13th Venice Biennale, Greek Pavilion | Participating team: draftworks*architects | project: Athens NorthWest Passage <Press Release>
aybe one of architects’ most distinctive tasks is answering to questions. Now, there are two ways of answering; the
first is to answer directly, like solving a problem, like proposing spaces to satisfy physical needs. We admit that this is maybe the most important and time-consuming way and it takes a lot of our own time and energy too. There is, however, also a second way of answering, which is more indirect, more oblique, just brushing by reality, which, at the same time, means observing reality from a different standpoint. In this particular way of answering you shift a little bit from the answer, you avoid answering directly to a problem and play dump a little bit. This does not mean avoiding reality, this does not mean escapism, this means entering into reality from another door. We remember the words of the Greek poet Odysseas Elytis who asks for: ‘A small turn of the head Which could mean a turn of the whole world’ This means that a change of perspective can trigger a change of understanding things, which may trigger in turn a transformation of the world, a personal one. For us, a way of doing this is by using techniques and strategies that the narrative arts -like literature or cinema- use: metaphors, allegories, speaking in first person and telling a story, instead of describing scientifically a condition. This way of answering to a question through a story also appeals to people in a different way than a building does, maybe not as users but as people that have the gift of imagining and who want to use it, which is the need that literature, for example, appeals to. Our project consists of stories, drawings and models. The protagonist, who is an explorer that travels around a region of Athens, narrates the story in first person. In his travel he encounters imaginary tribes, each one of which has developed distinct habits and eccentric uses of space. Each tribe is also attached to a specific type of the urban environment of Athens. The block, the crossroads, the space between blocks, the unused patios within the blocks, are the prime materials through which the eccentricity of each tribe emerges: Pandionis worship a different god every week and use to burry him in their ‘Gods Cemetery’ by the end of the week. Erechteis are against finishing things and they celebrate their peculiarity in their ‘Unfinished Cathedral’. Hippothontis believe that they originate from the night sky and they want to have the stars and constellations glowing in their back yard in ‘Clair de Lune’. Leontis are sure that their dreams is a night-reality that is as real as the day-reality. Aiantis have built a wall around their block beyond which, they believe, is the realm of the gods, the animals and the dead, in ‘Pomerium’. The allegory of the tribes at each case refers -but is not limited- to human conditions, their relationship with each other and with their city: passions, fears, desires, dangers, needs, limitations and prejudices can be read between the lines of each story. With the use of urban types of Athens and their imaginary transformation through narrative, we note that the city is made of a prime material, which can be transformed with the use of imagination. This may not be the architect’s major task, it is however as much important.
Christiana Ioannou Christos Papastergiou draftworks*
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Excerpts from the story THE GODS’ CEMETERY ‘In the little Greece that we have left, the only thing that you can still do is pray to your gods. Which gods? Oh, but they are many. As many as the population of this country. Two meters below ground, or over your scratched sidewall, they stay awake. With broken noses, one arm cut-off, a little green of old times on the cloak or some crimson on the shoulders and a sight that does not stop on you but goes beyond‘ Odysseas Elytis, Idiotiki Odos Pandionis, Day 3, devout worshippers
mong the tribes of the Northwest Passage one is the most eccentric of all. Pandionis people are the most devout
worshippers. They praise their god all through the day and night and at all occasions; when they talk, when they walk, when they take a shower, when they make love, in front of the TV, in front of the shop window, in the market. They worship their god all through the week, from Monday till the next Sunday. And this is exactly where their eccentricity lies: they worship their god for a week, and a week only, because then, every Monday, they kill their god and immediately invent a new one. This habit makes Pandionis a tribe of many gods, however in a strange way they cannot be considered impious or unreligious as they are uninterrupted worshipers; they have never run out of gods, and there was not a single day that they didn’t have a god to worship. They even have spare gods. Although they usually bury their gods themselves, sometimes the unexpected can happen: the god may die by himself before the week has ended. That is why they keep a couple of them as a backup, in case they run out. Pandionis, Day 5, the burial feast At the end of each week Pandionis people celebrate their biggest feast. This is when they bury their god. There is a place especially reserved for this kind of god-burial and they call it the ‘Gods’ Cemetery’. It is a place with crossed paths made of wood, placed on different levels. As the paths cross there are bits of ground that can be seen remaining between them like patches. [...] Depending on the size and the importance of the god they choose the burial site. There are gods so tiny, buried with only a few bottle tops or soda cans, plastic bottles and used pens. There are also gods so big, buried with their inflatable elephants and 12-valve cars, vending machines and commercial signs. Accordingly there are tombs that are humble, with just a few rocks on them, and others that are grandiose, extravagant and tall, and can be seen from a few blocks away. [...] Then something beautiful happens: you can see bushes, colourful flowers, and some times trees, to grow over tombs. These gods are the luckiest. Due to the trees that cast their shadow, the bushes that attract the bees or the musky flowers that please the passengers the gods that lie underneath can be forever useful. Although their divinity week has already long expired. Then, they can be even remembered at times, mostly in spring. [...] it was the God of LifeLost, who was buried with a loading of guns, the God of TimeLost who was buried with boxes of folders, office desks, old PC’s and stamps, but also less pompous gods, like the god of lilac, who was buried with lilac lipsticks, lilac earrings and lilac flowers, the god of lids who was buried with used coffee cup lids, wok lids and pod lids, or the god of hair, who was buried with all the hair that have fallen from all the Pandionis people heads during the week of his kingdom. There was also once that they worshipped the God of Danger, they buried him with a bomb. Some people say that this habit of burying their gods may someday be the Pandionis ending. Someone may forget and step on the God of Danger ‘s tomb.