Thesis1 by y o u s e f

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Acknowledgements

I would like to thank my supervisor Professor Mark Dorrian for his support, guidance, and intellectual direction throughout my work, so as Aikaterini Antonopoulou and Tijana Stevanovic who have provided me with exceptionally useful advice on the various stages of my design research. Feedback from various reviewers has been truly invaluable and highly enriched this thesis. In Athens, Maria Theodorou and Sarcha family have equipped me with an insight of Exarchia that would otherwise be very difficult to acquire, as well as have helped me wholeheartedly through their experience and knowledge of the area. The heated discussions on scientific methodologies, space, society and the city with Jesus Hernandez-Rangel, have been a source of thought and reflection throughout the duration of my research. The work of my colleagues Maria, Ta Dung, and Yizhe has been a continuous source of inspiration, our conversations on the comprehension of complexity through architecture and urbanism have had a defining effect on this work.

I would like to thank The British Council, especially my scholarship administrator Merna Kassis for providing me with the opportunity to have this awesome experience. The time-lagged communications with my colleagues and friends from Birzeit University especially Omar Aboudi, have tremendously inspired the trajectory of my work. I am eternally grateful to my mother and sisters for their encouragement and support throughout this year.

Above all, I would like to thank my phenomenal friends in Newcastle; Hussam Wafi, Medo Wafi, Wissam Wafi, Hamza Okasha, Iyad Attallah, Karmil Mannaa, Fadi Salman, Husam Hamza, Bassam Yousef, and Yohana Dawit for their help, support, and bearing with my research obsessions. I owe special thanks to Wafi family for providing me with the space to develop my work without which, I would not have been able to complete this thesis.

 

 

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Abstract

This work is a result of research and development activity performed mainly at the MA in Architectural Design Research, School of Architecture Planning and Landscape, Newcastle University. The project Athens: Salvaging/Scavenging Urbanism, although performed in different settings with a number of projects of very different character, has been focused around the same research problem, i.e. addressing issues facing the city of Athens, Greece, in its current conditions of crisis.

Athens: Salvaging/Scavenging Urbanism is a series of architectural interventions that are the outcome of sustained and rigorous process of study, that are investigative, poetic, theoretically informed, and that deal in a critical way with issues and questions of contemporary relevance for the city. This thesis presents Salvaging/Scavenging Exarchia; a network of architectural interventions proposed in the urban district of Exarchia that is the center of socio-political struggles in Athens.

 

The body of the thesis is structured as an unfolding set of essays; a dispersed series of seven textual and pictorial sections that critically and theoretically reflect upon and address the architectural interventions developed in Exarchia. The thesis does not follow any numerical system since there is no hierarchy in its structure; alternatively, the seven essays are colour-coded, and can be read in any sequence whatsoever and in different combinations.

 

The black section of the study contains an introduction of the work, its purpose and concepts as well as its point of departure. It also defines the urban district of Exarchia and the architectural intervention proposed there.

 

The white section: Life Between Buildings, investigates the concepts of leftover, underused and in-between spaces within the urban context. Such concepts have been of great importance in developing the architectural intervention in Exarchia. It also probes the urban grotesque that is strongly present in Exarchia.

 

The magenta section: A State of Domesti/City, critically delves into the meaning of house, the blurring of boundaries between private and public space, and the embodiment of parliaments, pubs and bars as public houses. It also unfolds the concept of Exarchia as a dispersed public house.

 

The cyan section: A New Common Condition, explores the essence of the living room as a space of social interaction while reflecting upon Exarchia living room, which was the starting point of developing the architectural interventions there.

 

The yellow section: Decolonizing WARchitecture, addresses architectural conditions in wartimes and conflict areas. It also unfolds the process of transformation, decolonizing and decontextualizing of war icons within the contemporary urban context, that has been a major strategy in the process of the architectural interventions in Exarchia and Lindisfarne.

 

The green section: The Right to Exarchia, focuses on the acts of occupying, reclaiming, and appropriating public and common spaces by the people, while presenting the case of Navarinou Park in Exarchia, which has become a spatial syndrome in Athens. It also situates that syndrome within the contemporary occupy movements around the world.

The red section: Criminalizing the other/Colonizing the City, discusses the issue of privatization of public spaces, while focusing on the militarization of the city and the presence of policemen in the urban environment as an architectural element that replaces watchtowers.

 
Introduction
Exarchia [also transliterated as Exárcheia or Exárhia]

Exarchia is an urban district in the heart of Athens, Greece, that is delimited by Alexándras boulevard to the north, by Patisíon and Akadimías boulevards to the west and south-west respectively, and by Asklipioú street to the south-east. Throughout its history, Exarchia has been marked by some of the most powerful and pivotal events in the socio-political landscape of modern Greece, as a nucleus of popular resistance, confrontation and political struggle. This densely packed neighborhood has a reputation as being anti-establishment and is home to students, anarchists, artists, poets, writers and leftists of all stripes. A month of nationwide rioting was sparked in December 2008 when a 15 year-old local high school student and anarchist was shot and killed by police near Exarchia Square. “Three gunshots and a dead 15-year old boy were to trigger the most severe acts of civil unrest the country has seen in its entire post-dictatorial era (1974-)” (Vradis 2009).

Part of the area is referred to as Mouseío and Polytechnío, due to the presence of the Archaeological Museum and the Polytechnic University built in the late 1870s, where many confrontations between students and police have taken place. In 1973, dozens of its students rebelling against the military government were gunned down by troops at the height of a massive protest movement. Only a few months later, the government fell and was replaced by a modern Democracy.

Exarchia is a very dense and compacted urban district with little open spaces as patches penetrating the built environment. On the other hand it is a very vibrant, diversified and multifunctional place. According to Zatz (1983) “The boundaries of Exarchia are considered by residents as neither impermeable nor inflexible… At the same time this is not to say that Exarchia is indistinguishable as a unit of study. Its long-term residents as well as its interested migrants have a sense of its history and its unique identity. It distinguishes itself by having a population drawn from every corner of the country, a feature which makes it unlike any other neighborhood in Athens” (Zatz 1983: p.13).

 

Territorially, Exarchia is directly linked with many other main districts in Athens such as Omonia, which is considered a major meeting point in both conditions of demonstrations and immigrations, as well as Kolonaki, which is an elitist district for upper middle class and upper class. Exarchia is also connected to Syntagma, Gizi, Alexandras and Kypseli. Moreover, Exarchia is linked with Lycabettus Hill and Areos Park that are two major open spaces in the city of Athens. However, although Exarchia is directly connected with Kolonaki from the south and Areos Park from the north, it is disconnected with those spaces, mainly by the presence of the policemen between Kolonaki and Exarchia that deem Exarchia as a dangerous place, and by the presence of Alexandras Boulevard between Exarchia and Areos Park, which is very wide and jammed with traffic.

 

The main landmarks and nodes in Exarchia are:

  • Alexandros Grigoropoulos street where the 15 years old student were shot by the police.
  • Exarchia square, which is the main public space and meeting place in the district and contains many functions, activities, and events.
  • The Polytechnic University, which stands as a symbol of democracy and freedom due to its students uprising in 1973. It currently houses the School of Architecture of Athens, which makes it a vivid students’ center and a very significant cultural hub for the area as it gives space to music concerts, performances, and exhibitions. The University is an asylum in times of demonstrations, since the police cannot access it.
  • The Archaeological Museum of Athens, which hosts some of the greatest masterpieces of the Greek antiquity.
  • Navarinou Park, which was occupied and reclaimed by the local community.
  • Themistokleous pedestrian pathway and stairs leading to Strefi Hill.
  • Strefi Hill, which is an open space for different and diverse activities and events. It is also considered a major gathering space for the anarchists.

 

Exarchia is a canvas, a space for collective and individual creative expression from writing and music, to dance, visual arts and acting. Graffiti has a powerful presence in the district, and the main celebrated representations are disfigured, masked, deformed, and grotesque images that reflect the surrounding environment and the political condition. One of the widely spread graffiti literally means, “I am being tortured”.

