome in the construction of which they never managed to agree. The temporary dome still stands there today, beautiful and mesmerizing. Without even knowing it, it manifests their most important achievement.

The Cathedral itself is a fill-in of a typical Athenian crossroads, as seen in the drawing below.

Excerpts from the story The Unfinished Cathedral, part of the project 'Athens: Northwest Passage', by draftworks* Exhibited at the 13th Venice Biennale, Greek pavilion [curators: Panos Dragonas, Anna Skiada] 

Here is how the story starts:

‘Where the gods reside even the most subtle deviations obtain huge dimensions and show how important is both in our actions and our thoughts what we have thought as insignificant’
Odysseas Elytis, Idiotiki Odos

Day 2, unfinished business

Erechteis are famous among the tribes of the North West Passage for their love for chance. Their notorious love is definitely expressed by their passion for chance games. They are very fond of games like cards and dice; they may spend their whole day at the stock market and put bets on everything. They use to start their phrases with ‘My bet is that...’ instead of ‘I believe that...’ or ‘I suppose that....’ or even ‘I wish that...’ they say ‘I bet on you...’ when they want to say ‘I believe you...’, ‘I trust you...’ or even ‘I love you...’. On the other hand they despise games where chance is not so much involved, like chess. They say ‘things that can be planned are the devil’s work!’. They are also highly superstitious; they paint their black cats white, they never use ladders and they don’t sleep on beds in case they forget and leave their hat on. Beyond that they also use to pay attention to the slightest detail. And when they talk to each other, they may fix their attention to a small detail and miss the whole picture. That is why they often misunderstand each other, get easily irritated and pick quarrels.

And here is how the story ends:


Erechtheis believe that the model of the roof is their biggest achievement. You can see it kept in a jewel case being cared like the most precious heirloom, the dome that they still try to design. This is their ‘Nuper Rosarium Flores’, their ‘blossoming flower’ of the Cathedral, the only work that, according to the prophesy, chance will let them one day to finish by their own. For centuries they believe that they are that close in finishing it. No one pays attention however to their temporary dome. They have never thought that this might be their real ‘blossoming flower .‘

[draftworks*2012. All rights reserved]

[The Unfinished Cathedral, drawing by draftworks*architects]

[The Unfinished Cathedral, model and photograph by draftworks*architects]

[The Unfinished Cathedral, model and photograph by draftworks*architects]

[The Unfinished Cathedral, model and photograph by draftworks*architects]

Friday, 24 August 2012

Making of #2: stories for the 13th Venice Biennale


[Gods' Cemetery, model and photograph by draftworks*architects]

Maybe one of architects’ most distinctive tasks is answering to questions. Now, there are two ways of answering; the first is to answer directly, like solving a problem, like proposing spaces to satisfy physical needs. We admit that this is maybe the most important and time-consuming way and it takes a lot of our own time andenergy too. There is, however, also a second way of answering, which is more indirect, more oblique, just brushing by reality, which, at the same time, means observing reality from a different standpoint.  In this particular way of answering you shift a little bit from the answer, you avoid answering directly to a problem and play dump a little bit. This does not mean avoiding reality, this does not mean escapism, this means entering into reality from another door. We remember the words of the Greek poet Odysseas Elytis who asks for:
‘A small turn of the head
Which could mean a turn of the whole world’

This means that a change of perspective can trigger a change of understanding things, which may trigger in turn a transformation of the world, a personal one.

For us, a way of doing this is by using techniques and strategies that the narrative arts -like literature or cinema- use: metaphors, allegories, speaking in first person and telling a story, instead of describing scientifically a condition. This way of answering to a question through a story also appeals to people in a different way than a building does, maybe not as users but as people that have the gift of imagining and who want to use it, which is the need that literature, for example, appeals to.

