City Interior(s) 

Published in METAPOLIS,

Issue No. 2, 2001

The contemporary (greek) urban landscape

City Interior(s)
Athens is the place where this set of observations originated in, as means for an experiential reading of the Greek city. The apartment block1 landscape is not what really determines Athens image. A purely aesthetic evaluation seems to ignore a much more substantial phenomenon that occurs in the citys interior. The phenomenon of multi-occupation of space, more evident in small scale than anywhere else, occurs when incidents of territoriality actually condition the experience of the city. The city accommodates in its interior, its real image.
The layering of various daily patterns of occupation and use, suggests architectural time as intensely transient. That which is accommodated in the in-betweens, can not be extracted, it remains continuous, through successive transitions of, inhabitants, use, boundaries, and the accessories they bring with them each time. The conventional representations of city maps and aerial photographs prove to be merely distanced records on its physiology.
A critically necessary living space for its inhabitants, the interior of the city, is furnished by the fluidity of the forces and rhythms within it, transformed either in small scale, locally, or in large scale through currents of hypertopical value, like infrastructure systems.
On the network of public and private territories with continuously shifting and obscure boundaries, fixtures, fittings and occupation, name and eventually re-write each time the use of each particular space, revoking or transgressing any former specification. 
While the ideal domestic interior is furnished to order, and everything has its place, the interior of the city is furnished by convention, through a do-it and plan-it yourself practice. The Greek city is subjected to change, that cannot be recorded. Every type of unauthorised and ephemeral intervention, furnishes the city interior with accessories. Textures, materials, finishes, surpluses, residues, objects and decorations, are parts of the citys furnishings. The way in which they alternate and become utilised or trespassed, is its inherent architecture.
A total subversion of hierarchies is only a natural consequence. Everything is permanently in progress; in a transitional stage. The identity of places in the city becomes a relative thing; it is almost temporal.
The identity of a place does not derive from some internalised history. It derives, in large part, precisely from the specificity of its interactions with the outside2                                                                                                                                                                       
A square may be utilised as a public waiting room, while a waiting room of a train station may become utilised as a public square. A pavement may bear the furnishings of a fast-food store, while a fast-food store may act as a pedestrian street. An incomplete concrete frame as base for a billboard, a pavement as shop-window, or a support column as mirror, where almost certainly not designed for. They where adjustments of needs according to availability of opportunity. Where does the private end and the public begins? One intrudes in and continuously interferes with the other.
The citys interior is a continuous surface, a terrain bearing a variety of accessories in its different territories, and usually, it does not comply with their prescribed uses or boundaries.
The experience of the Greek city records a different map, other than the one of its aesthetic value. This psychogeographic map does not only offer an alternative level of reading, but also a potential topography for further interventions.
1.- The apartment block (gr. polykatoikia) never did any harm to the urban experience, though it may have done some harm to architecture , according to many. Undoubtedly, the apartment block pays in a way for the bad image of the Greek urban landscape, yet not for its structure. Even though, the typology of the apartment block covered the high demands for low cost housing in Greek cities (50s -60s), in proportion to its rapid application it has not been analysed nor developed enough as a model type by Greek architects . (e.g. IBA 87 Berlin).
2.-D. Massey, Space, Place and Gender, Cambridge, Polity Press, 1994, p. 172