 

Exarchia is very similar to my hometown Ramallah, Palestine. On one hand, both are Mediterranean territories, thus both have analogous climate, colours, scents, sounds, flora, landscape and geography. On the other hand, both are conflict areas that are currently witnessing political, social, and economic crises. Moreover, both urban contexts have powerful cultural and artistic presence that define and shape their identities. Those similarities have majorly inspired me and made me experience several moments of déjà vu and déjà entendu throughout the design research process. The two cityscapes, for me, have become entwined, in a similar way to that explored in Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino.

 

Salvaging/Scavanging Exarchia

The family tree of Greek deity suggests that Chaos is the ancestor of all the gods and goddesses who mythically brought order to earth. This metaphysical phenomenon of chaos as the origin of order is somehow physical. Theoretically and historically yet conditionally and exceptionally, revolutions, demonstrations, intifadas, and other socio-political resistance forms have been the mothers of democracy, justice and welfare around the globe. In both conditions of chaos and order, architecture and urbanism have claimed their share both in shaping and reflecting the very nature of societies, not only as tools of a political hierarchy but also as autonomous agents. In their article ‘The Architecture of Community’, Hanson and Hillier (1987) argue for the positive social role of “structured non-correspondence”. The argument put forward is that architecture can contribute towards a common urban environment: a practice of “structured non- correspondence”, where spatial and architectural interventions actively salvage and scavange urban and social conditions within the contemporary context of Exarchia.

Salvaging/Scavanging Exarchia is an urban and architectural proposition advanced as an argument. Salvaging indicates an act of rescuing and preserving, while scavanging indicates searching through and collecting salvageable elements. In parallel, in succession, and/or simultaneously, both refer to a collection of processes and strategies that aims to identify and/or re-identify urban conditions and moments in the contemporary urban context of Exarchia. Furthermore. A series of four interlinked design research processes that engage the full range of architectural scales, from the urban/territorial strategy to the detail, are the main components of the proposition: Sighting Lindisfarne, Study Visit, Exarchia Recoding, and Salvaging/Scavanging Exarchia.

Sighting Lindisfarne is an architectural intervention based in Lindisfarne Castle in Holy Island, which is situated to the north of the city of Newcastle on the Northumberland Coast. In Sighting Lindisfarne project, two constructs in dialogue with each other and in two different scales were designed in reflection to the landscape and the castle. The first construct, which is of a large scale was designed on the little Beblowe outcrop that provides 360 degree panoramic views of the landscape there, and that has a strong relation with the castle; both break the horizontality of the landscape there and the outcrop used to have a temporary structure as a fort to protect the builders of the castle. The smaller construct was designed on the gun platform at the upper battery of the castle that overlooks the little Beblowe and the landscape beyond.

 

Different things were reflected upon the two constructs and directly affected the architectural design process:

  • The relation between the little Beblowe and the castle.
  • The music room on the upper floor of the castle and its different elements. The music room is a linear room with very small windows, exposed wood beams, a raised wooden platform, a fireplace, wood floors, frames that has paintings and drawings for the island, and a cello and a music sheet stand to celebrate the memory of the cellist Saggia who used to be a frequent visitor to the castle.
  • Boat construction and boat reclaiming on the island.
  • The refuge towers that are vertical skeletons that penetrate the horizontality of the landscape and the sea.
  • The demolished church that used to be on the harbor whose remains looked like a skeleton of a ship.
  • The gun platform at the upper battery and the act of shooting over the landscape.

 

The large construct is a music pavilion that revives the memory of the music room while setting free or liberating the experience and the space of the room through projecting and displacing it on the landscape beyond. The pavilion was designed as a wooden skeleton that create a continuous framing condition of the land, the sea, and the sky while reflecting upon the boat construction, the refuge towers and the remains of the church, as well as replacing the drawings and paintings in the music room by the actual landscape. The architectural design process of the pavilion started from the plan of the music room and the way leading to it, and the height of the pavilion is at the level of the gun platform. The pavilion has four main elements: wooden skeleton, wooden multi-leveled platforms, a steel sleeping space with two fireplaces on the two levels that resemble the furnace room on a boat as well as the fireplace at the music room, and a set of steel cables that resemble cello strings as railing and shading elements. The cables are intended to create acoustic reaction when the wind blows as a result of their vibration.

 

The small construct is a tripod-viewing device calibrated on the grooves of the stone gun platform and directly connected with the pavilion through sight lines. The design of this device reflects upon the music stand sheet at the music room, so instead of holding music sheet the stand holds the music pavilion. The viewing device, therefore, decontextualizes the gun platform and transforms the act of gunfire into the act of viewing. More on decontextualizing war icons is on the yellow section.

 

The Study Visit was a structured and intensive on the ground study for the contemporary urban landscape of the city of Athens, and the point of departure for the architectural interventions developed in Exarchia. Staying at a hotel in Exarchia, just down Strefi Hill and near the square has rendered the process of understanding, exploring and unfolding the complexity of Exarchia more accessible and critical. The sites of the architectural interventions were located and identified throughout the study visit as urban voids in and around the vibrant arteries of the district. More on the strategy of locating those voids is on the white section.

 

Exarchia Recoding is a critical analysis, reading, and representation of Exarchia. It deals with the complex layers of Exarchia; its permanences and temporalities, its qualities and conditions, its activities and phenomena, its boundaries and its complex permeability with the city around, its traces of events and inscriptions, and its architecture and urbanism. The new reading of Exarchia was developed as a digital slideshow performance with sounds and images from the urban context projected on maps. Exarchia Recoding led to an articulation of programmatic ideas, as well as spatial and material strategy that have outlined the architectural interventions in Exarchia.

 

Salvaging/Scavanging Exarchia is a collection and an integrated network of eleven architectural interventions developed in Exarchia that attempts to structure and restructure conditions and moments of residential and domestic yet public and common spaces within the urban landscape of the district. The first intervention is a school building designed on the pedestrian street between the Polytechnic University and the Archaeological Museum that is currently an underused pathway used mainly by drug addicts and dealers. When the building is not occupied as a school, it can house a wide spectrum of public and residential activities: for instance a blackboard inside a classroom unfolds to become a bed. The proposal consists of two main parts; a concrete cube with a central void that celebrates the emptiness that originally existed on the site, and the framework used to construct the cube. The spaces inside the cube are implanted within the thick walls, and have a public nature such as a library, a theatre, workshops, a café, offices and services. The framework is designed out of the scaffolding and timber elements used to cast the cube. It contains the classrooms that can be used as residential units. Coincidentally, the site has the same proportions of the music pavilion developed in the Holy Island, thus the starting point of designing the building was to project the pavilion on the site, and so the proposal has qualities of emptiness, framing, and skeleton-like condition. The site also has a compressed quality due to its existence between the orthogonal ordinance of the university and the museum, and this quality is reflected in the proposal. The rectangular gardens and the accessibility patterns that originally exist in the site are preserved, and not obstructed by the building.

The other ten interventions are temporal site-specific installed objects of smaller scales that collectively compose Exarchia Dispersed Public House. The house has different social and combinatorial possibilities and permutations where its pieces become linked with one another programmatically through various itineraries within the cityscape of Exarchia such as on their sites, in combination, and at the school. More on Exarchia Dispersed Public House is on the magenta section.

 

This thesis aims to present the architectural proposition developed in Exarchia, and situate it within the contemporary architectural and urban discourse from different perspectives. As a fragmented seven pictorial and textual essays, it reflects upon the structure of the proposition itself while deconstructing the traditional hierarchy of an argument, it also attempts to inspire different interpretation patterns and unfold several understanding layers of the topic/s.

 

 

Hanson J. & Hillier B., (1987), ‘The Architecture of Community: some new proposals on the social consequences of architectural and planning decisions’, Architecture et Comportement / Architecture and Behaviour, vol. 3, no. 3, pp. 251-273.