Our project consists of stories, drawings and models. The protagonist, who is an explorer that travels around a region of Athens, narrates the story in first person. In his travel he encounters imaginary tribes, each one of which has developed distinct habits and eccentric uses of space. Each tribe is also attached to a specific type of the urban environment of Athens.  The block, the crossroads, the space between blocks, the unused patios within the blocks, are the prime materials through which the eccentricity of each tribe emerges: Pandionis worship a different god every week and use to burry him in their ‘Gods Cemetery’ by the end of the week. Erechteis are against finishing things and they celebrate their peculiarity in their ‘Unfinished Cathedral’. Hippothontis believe that they originate from the night sky and they want to have the stars and constellations glowing in their back yard in ‘Clair de Lune’. Leontis are sure that their dreams is a night-reality that is as real as the day-reality. Aiantis have built a wall around their block beyond which, they believe, is the realm of the gods, the animals and the dead, in ‘Pomerium’. The allegory of the tribes at each case refers -but is not limited- to human conditions, their relationship with each other and with their city: passions, fears, desires, dangers, needs, limitations and prejudices can be read between the lines of each story.  

With the use of urban types of Athens and their imaginary transformation through narrative, we note that the city is made of a prime material, which can be transformed with the use of imagination.  This may not be the architect’s major task, it is however as much important. 

The Gods' Cemetery, a story 'Made in Athens' #1


[Gods' Cemetery, model and photograph by draftworks*architects]

Excerpts from the story THE GODS’ CEMETERY, part of the project 'Athens: Northwest Passage', by draftworks* Exhibited at the 13th Venice Biennale, Greek pavilion [curators: Panos Dragonas, Anna Skiada] 

       ‘In the little Greece that we have left, the only thing that you can still do is pray to your gods. Which gods? Oh, but they are many. As many as the population of this country. Two meters below ground, or over your scratched sidewall, they stay awake. With broken noses, one arm cut-off, a little green of old times on the cloak or some crimson on the shoulders and a sight that does not stop on you but goes beyond‘
Odysseas Elytis, Idiotiki Odos 

Pandionis, Day 3, devout worshippers

Among the tribes of the Northwest Passage one is the most eccentric of all. Pandionis people are the most devout worshippers. They praise their god all through the day and night and at all occasions; when they talk, when they walk, when they take a shower, when they make love, in front of the TV, in front of the shop window, in the market. They worship their god all through the week, from Monday till the next Sunday. And this is exactly where their eccentricity lies: they worship their god for a week, and a week only, because then, every Monday, they kill their god and immediately invent a new one. 

This habit makes Pandionis a tribe of many gods, however in a strange way they cannot be considered impious or unreligious as they are uninterrupted worshipers; they have never run out of gods, and there was not a single day that they didn’t have a god to worship. They even have spare gods. Although they usually bury their gods themselves, sometimes the unexpected can happen: the god may die by himself before the week has ended. That is why they keep a couple of them as a backup, in case they run out.

Pandionis, Day 5, the burial feast

At the end of each week Pandionis people celebrate their biggest feast. This is when they bury their god. There is a place especially reserved for this kind of god-burial and they call it the ‘Gods’ Cemetery’. It is a place with crossed paths made of wood, placed on different levels. As the paths cross there are bits of ground that can be seen remaining between them like patches.


Depending on the size and the importance of the god they choose the burial site. There are gods so tiny, buried with only a few bottle tops or soda cans, plastic bottles and used pens. There are also gods so big, buried with their inflatable elephants and 12-valve cars, vending machines and commercial signs.  Accordingly there are tombs that are humble, with just a few rocks on them, and others that are grandiose, extravagant and tall, and can be seen from a few blocks away.


Then something beautiful happens: you can see bushes, colourful flowers, and some times trees, to grow over tombs. These gods are the luckiest. Due to the trees that cast their shadow, the bushes that attract the bees or the musky flowers that please the passengers the gods that lie underneath can be forever useful. Although their divinity week has already long expired. Then, they can be even remembered at times, mostly in spring.

[...]  it was the God of LifeLost, who was buried with a loading of guns, the God of TimeLost who was buried with boxes of folders, office desks, old PC’s and stamps, but also less pompous gods, like the god of lilac, who was buried with lilac lipsticks, lilac earrings and lilac flowers, the god of lids who was buried with used coffee cup lids, wok lids and pod lids, or the god of hair, who was buried with all the hair that have fallen from all the Pandionis people heads during the week of his kingdom.

There was also once that they worshipped the God of Danger, they buried him with a bomb. Some people say that this habit of burying their gods may someday be the Pandionis ending. Someone may forget and step on the God of Danger ‘s tomb. 

[draftworks*2012. All rights reserved]

[Gods' Cemetery, drawing by draftworks*architects]

[draftworks*2012. All rights reserved]