Athenians may despair over their city’s haphazard architecture and lack of order, but for visitors Athens offers a captivating variety of architectural styles and micro-environments that really add to its experience. Indeed, the urban tissue of Athens is so dense and multilayered that it’s hard not to be impressed by its complexity and historical overlaps. Quite expectedly, its unique architectural topographies are being rediscovered by brands, institutions and creatives, as many disused or unconventional venues spring back to life with exhibitions, events and other temporary usages.
Enter NON SPACES, the platform created by Marina Nicoletopoulou dedicated to mapping interesting spaces in Athens and making them available to anyone interested in using them for creative, short-term purposes. If you’ve been to an event inside a former clothes shop on Stadiou street, an exhibition at an empty shop over a parking on Perikleous or some other event taking place at an original locale, NON SPACES was probably behind it. In the following interview, Marina Nicoletopoulou explains her project, her vision and what kind of interesting spaces she has come across during her research and scouting for new spaces all across Athens.
Text by Kiriakos Spirou
All images copyright NON SPACES
Tell us a bit about how the idea for NON SPACES came about and when did you decide to start this project.
Today’s creative industry is required to evolve from and be inspired by different sectors such as art, architecture and design. In the broader area of the creative industry people have been working with innovative ideas related to visual merchandising, creating new stores with innovative concepts, and working with spaces and architecture to achieve this. NON SPACES aims to bring to light what we consciously or unconsciously become part of, accept it in our everyday life and how details are part of our choices. This project is about responses of architecture and space to creatives, when we are identifying our surroundings. Images that speak to the senses, inviting the user to imagine how it would look or feel like if they were present in the spaces where the images where taken.
What is your way of working? How does NON SPACES work exactly?
NON SPACES works with three categories of spaces: established, semi-established and non-used spaces. We scout the properties, whether it’s a room or a museum, and proceed to an agreement with the space manager in order to rent it online for any creative purpose such as production, pop ups, social and work events. We work with partners supplying spaces with insurance, furniture, light, sound, cleaning and security services. Our clients are off-site projects, freelancers looking for shared spaces, curators, brands, foundations, musicians and many other professionals. The program’s research is a product of two years’ work, also involving tens of consultants.
What's the response from brands and institutions in particular about this kind of service? Is there a trend for using alternative spaces or not quite?
There is a need—more than a trend—for this kind of spaces, as it relates to usage and sustainability, city programs, restrictions of budgets, creatives moving independently and expats, as well as finding properties which one cannot access online. We aim to specify our services even more, by working with experts and making the current promising response of brands and institutions stronger in our market. Our legal research into regulations, along with the assistance we offer working with space managers, really help brands rent easier. The next step is to make more projects take place via our site, using the knowledge we have gathered from previous booking rentals.
How many spaces have you mapped/located so far that are suitable for use? There must be quite a few in Athens.
We have a hundred and fifty. We feel that we discovered a large part of the history and heritage of Attica in this process and learned a lot about the management of the spaces and their needs. Our dream is for the spaces to receive financial and cultural contribution.
Which is for you the most unique or impressive listing on NON SPACES at the moment, and why?
Different reasons make them impressive. Me personally I love a space listed on the website as ‘Portico’, and it’s one of the first arcades ever built in Athens. At some point it was used as a gym which was astonishing to believe, but its history, energy and design are breathtaking.
Do you see a change or impact on the general image and social traffic around the venues you activate through NON SPACES? Do the neighbours of these venues welcome you and the activities happening there? Do you ever get complaints?
There is a positive impact, which we are continuously monitoring. Local shops engage with the cause, artists become friends with us and the space owners, we all work together sometimes with very small budgets. We revamped an arcade near Syntagma and it became a spot people talked about a lot last winter. We use space as a canvas, and surely the feeling of a creative project taking place is emotional, but at the same time we respect everyone’s efforts and trust. As for complaints, I am glad to report that we only had some minor procedural ones.
What other cities are you active in? Is your project expanding abroad?
It takes much more time than originally planned to develop this project. NON SPACES can scale to Greece’s nearby countries, particularly in smaller cities emerging in the arts with high cultural interest.
Can you share a couple of interesting projects coming up this autumn in your spaces in Athens?
One is a music showcase in a deserted space, that we will set up from zero. Another is an independent curator renting one room in a photography studio downtown, blending culture in a commercial space.
Watch und. Athens social media and blog for upcoming news and projects by NON SPACES soon. Not all venues pictured in this article are currently available for hire. For more info about NON SPACES please visit its official website or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.