Vradis A., (2009), ‘Greece’s winter of discontent’, City; analysis of urban trends, culture, theory, policy, action, vol. 13, no. 1, pp.146-149.

Zatz E., (1983), Kinship, property and inter-personal relations in an urban milieu: The case of Exarchia, Doctoral Thesis, London School of Economics: London.

 

Life between buildings

 

On the margins of urbanism

 

Leftover, underused, and in-between spaces in an urban context on one hand are spaces or urban voids that are empty, overlooked, neglected, vacant, derelict, abandoned, uninhabited, unplanned…etc., that are the remnants of the urban and architectural processes that shape the cityscape, and that are on the edges and margins of urbanism; on the other hand, however, they are unique and spirited spaces that usually have powerful identities as they commonly house different informal and creative urban and social phenomena. In The Practice of Everyday Life, Michel de Certeau (1988) argues that, to achieve healthy urbanism, there is a need for places that have different layers of meanings. Those spaces as one layer of any urban environment create a continuous dialogue between the architecture, the city, and the people, and identify new meanings within that urban environment. “It is the existence of these non-other, alter or anti spaces that gives meaning to a life that would otherwise be codified purely in terms of labour, choked by the rules of production and ultimately negated by the supreme dream of order and integration.” (De Certeau 1988: 106)

These spaces stand in urban media as if they are expecting and waiting for something, for salvaging and scavanging. They are permanently or temporarily secluded from the formal urbanism, yet included in the everyday life. In his book, The Poetics of Space, Bachelard (1958) explores the nooks and crannies or leftover spaces within domestic space such as the area behind the stairs, corners of the house, spaces in the attic and cellar, that are personal and private spaces, places that are secret, intimate and places that allow one to dream. “…every corner in the house, every angle in the room, every inch of secluded space in which we like to hide, or withdraw into ourselves, is a symbol of solitude for the imagination;….” (Bachelard 1958: 11)

 

Within the larger scale of the urban environment, leftover, underused, and in-between spaces are lusty houses for imagination and dreams, for residing and refuging, and for hiding and lurking as well. In the very compacted urban context of Exarchia, such spaces intertwine with the multifunctional character of the district, forming a vibrant matrix of public houses dispersed within the cityscape that has become alienated and unfamiliar to its residents due to the current socio-political landscape.

 

Such spaces have inspired and marked the architectural interventions proposed in Exarchia strategically, programmatically, and visually. Eleven of such spaces were identified during the study visit as sites of appropriation in and around the main landmarks, nodes, pathways, and edges of the district. Some are empty lots and parking lots forgotten between the buildings and the streets of Exarchia, such as the empty lot at Themistokleous street with its phenomenal bamboo screen where one can hide and become isolated in the city; some are specific spots within larger spaces such as the old van on Exarchia square; some are parts of the streets and other infrastructural elements such as we find at the intersection between Alexandras Boulevard and Osp. Trikoupi Street; and some are sites of demolished buildings, such as the site across Navarinou Park that has epic inscriptions on its walls, which trigger the imagination. The largest site of them all is the underused pedestrian pathway between the Polytechnic University and the Archeological Museum.
More on the demolished building site is on the cyan section.

 

Each of these sites is unique and phenomenal. Each has been appropriated as a social product of collective and individual activities and ideologies. Each has developed its own spatial identity through the socio-political and urban activities taking place there. The people in Exarchia, outside the controlled and dominated spaces, have creatively appropriated each of them and many others such as Navarinou Park. In The Production of Space, Henri Lefebvre (1974) discusses the differences between dominated spaces that are controlled and under surveillance, and appropriated spaces that are necessary and useful such as the indoor space of family life. He also argues that appropriated spaces are social products of thought and of action, as well as tools of social power that reflect upon social relations and social existence. In the urban context of Exarchia where dominated space is taking over, the people have founded several spatial mechanisms to identify and appropriate those eleven sites amongst many other leftover, underused, and in-between spaces.
More on space appropriation mechanisms is on the green section.

From the act of residing by the homeless and immigrants, the anarchists’ fetes in Strefi hill on Saturday nights, drugs consumption and trading in the square and between the museum and the university, and the punk music parties inside the university, to demonstrations and confrontations with the police, and more sophisticatedly planned space occupy movements such as Navarinou and Tsamadou parks and Alexandros Grigoropoulos street, the most prevailing urban and socio-political phenomenon as a mechanism of space appropriation is the graffiti that is one major layer within the complex cityscape.

 

Urban Grotesque/Exarchia Inscriptions

 

Reisner (1971) states that the word graffiti means little scratchings and it is derived from the Italian graffiare, which means to scratch. “Graffiti in some forms can challenge hegemony by drawing on particular experiences and customs of their communities, ethnic groups and age cohorts, thereby demonstrating that social life can be constructed in ways different from the dominant conceptions of reality” (Lachman1988: 231-32). In the contemporary world, although typically perceived as an act of vandalism, graffiti is a visual and textual representation of the urban landscape and an embodiment of the current culture and subcultures. Generally in Athens and particularly in Exarchia, graffiti is a political manifestation of images and statements that penetrates all the spaces of the city and reflects upon the current reality. I am being tortured is a statement widespread in the Athenian graffiti that deciphers Athens as a tortured city.

Within the cityscape of Exarchia, graffiti is a spectacle that has a very active presence and powerful attitude that mostly exhibits disfigured, masked, deformed, monstrous and grotesque figures reflecting the current socio-political conditions. From the spray paint cans to the walls, graffiti unfolds and reveals personal and collective messages and stories of war and freedom, homeliness and homelessness, aspirations and struggles, resistance and tension, and of love and hatred.

“Monstrous and grotesque figures are generated by operations upon the periphery of the body, undoing its coherence and thereby its separation from other bodies and from the world… The grotesque body is animated by an irrepressibly fertile energy which manifests itself not least for Bakhtin in its hilarious, ecstatic and parodic deformations of the authoritarian figure.” (Dorrian 2000: 313) Grotesque and monstrous bodies are vividly roaming Exarchia, haunting its people, shadowing its architecture, and questioning its reality, they are in continuous dialogue with the people and the city, as well as with one another; debating, expressing, and arguing all the juxtapositions and contradictions of the urban landscape. The presence of the policeman in this context as a monstrous and gruesome figure, sometimes animalistic, mirrors the encounters between the government and the people, while the disfigured, masked and deformed figures mirror the socio-political conditions that render Athens tortured. More on the presence of the policeman in urban contexts is on the red section.

Exarchia graffiti, its walls inscriptions and imprints have influenced the aesthetics of the architectural interventions developed in Exarchia.

 

Bachelard G., (1958), The Poetics of Space, Beacon Press: Boston.

 

De Certeau M., (1988), The Practice of Everyday Life, University of California Press: LA.

Dorrian M., (2000), ‘On the monstrous and the grotesque’, Word & Image: A Journal of Verbal/Visual Enquiry, vol. 16, no. 3, pp. 310-317.

Lachman R., (1988), ‘Graffiti as Career and Ideology’, American Journal of Sociology, vol. 94, pp. 229-250.

Lefebvre H., (1974), The Production of Space, Blackwell Publishers Ltd: Oxford.

 

Reisner R., (1971), Two Thousand Years of Wall Writing, Cowles Book Co.: New York.

