The city is alive, and we’re out palpating its changing body. In a new column on the blog, we examine how different art spaces in Athens relate to architecture. The editor of the series, German writer Lorina Speder, will be writing in-depth presentations of artist-run spaces, independent galleries, studios, and more, in relation to the buildings that host them and the neighbourhoods around them. In the following paragraphs, Lorina introduces the series and the concept behind it. You can find links to all texts from the series at the end of this article.
The essays and articles of the Making Space for Art series are written from an outsider perspective. They seek to explore individual experiences of architecture through the contemporary art scene in Athens.
In the 1950s, the urban landscape of Athens began to change dramatically. The distinct look of Athens that was in the making for the next decades is a surprise to many visitors: far from the baroque appearance of similar cities like Rome, major parts of Athens turned out to be a repetitive landscape of concrete apartment blocks, the polykatoikies.
Introduced to deal with huge waves of Post-War immigration, the antiparochi system is the reason for Athens’s bold appearance of today, that some describe as peculiar or even quirky.  To quickly build housing, the system allowed landowners to tear down their former neoclassical mansions and swap them with multi-storey apartment blocks. In exchange, the former landlords received several apartments in the new building while a contractor rented out the rest of the flats.  The result is a dense fabric of buildings that share the same typology, most of them built without involving an architect, which sprawls from one edge of the Attica basin to the other.
The contemporary art scene of Athens, boosted by the attention of the 2017 documenta satellite, is rich in independent art spaces. Their founders and curators, even under the rough conditions of no real funding possibilities, have converted empty store fronts, former warehouses, urban ruins, or apartments into spaces for art. These are arguably a vital part Athens’ changing cultural and social landscape.
But how is the contemporary art scene of Athens connected to its surroundings? Since architecture is known to affect society, it also affects the individual on a personal and emotional level. The intention of this text series is to get to know the people behind unusual spaces and projects, and find out about their connection to architecture. This connection can be in a space itself, in a concept, or in an artistic philosophy. By finding out about the creative possibilities in and uses of Athens’s architecture, the Making Space for Art series wants to come closer to understanding the uniqueness of Athens as a city and as a way of life.
Making Space for Art series
March 2023 — OKAY Initiative Space (Kypseli)
May 2023 — Yellow Brick (Nea Ionia)
July 2023 — COMOTIRIO (Nomadic)