 

A State of Domesti/City

 

House [n., adj. hous; v. houz]

 

“For the house furnishes us with dispersed images and a body of images at the same time.” (Bachelard 1958:3)

 

Raimund Abraham (1972), in his poem, The Elements of the House, defines a house as a set of phenomena, processes, emotions, events, conditions, elements, senses, spaces, and places:
“The house

is the junction of

 

dreams

illusions

death

birth

mutations

feasts

contemplation

rituals

conflicts

confrontations

destruction

execution

love

hate

fury

memory

desires

wounds

satisfaction

paralysis

intimacy

distance

ecstasy

mourning

density

absurdity

resurrection

contentment

lust

sleep

wakening

coldness

flesh

the morning

the day

the light

anticipation

the night

the spring

the winter

the autumn

fire

ice

water

earth

flames

mountains

abysses

metamorphosis

flowers

odors

spices

clouds

stones

rivers

the wind

the sun

the stars

the moon

the soft

the metallic

the stoney

the woody

the glassey

the cristalloid

gestures

faces

movement

penetration

openings

burials

isolation

protection

wombs

walls

intestines

spheres

cubes

voids

squares

transparencies

transcendence

plains

depressions

erections

the skies

the subterranean

the horizon

infinity”

 

(Raimund Abraham 1972)

 

Linguistically, ‘house’ signifies domestic, residence, dwelling, shelter, haven, asylum, abode, refuge, and of course home. ‘Manzil’; Arabic for house, indicates an act of descending; down to a safe and serene place. In academic discourse, various theorists explore the meaning of house from different perspectives, from the physicality of structure to the poetics of space. The concept of the house has been studied via multiple dimensions such as psychological, social, cultural, economical, historical, and of course architectural.

 

The first chapter of Gaston Bachelard’s book The Poetics of Space, philosophically investigates the phenomenon of the house, its interior and context. For Bachelard (1958), the house is a lived experience of architecture. “I must show that the house is one of the greatest powers of integration for the thoughts, memories and dreams of mankind…Without it, man would be a dispersed being… It is body and soul. It is the human being’s first world.” (Bachelard 1958: 6-7)

 

In ‘Building Dwelling Thinking’, Martin Heidegger (1971) etymologically investigates the meaning of building and dwelling. He suggests that building as an action relates to dwelling as a phenomenon, and thus to house as a structure, which therefore relates to a body of senses: of continuity and community, nearness and neighbourliness, sparing and preserving, and homeliness. Heidegger also argues that dwelling embodied as a house is a manifestation of the fourfold; the combination of earth, sky, people, and a sense of spiritual and/or godly presence. In such context, a house is terrestrial and celestial, and/or, material and moral.

 

For many other theorists, a house is an object within an environment, a machine as Le Corbusier believed, a place where one or family lives, a physical and abstract metaphor of ‘home’. “Home can be a room inside a house, a house within a neighbourhood, a neighbourhood within a city, a city within a nation. At each level the meaning of home gains in intensity and depth from the dialectical interaction between the two poles of experience—the place and its context at a larger scale…Home is a place of security within an insecure world, a place of certainty within doubt, a familiar place in a strange world, a sacred place in a profane world. It is a place of autonomy and power in an increasingly heteronomous world where others make the rules.” (Dovey 1985: 46)

As for me, a house is one face of a home and a structure for homeliness; it is a complex, multi-layered, non-linear, and subjective experience of space. It is the intermediate space between one’s body and one’s city. Fundamentally, a house is a singular structure and a plural matter of structures. Functionally, a house accommodates a spectrum of events of daily life. Sleeping, dreaming, making love, bathing, relaxing, studying, watching television, fighting, arguing, cooking, dining, nourishing —in any sequence whatsoever or simultaneously, amongst innumerable actions often occur inside the house.
One’s house, just like one’s body, is changeable, and in a constant process of permutation. The architecture of the house, on the other hand, is a mutable stage for its ever-transformable performances across time interiorly and exteriorly, visually and programmatically, temporally and permanently, physically and contently…etc.
The house is the ultimate quest and fiction of private space. More on the delusion of the private and public spaces is on the green section.

A state of fusion/ the house: public, private or both?

Since prehistory, mankind has produced informal and formal public and private spaces to house its wants, needs, and desires while reshaping and appropriating the landscape of earth. Riley (1999) argues that the concept of identifying spaces according to their level of privacy is very prevalent in the architectural discourse. Frequently and generally, the house has been perceived as a private place within the architectural theory and practice. Lawrence (1987), for instance, states that one aim of constructing a house is to differentiate between public and private domains.

The house, I would argue, is not the end of public space. With time, the vertical and horizontal edges of houses, i.e. walls, floors and ceilings, have been thinned, and so has been the privacy inside the house. The sounds and noises created by one’s neighbours and environment have become a part of one’s house. On the other hand, the infusion of the house with technology has rendered the house as a permeable structure. Junestrand (2004) states that the new information and communication technologies are breaking up the traditional boundaries of the house, rendering it more public than it used to be. “The way we live in our homes in the information society is now becoming more complex. An increasing integration between work, purchase of goods and domestic activities is supposed to open up the strict separation between the private and the public. This is emphasized by the integration of VMC ‘video mediated communication’ in the domestic environment, which opens up the dwelling to the outside world and brings the outside world into the dwelling.” (Junestrand 2004:16)

Zukin (1991) titles this blurring of boundaries between private and public space a state of ‘liminality’. In the age of liminality, where the boundary amidst private and public space is blurring, and the line between those two spheres is fading, the house is not private, nor public. It is a state of fusion of the two poles. In an age in which the public/private distinction is so radically dissolved, the act of closing a door to distinguish a private space is replaced by the act of switching off the electrical power and the Internet connection.

Otherwise, public house seems to be an unexplored and a contradictory concept in architectural discourse and practice. However, on one hand it represents a parliament, such as the House of Commons in the United Kingdom, yet on the other hand, it is an ornate alias for pubs and bars. Thus, the concept of public house is usually perceived as an architectural representation, or icon of polity and power, and/or, commodity and consumption.

In general a parliament originally derived from the French word ‘parler’ English for speak, is a house for decision-making, debate, and discussion, and a building where the democratic representation of a community takes place. “By definition parliament buildings are expressions of the relationship between government and architecture. The buildings demonstrate faith in the cultural identity of a nation, serving two symbolic purposes simultaneously: acting as potent symbols of political power internally, that is to the people within a nation, and also providing an external example to foreigners of the confidence in that nationhood.” (Sudjic & Jones 2001: 42-3) Under other conditions, Brandwood, Davidson and Slaughter (2004) argue that public houses, i.e. pubs and bars, are the heart of a community’s social vitality and the base of a democracy. Public house, in such context, is a place where people can gather, meet, and enjoy good company and conversation. However, the term public house has been commodified, it has become a fancy brand for restaurants, cafes, bars, pubs, hotels and other consumption-driven venues.
Exarchia Dispersed Public House proposes a novel and different condition of private and public space. It is a house, a parliament and a gathering place. More on the process of social interaction in private and public spaces is on the cyan section.

Exarchia Dispersed Public House
Exarchia dispersed public house is a process of redefining domestic conditions within a city that has become more and more unfamiliar to its citizens, as well as a process of reversal that attempts to identify and construct moments of homeliness within the rough context of Exarchia, in which the need for appropriation of the urban environment is very essential.

 

Exarchia dispersed public house is a network of dispersed yet programmatically and visually connected residential loci that collectively function as a house. The network consists of ten architectural installations that range in scale and temporality, and that weave through the urban fabric of Exarchia. The ten architectural installations are calibrated and appropriated within the urban voids that have been identified during the study trip to Athens. From the scale of furniture pieces, mobile pieces of architecture to the scale of extra-small architectural structures, these installations form a patterned web within the city that function as a house for the public where different conditions come together and coexist. The installations refer to different living spaces, a series of rooms in a house such as a living room, a sleeping space, a garden, a bathing space, a dining and cooking space, a TV room, a balcony, a stairwell, and a study space.
The idiom ‘house’ emotionally and naturally evokes a sense of ‘family’ and ‘togetherness’. Exarchia house suggests a new form of togetherness that is not able to fit into the traditional models of private houses and public spaces. The family dwelling Exarchia Dispersed Public House is the community itself: the mixture of local inhabitants of Exarchia and strangers from further a field. Thus, Exarchia house is a space that enables the communication of differences, that encourages social interaction, and that discourages social tensions and violence, not through their suppression but through the effective support of diversity. It is a place where one might coincidentally meet another, debate and discuss, and a space for people who want to be alone as well.

 

The architecture of Exarchia house is temporal and fragile. With no walls, Exarchia house exposes its inhabitants and plays with transparency in a continuous dialogue with the exterior and the urban context. The installations composing the house can be taken as a set of screens that expose in public what they shelter. Exarchia house, thence, is a system of opening and closing that both isolates its spaces and makes them penetrable, as well as a system of filtering that fashions conditions and moments of privacy and publicness. Moreover, the architecture of Exarchia house is portable and dynamic. Although each installation of the house has a specific location, the house can be re-assembled within different spaces and with different configurations while having different performative conditions. The house’s capacity for re-assembling aims to evoke the activation of the common body of Exarchia through the process of dislocation.

 

The aesthetics of Exarchia house, on the other hand, suggests a prominent reference to war shelters and refuges that intentionally and organically developed throughout the design process so to as reflect upon Exarchia inscriptions discussed on the white section. More on the architecture of war is on the yellow section.

 

Bachelard G., (1958), The Poetics of Space, Beacon Press: Boston.

 

Brandwood G., Davidson A. & Michael S., (2004), Licensed to Sell: The History and Heritage of the Public House. English Heritage: London.
Dovey K., (1985), ‘Home and Homelessness’, Home Environments, Human Behavior and Environment, Advances in Theory and Research, Eds: Altman I. & Werner C., Plenum Press: New York, pp. 42-68.

Heidegger M., (1971), Poetry, Language, Thought, Harper and Row: New York.

 

Junestrand S., (2004), Being private and public at home, Doctoral Thesis, KTH School of Architecture: Stockholm.

 

Lawrence R. J. (1987), ‘What makes a house a home?’, Environment and Behavior, vol. 19, pp. 154- 168.

Raimund A., (1972), ‘The Elements of the House’, Poem, New York. Available on: [http://ethel-baraona.tumblr.com/post/7076979748/the-elements-of-the-house-poem-written-by-raimund] Accessed on (01/07/2013)

Riley T., (1999), The Un-Private House, The Museum of Modern Arts: New York.

 

Sudjic D. & Jones H., (2001), Architecture and Democracy, Laurence King: London, pp. 42–3.

Zukin Sh., (1991), Landscapes of Power: From Detroit to Disney World, University of California Press: Berkeley.

 

A New Common Condition

 

Living Room
“Today, wars are fought not in trenches and fields, but in living rooms, schools and supermarkets.” (Barakat 1998: 11)

Riggins (1994) defines a living room as the transactional space of a house and a stage for connection with the outside world. “The living room is the area where ‘performances’ for guests are most often given, and hence the ‘setting’ of it must be appropriate to the performance.” (Laumann & House 1970: 190) In the contemporary house where dwelling conditions and cultural values are in constant change, the living room has had multi-layered meanings, interactions, and performative conditions. “Almost overnight residential architecture begins to reflect the new thinking. Gone are the boxes, which for so many generations had kept our doings apart from one another’s. Now, instead of a parlor, a sitting room, and a dining room we see a Living Area –a single irregularly shaped open space where one can dine, read, converse, listen to music, watch television…” (Raskin 1974: 27)

There are many studies investigating the various functions and activities of the living room, as well as exploring the objects that are tied to its meanings and uses. Rechavi (2009) argues that the living room is a combination of both public and private space where moments that are at the core of the dwelling experience occur. Also, the living room is a space for social interactions within the house where its residents communicate with one another, with their guests, and with the outside context.

 

One burdened object in the living room experience is the frame. Framed memorabilia, photographs, and paintings embody people, events, and landscapes of significance and create another form of presence outside the interior world, thus, generating another layer of interaction and communication with the exterior world within the space of the living room. Another prevalent object in the living room is the television; a frame of the outside world and beyond. Those frames render the house in general and the living room in particular a hybrid space of public and private. More on the blurring of boundaries between the public and private space is on the magenta section.

 

The urban or public living room is a concept being explored by many artists and architects around the globe as a spatial mechanism to identify a new common condition by projecting the residential space of the living room into the urban environment. Among many projects worldwide, the Urban Living Room project by Studio ID Eddy & Theatre Group Powerboat is “a combination of a social and cultural program. A design project that focuses on hospitality and small-scale meetings in the big city. The Urban Living Room makes the city a homely place. The contexts can be very diverse. The ULR will add a contrasting layer to every context. The uni-colour and the indoor homely feeling of the ULR make it stand out in urban landscapes, parks, in nature and exhibition spaces. The Urban Living Room is also an international traveling exhibition of Dutch Design.” (urbanlivingroom.org 2012)

 

For the exhibition Jericho — Beyond the Celestial and the Terrestrial, produced by Birzeit University Museum 2012, Jordan-based artist Samah Hijawi has explored the concept of land by investigating the geological possibility of earthquakes along the Great Rift Valley. “The artist pondered the consequences of all of historic Palestine disappearing in the aftermath of an earthquake. From this idea, Hijawi brought her project to Jericho’s main public square, inviting citizens to come and discuss the idea of a complete disappearance of the land of Palestine, and re-imagine their personal political solutions based on that. The artist took her public debate and placed it back in the context of the home, creating a living room with couches, coffee tables, a rug and a television playing footage of the political conversations.” (Meador 2013)

Those projects amongst many other cultural, artistic, and cultural productions that deal with the settings of the living in the urban environment, refer to the living room as a space for dialogues, meetings, and discussions that enrich the experience of the urban space. Accordingly Exarchia Public Living Room that is one part of Exarchia Dispersed Public House attempts to identify a new common condition in Exarchia. More on Exarchia Dispersed Public House is on the magenta section.

Exarchia Public Living Room

 

Site No.9, the demolished building across Navarinou Park was explored as a starting point in the design research process of the architectural interventions developed in Exarchia. It was a testing site has marked the character of the other interventions through the different layers of inscriptions imprinted on the site and beyond. An architectural installation of small scale was proposed correspondingly as a living room in the city that correlates to the extraordinary qualities of the walls. The walls of the demolished building and their imprints alongside with the debris on the ground resemble a book, or a pop-up construction that unfolds the space and tells its story. Grotesque, monstrous, animalistic faces, a torture device: a spike driven through a victim’s rectum, scattered body parts among many other phenomenal gruesome inscriptions on the walls render the site a miniature projection of the cityscape. More on Exarchia inscriptions is on the White section.

 

The living room consists of four ambulant furniture pieces that relates to the datum of the floors and graffiti of the demolished house. They aim to create a special viewing and framing, or scavenging, conditions for the walls. The main piece is a long-legged chair that refers to lifeguard chairs, thus indicating an act of rescuing or salvaging. More on Salvaging/Scavenging Exarchia is on the Black section. The living room attempts to re-identify moments of homeliness within the urban environment, also, it endeavours to be a stage for different individual and collective performances.

 

 

Barakat S., (1998), ‘City war zones’, Urban Age (Spring), pp. 11-19.

Laumann E. & House J., (1970), ‘Living room styles and social attributes: The patterning on material artifacts in a modern urban community’, The logic of social hierarchies, Eds: Laumann E., Siegel P. & Hodge R., Markham: Chicago, pp. 321- 342.

Meador D., (2013), ‘Thought-provoking art exhibition imagines earthquake in Palestine’, The Electronic Intifada. Available on: [http://electronicintifada.net/content/thought-provoking-art-exhibition-imagines-earthquake-palestine/12265] Accessed on (09/07/2013)

 

Raskin E., (1974), Architecture and People, Prentice-Hall: New Jersey.

 

Rechavi T., (2009), ‘A room for living: Private and public aspects of the living room’, Journal of Environmental Psychology, vol. 29, pp.133- 143.

Riggins S., (1994), ‘Fieldwork in the living room: An autoethnographic essay’, The socialness of things: Essays on the socio-semiotics of objects, Ed: Riggins S., Mouton de Gruyter: Berlin, pp. 101-147.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Decolonizing WARchitecture

 

“…warchitecture… Blurring the conceptual border between war and architecture, the term provides a tool to critique dominant accounts of wartime architectural destruction…” (Herscher 2008: 35)

Genesis/Metamorphosis

 

War constructs architecture.

War destructs architecture.

War deconstructs architecture.

War forms architecture.

War transforms architecture.

War deforms architecture.

War reforms architecture.

War mutates architecture.

War manipulates architecture.

War ennobles architecture.

War feeds architecture.

War feeds on architecture.

War defiles architecture.

War creates architecture.

War procreates architecture.

War catalyzes architecture.

War murders architecture.

War erects architecture.

War tortures architecture.

War protects architecture.

War produces architecture.

War consumes architecture.

War manufactures architecture.

War commodifies architecture.

War targets architecture.

War speaks architecture.

War writes architecture.

War debates architecture.

War salvages architecture.

War scavenges architecture.

War is patriarch and architecture is fecund.

Urbanism and city are their progeny

Warchitecture is their metis.

Man is their author and martyr.

Earth is their house.

Past is their narrative.

Aftertime is their coda.

 

War embeds warchitecture into the mode of genesis and renders it into metamorphosis.

 

 

 

Defense and protection against wars has been a stimulus to construct architecture and cities. Destruction of architecture and cities, on the other hand, has been a consequence of war. Yet, war has also prompted reconstruction of architecture and cities. In ‘Warchitectural Theory’, Herscher (2008) refers to warchitecture as the destruction of architecture in warfare. This essay, however, refers to warchitecture as the spatial and architectural conditions formed, deformed, transformed, and reformed within armed conflicts in urban landscapes from the scale of war constructs such as war shelters, watchtowers, and weapons, to the scale of total demolition of urban centers. Being a Palestinian architect proposing an architectural intervention in Exarchia, war conditions and scenes have emphatically and organically marked the trajectory of this thesis. Although war causes have been very different in both cases of Greece and Palestine, the results in the way cities and urbanism performs and functions are quite analogous. More on the juxtaposition of Greece and Palestine is on the black section.

 

In History of Sexuality, Foucault (1976) argues that war is a practical strategy for integrating a differential field of power relations. Warchitecture on the other hand is yet another strategic exercise of power relations. The nexus between architecture and war is polemic and fundamental; both are means of territorial appropriation that exert dominance over the landscape and the people. Vanderbilt (1983) argues that war is a natural extension of architecture. “Apart from the obvious architectural connotations of war — the need for defensive shelter, the status of architecture as a target — there is a breadth of associative meaning between the two enterprises: both are about the exercise of control over a territory; both involve strategic considerations of the most apt site-specific solutions; both involve the use of symbol, rhetoric, and cultural context.” (Vanderbilt, 1983:1)

 

Although destruction is an intrinsic phenomenon in the discourse of war and architecture, other phenomena and conditions emerge within wartime redefining and metamorphosing the urban landscape. The current socio-political conditions of Greece render Exarchia into a tale of two cities, a schizophrenic case of war and peace. Occasional war conditions occur in Exarchia that set the district into rapid temporal transformation mode and render it into a provisional battlefield. As a central residential area in Athens that is very vivid and active, Exarchia quickly gives space to riots, demonstrations, and clashes with the police, and then quickly returns to its former everyday condition. The same fixed spatial elements of the city; the buildings, the urban furniture, and even the garbage bins that are always set in fire when a clash takes place, adopt different roles in times of peace and in times of war.

 

De-familiarizing of the city by its own people is yet another phenomenon emerges in politically conflicted zones as Herscher (2008) argues. Ramallah; the de facto capital of Palestine, having had a long history of war, is witnessing a rapid urban transformations that render the city an outlandish within the contemporary Palestinian landscape. In Athens, particularly in Exarchia, the urban landscape has been reshaped by the current socio-political and economic crises facing Greece, therefore, it has become unfamiliar and alienated to its people, who on the other hand are in constant quest to scavenge and salvage its fragments by redefining new spatial conditions within the district and beyond.

 

Wars and armed conflicts redirect the cinematography of the urban landscape and restructure the hierarchy of its characters and architectural settings. The Greek riots of 2008 has announced Alexandros Grigoropoulos as the hero and the policeman as the villain, as well as declared a street corner in Exarchia as an urban shrine for his memory. This urban case of decontextualizing architecture; restructuring space elements and surfaces and redefining its meaning into another state typically confined to another context, is one of many other urban phenomena derived from the war condition in and around Exarchia. It approaches the street as an altar that spiritually sanctifies and ecclesiastically glorifies a memory of an individual and an event, which is a scene typically found in churches and temples. Another corresponding phenomenon is the decontextualizing of the Polytechnic University space into an asylum in the conditions of demonstrations and confrontations with the police, thus the educational space is being transformed into a war shelter. The white and green sections discuss other akin phenomena such as the urban grotesque in graffiti and Navarinou Park case respectively.

 

Decolonizing

 

War embeds warchitecture into the mode of genesis and renders it into metamorphosis. Decolonizing warchitecture is a mechanism of exorcism that evicts war demons from the body of warchitecture.

 

For many multidisciplinary theorists and critics, colonization a multifaceted complex exercise of control and power that explodes into wars, tensions, conflicts, militarization, crises, prisons, revolutions, and warchitecture amongst many other armed actions. Decolonization, on the other hand, is the act of undoing and reversing colonization. Laenui (2000) argues that decolonization is a political and social process that articulates a state of transformation. Moreover, Fanon (1963) refers to both operations as images of order, disorder, and change. “Decolonization, which sets out to change the order of the world, is, obviously, a program of complete disorder.” (Fanon 1963:36) Accordingly, in the discourse of warchitecture, decolonizing is the strategy of decontextualizing war products, metamorphosing war spaces, and transforming war commodities into surrogate permutations.

 

Throughout history and around the globe, man has strategically decolonized warchitecture, war icons, and war commodities in the utmost apt fashion. The demolition of the iconic Bastille Prison by the French Revolution was a statement of decolonizing more than an action of destruction that finally redeemed the Man in the Iron Mask. In the very recent Egyptian revolutions, protesters converted tanks into residential and sleeping spaces. In different Palestinian villages, evacuated Israeli military watchtowers have been transformed into climbing towers, viewing devices, and agricultural houses. The separation wall constructed between Israel and the Palestinian territories has become a huge canvas manifesting the people’s objection to its existence.

 

Furthermore, various artist and architects unfold the capacity of decolonizing warchitecture worldwide. Etherington (2013) presents the work of the Mozambican artist Mabunda as a process of decontextualizing war icons; guns and weapons from the civil war in Mozambique into furniture pieces. In Palestine, Hilal, Petti & Weizman (2009) explore the concept of decolonizing warchitecture as the process of rethinking the architecture of the Israeli colonization such as evacuated settlements and military basis. Reuse, re-inhabitation, and/or recycling of military infrastructures and political structures by means of destruction, re-occupation, and subversion is the core of their investigations.

 

The architectural propositions in both Lindisfarne and Exarchia have a potent reference to warchitecture and decolonizing warchitecture within their program, character, and aesthetics. The tripod viewing-device calibrated upon the gun platform of Lindisfarne Castle decolonizes the memory and the meaning of its provenance: the canon. The balcony of Strefi Hill and the stairwell between Kolonaki and Exarchia, so as the living room, refer to military watchtowers yet decolonize their use: from surveillance to viewing. The sleeping space in Themistokleous Street relates to war shelters yet decontextualizes them within the urban context. The school in Exarchia and the music pavilion in the Holy Island relate to the most basic elements of construction and reconstruction; the scaffolding and the framework. Moreover, the itinerant capacity of Exarchia Dispersed Public House relates to the transformative quality of the warchitecture and the decolonizing process.

 

Salvaging/Scavenging Exarchia is a probe of decolonizing warchitecture. It attempts to redefine warchitecture within the urban landscape of Exarchia, manipulate its aesthetics, maneuver its meanings, re-strategize its values, re-identify its relationship with the people and the city, re-appropriate its elements, decolonize its conditions, and evict war demons from its body.

 

Etherington R., (2013), ‘When I get Green by Goncalo Mubanda at Jack Bell Gallery’, dezeen.com. Available on: [http://www.dezeen.com/2013/07/05/when-i-get-green-furniture-made-of-guns-by-goncalo-mabunda-at-jack-bell-gallery/] Accessed on (12/07/2013)

 

Fanon F., (1963), The wretched of the earth, Grove Press: New York.

 

Foucault M., (1976), Histoire de la sexualité, tome 1: La volonté de savoir, Gallimard: Paris. Translated by, Hurley R., (1978), as The History of Sexuality, vol. 1: An Introduction, Random House: New York.

Herscher A., (2008), ‘Warchitectural Theory’, Journal of Architectural Education, vol. 61, no.13, pp. 35-43.

 

Hilal S., Petti A. & Weizman E., (2009), ‘The Future Archaeology of Israel’s Colonisation’, Afterall (Spring 2009), vol. 20, pp. 17-26.

 

 

Laenui P., (2000), ‘Processes of Decolonization’, Reclaiming Indigenous Voice and Vision, Ed: Battiste M., UBC Press: Vancouver, pp. 150-160.

Vanderbilt T., (2003), War as Architecture, The Knowledge Circuit, Design Institute, University of Minnesota: Minnesota.

 

 

 

 

 

The Right to Exarchia

 

 

Appropriating the Common/Occupying the Public

 

Navarinou Park stands in the heart of the compacted fabric of Exarchia as one of the very few green spaces within the cityscape. It is an oasis in the midst of the highly urbanized area, a haven for those squeezed out by the dense urban environment, and a symbol of resistance and political activism in Greece. The landmark park has been a common space that is open and accessible to the public since its occupying by the community in 2009, and its story has inspired the trajectory of the proposition developed in Exarchia in terms of rethinking the common and the public space. The inquiry of the common and public space is broad and central in various multidisciplinary fields that are directly related to the city and the urban environment. Throughout the history of mankind and the age of contemporaneity, not only have leading theorists explored these concepts in order to unfold the intricacy of the city, but also their interpretations have been changed across time due to the ever-changing conditions of the city. Furthermore, the meanings of public space and common space are difficult to describe because their complexity; different layers of understanding yet to be unfolded in order to identify their connotation; legal, geographical, spatial, political, cultural, social and economic dimensions amongst many other intertwined encounters intervene in such discourse. However, the combination of Navarinou Park with the installations of Salvaging/Scavenging Exarchia is to re-identify moments of publicness and commonness throughout Exarchia and beyond.

In Webster’s Dictionary, common is defined as “Belonging to or shared by two or more individuals or by all members of a group.” In Commonwealth, Hardt & Negri (2009) state, “By ‘the common’ we mean, first of all, the common wealth of the material world- the air, the water, the fruits of the soil, and all nature’s bounty- which in classic European political text is often claimed to be the inheritance of humanity as a whole, to be shared together.” (Hardt & Negri 2009:viii) Moreover, Taylor (2004) defines common spaces as gathering spaces where people meet and come together for whatever purpose, while Petti & Hilal (2013) define the concept of common spaces as collectively owned and community-shared spaces that are not mediated by state apparatus. Almost a half-century ago in ‘The Tragedy of the Commons’, Hardin (1968) discusses the dilemmas facing the community-shared resources, or the commons, and the territorial and spatial commons, by means of property, accessibility, ownership, governance, and management, which line the trajectory of democracy as well as individual and collective liberties these resources are meant to have. At present, the commons are facing the same challenges that suppress their existence and place them on the edge of extinction within the urban landscape. For instance, the water that is supposedly a commonwealth to be shared by humanity as a whole has been burdened as a monopoly, a commodity, and a policy throughout the history. Additionally, Masha’, Arabic for common lands, which was a major common resource in Palestine before the Israeli occupation is now being devoured by the geo-political and urban processes occurring on the territories.

 

Otherwise, Many contemporary studies address the ideas of public space and common space as utopian ideas that are rare in practice, and discourse the loss of common space the end of public space. Orum & Neal (2010) define urban public spaces as “all areas that are open and accessible to all members of the public in a society, in principle though not necessarily in practice.” (Orum & Neal 2010:1). Moreover, Mitchell (1995) envision public spaces as representational spaces where political and social movements can be seen, as well as ideologically significant products where interaction can be exercised within democratic societies. Yet, Mitchell (1995) investigates the ancient Greek agora as one of the most iconic public spaces in the history of man as a gathering and meeting place where only citizens; free non-foreign men exercised democracy, and slaves, women, and foreigners were excluded; lack of inclusion, then, has marked the very nature of the iconic public space. Public space often, though not always, has never been open and accessible for all and has been subjected to conventions and restrictions due to control, ownership, and other processes similar to those facing the commons as argued by Hardin (1968). Yet, Navarinou Park case has merged these utopian ideas into a practical space, and mirrored them in Exarchia as a product of communal and public active participation.

At present and similarly to Navarinou Park case, there are powerful occupy movements prevailing around the globe that actively reclaim and appropriate the common and public space as produced and defined by the authoritarian and the capitalist figures. These occupy movements are currently reshaping the socio-political and urban landscapes and re-identifying the public and common space in the contemporary cities worldwide. Although their strategies, causes, and aims are different and their social, cultural, political, and economic backgrounds are varying, their spatial practices, tools of expressions, and forms of communications are analogous. In New York, Occupy Wall Street movement has transformed the space of Wall Street; the financial district of the city and an international icon of capitalism, into a common gathering space for the public where ideas are being communicated and change is being debated. In Cairo, the very recent revolutions against the government has converted Maidan Al-Tahrir; Arabic for Liberation Square, into a temporal common and public house where protesters dwell, sleep, dine, and even bathe, while manifesting their dudgeon. In both cases, the tent as an interim architectural structure has a powerful presence. However, there have been more lasting and concrete architectural strategies to occupy public and common spaces by the people such as those in Navarinou Park and Tsamadou Park in Exarchia.

 

Navarinou Syndrome

 

In The Right to the City, Lefebvre (1968) advocates the right to the city as a radical rethinking process that offers an alternative urban policy in cities and beyond, where power relations and decision-making processes are restructured by shifting control away from the government and the capital to the people. In Exarchia, the people have reclaimed their right to the city by appropriating and occupying different dispersed spaces in their district. Navarinou Park as one of these spaces, which once was a parking lot owned by the Technical Chamber of Greece with plans to be built, has been passionately appropriated and transformed into a garden and a playground by the residents of the district and other activists. The free, self-managed, self-organized, anti-hierarchal, and anti-commercial space has become an iconic common space that is open and accessible to the public. Moreover, the park has been celebrated by the people as an initiative and an exercise of their right to the city, as well as a heroic and epic act of political activism.

 

The architecture of the park is spirited by the people’s interventions that reflect their belonging and pride. From the experimental vegetation to the handmade benches and play-structures and the open-air theatre, the park spaces are places for imagination and manifestations of the fourfold. Furthermore, Navarinou Park has become an urban syndrome, a model to follow, a paradigm to learn from, and an experiment to iterate throughout the Athenian urban fabric, which lacks open spaces.

 

Salvaging/Scavenging Exarchia reflects upon this syndrome as a continuation of Navarinou Park yet to be patterned in the district. The proposition corresponds to the reclaiming process of Navarinou Park in terms of re-identifying common spaces that encourage unmediated social interaction, that provide a place for imagination and dreams, and that are accessible and open to the public so as to escape the hustle and bustle of the Athenian cityscape. The living room proposed across the park on the demolished building ruins, visually integrates with it, while the other itinerant interventions programmatically correlate to it so as to pursue the right to Exarchia, for instance, the dispersed public house could be reassembled in the park in different structural configurations to host different performative conditions. Moreover, the proposed school functionally links with the park as one of the few open spaces in the district. Thus, Navarinou Park is an integral space to Salvaging/Scavenging Exarchia architectural interventions; it is the garden of Exarchia dispersed public house and the playground of the school.

 

 

Hardin G., (1968), ‘The Tragedy of the Commons’, Science, vol. 162, pp. 1243-1248.

 

Hardt M. & Negri A., (2009), Commonwealth, Harvard University Press: Cambridge.

 

Lefebvre H., (1968), The Right to the City. Anthopos: Paris.

 

Mitchell D., (1995), ’ the End of Public Space? People’s Park, Definitions of the Public, and Democracy’, Annals of the Association of American Geographers, vol. 85, no. 1, pp. 108-133.

 

Orum A. & Neal Z., (2010), Common Ground? Readings and Reflections on Public Space, Routledge: New York.

Petti A. & Hilal S., (2013), ‘Beyond the Public: A common space in Fawwar refugee camp’, Theatrum Mundi. Available on: [http://theatrum-mundi.org/reflections/beyond-the-public-a-common-space-in-fawaar-refugee-camp/] Accessed on: (12/07/2013)

 

Taylor C., (2004), Modern social imaginaries, Duke University Press: Durham.

 

Criminalizing the other/Colonizing the City

 

Urban spaces that are open and accessible to the public, fully or partly, within the urban environment are significant in constructing and salvaging the nexus between the people and the city. Public and common spaces lay in this category vis-a-vis with privately owned public spaces, which are repeatedly criticized for limiting the publicness of the urban space within the city-related discourses. Németh and Schmidt (2011) argue that publicly accessible spaces have been recently and increasingly dominated by the private sector, which affects the trajectory of the publicness and renders these spaces less open and accessible, as well as more exclusionary and confined to certain people with certain privileges to perform certain activities in certain times. Around the globe, there is an accelerating tendency towards commodifying and privatizing publicly accessible spaces, and converting them into profit-making and consumption-driven venues. Governments worldwide have facilitated the process of shifting ownership and management of public spaces to the private corporate. Subsequently, civilian occupy movements have reclaimed their right to these spaces. More on the public and common space, and occupy movements is on the green section.

 

Privatization and commodification of publicly accessible spaces are mechanisms of redefining power relations in the city, as well as of exerting control and dominance over the urban landscape and the people. Surveillance and security apparatuses have burdened the contemporary city as concomitant phenomena of these processes so as to attract more appropriate population and exclude those considered less desirable as Whyte (1988) argues. Cameras and CCTV alongside with security guards and policemen penetrate the very different layers of the city, monitoring and watching, recording and reporting the urban life. Foucault (1977) refers to life under the surveillance gaze as a panoptic place in which discipline is exerted and visibility is strategically associated with dominance over the people’s behaviour on different scales: from the scale of the body to the scale of a nation as a whole. Although other recent theorists have applied the Foucualdian panopticism into the case of electronic surveillance such as Lyon (2001) and many others who suggest that the cultivation of the culture of surveillance of everyone by potentially anyone is going beyond the protection of the public, policemen in the urban landscape is yet another apparatus of surveillance and discipline that redefine the urban landscape by excluding the other and reminding the people of the permanent surveillance act.

 

The policeman in the contemporary cityscape replaces the architectural watchtowers and gates that manage and control accessibility and visibility. It is an icon, an active tool of militarizing and colonizing the city, as well as of criminalizing the other. Graham (2012) suggests that the imposing of colonial tropes into the urban landscape is a mechanism of suppressing revolutions and rebellions, as well as of controlling the unwanted other. In Ramallah, civilian-dressed policemen and many other constabulary figures are lurking in the city, biding for any out of the norm behaviour to correct and/or to oppress, terrifying the urban cultures and subcultures, and suggesting another form of colonization beyond the Israeli occupation where even dress codes are being subjected to question. Similarly in Athens, especially on the periphery of Exarchia, policemen and riot-police figures are halting as a physical manifestation of the conflict between the people and the government and as a reminder of the otherness of Exarchia.

 

Exarchia: The Other?

 

Although The police have been mainly viewed as a agency of the state whose main tasks are to enforce the law and maintain order, the presence of such authoritarian figure in the urban landscape is an operative mechanism of discipline that limits movement and accessibility, prompts urban segmentation and closure, reduces social interaction, induces spatial separation and isolation, and channels social hierarchies and thus social segregation and animosity. Such condition is analogous to the Foucualdian panoptic argument. “This enclosed, segmented space, observed at every point, in which the individuals are inserted in a fixed place, in which the slightest movements are supervised, in which all events are recorded, in which an uninterrupted work of writing links the center and the periphery, which power is exercised without division, according to a continuous hierarchical figure, in which each individual is constantly located, examined and distributed.” (Foucault 1977:197)

Amidst Exarchia and Kolonaki, marking Asklipou Street, and especially on Skoufa Street- which once was a center for culture in Athens and now has a become an elitist venue that is lined with pricey boutiques, haute couture and designer commodities, cafes, and bars- police has become a part of the urban space and its architecture. With their dark olive-green and navy-blue uniforms, helmets, shields, and weapons, cops and riot-police are gazing on Exarchia, ambuscading, constantly observing, anticipating in tension, waiting for unrest, expecting disorder, and deeming Exarchia as a dangerous place, a heterotopia, and space of the other. This prominent condition of constructing physical yet animate boundaries and edges between the two urban districts is an act of criminalizing the residents of Exarchia and redeeming them undesirable and dangerous“…these undesirable people should be, to every extent possible, out of sight, out of contact and, therefore, to some extent, out of mind.” (Findlay 2005: 14) These hierarchal mechanisms of out of sight, out of contact, and out of mind have secluded the social interaction and the cultural communication amongst the people that are radical and essential with the current conditions of crises of Greece.

 

Many urban phenomena have emerged as fruits of such policies; the nexus between the urban space and the people, as well as that of between the people themselves from different socio-economic classes and political perspectives have been reshaped towards a set of relationships that render the urban context of Exarchia unfamiliar within the Athenian context. Clashes between the people and the police have burdened the cityscape towards an episodic battlefield where every single element of the space is subjected to instant transformation. Correspondingly, ’’A.C.A.B.’’ or ‘’All Cops Are Bastards’’ is widespread statement in the Athenian graffiti that exhibits the police as detested subject by the people. More on the conflicts in Exarchia is on the yellow section. More on the graffiti is on the white section.

 

Salvaging/scavenging Exarchia attempts to re-identify the boundaries of Exarchia and redefine the patterns of permeability to and from the district. The bridge installation over Alexandras Boulevard is an endeavour to rethink the experience of crossing the street and link Exarchia to Areos Park, which is a significant green public space in the Athenian urban fabric. On the other hand, the stairwell installation as a vertical viewing device proposed on Skoufa Street between Exarchia and Kolonaki, targets to reinvent the process of surveillance and extend it beyond the socio-political hierarchies currently exist, thus it decolonizes surveillance from a panoptic mechanism exercised by the state apparatus to exert control over the urban life to a public performace to be exercised by the people. The stairwell elevates the people over the police where they can reclaim their right to the city, and restructures the position of the police in Greece.

More on decolonizing surveillance is on the yellow section. More on the right to the city is on the green section.

 

 

 

 

Findley L., (2005), Building Change, Routledge Publishing Inc.: New York.

 

Foucault M., (1977), Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, Pantheon: New York.

 

Graham S., (2012), ‘Foucault’s Boomerang: The New Military Urbanism’, Development Dialogue, vol. 58, no. 1, pp. 37- 47.

 

Lyon, D. (2001). Surveillance society: Monitoring everyday life. Philadelphia: Open University Press.

Németh J. & Schmidt S., (2011), ‘The privatization of public space: modeling and measuring publicness’, Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design, vol. 38, no. 1, pp. 5 – 23.

 

Whyte W., (1988), City: Rediscovering the Center, Doubleday: New York.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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