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Architecture for Greek light February 7, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture Exhibitions.
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Exhibition on the work of distinguished architect Nikos Valsamakis at the Benaki Museum on Pireos Annex

sounionresidence.jpg  View from a residence in Sounion designed by Nikos Valsamakis in the mid-1970s.

Modern Athens may not be a place with beautiful architecture but it is the city of an architectural landmark in the history of Western civilization, the Parthenon. At times, this alone can make living here seem like a rare privilege. The Parthenon along with the celebrated Attic sky and the radiant light are at the heart of the Greek soul. The Parthenon encapsulates the importance of harmonious proportions, as in “the golden mean”, over excess and ostentation, while Greece’s radiant light expresses extroversion, which, in terms of daily living, means that the out-of-doors is a vital part of Greek life.

A sense of harmonious proportions, the lack of excess as well as a concern for open spaces that do not draw hard lines between indoor and outdoor space are the fundamental aspects in the work of the distinguished Greek architect Nikos Valsamakis (born 1924). This, coupled with an idiom that draws from the core of 20th century modern architecture, in the catalog’s essay Dimitris Philippides makes many analogies between the work of Valsamakis and Mies van der Rohe, describes the architect’s distinctive style.

This style is fully presented in a retrospective exhibition on the work of Valsamakis currently being held at the Pireos Street Annex of the Benaki Museum. The exhibition, which is organized by the museum’s Neohellenic Architecture Archives (NAA) and is designed by Valsamakis himself, takes the viewer on a chronological photographic journey through the architect’s work, beginning with a 1953 apartment building on Semitelou Street, considered innovative design at the time, through to today. It also pays tribute to one of Greece’s leading and repeatedly awarded architects.

A steady trait in the buildings that Valsamakis has designed is in how the interior and outdoor spaces are unified through large windows that allow for uninterrupted views and for the light to enter. In the private homes, many of them on Greek islands, that Valsamakis has designed, this aspect of his work is particularly prominent. The semi-open spaces of a private residence in Sounion that was designed in 1974 or a private residence in Anavyssos from 1961 are just two examples. Constructed on the edge of the rock, this latter building is also impressive for its elegant minimalism and sense of light structure.

Openness, as effected through large, uninterrupted spaces and the purity of modern architectural design, finds one of its best and most well-known examples in the architect’s own permanent residence, which Valsamakis designed in 1961. His house was illustrated in “One Hundred Houses for One Hundred European Architects for the 20th Century” along with the homes of architectural icons Alvar Aalto, Le Corbusier, Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Otto Wagner, and Valsamakis designed every part of it. The residence is considered to have pioneered in Greece the concept of “total design” in which the architect is in charge of every detail.

The Amalia Hotel in Delphi, also from the early 1960s, is another example of the pure, geometric spaces and lack of excess that defines Valsamakis’s work.

When designing a building, Valsamakis also takes into account the specific site, its constructed or natural environment. He adapts the fundamental precepts of his architectural style to suit the different surroundings. Another example is Alpha Bank’s administrative building on Athens’s Stadiou Street in which Valsamakis makes a subtle reference to the surrounding neoclassical buildings. In the spirit of “total architecture,” Valsamakis has also designed the furniture, lighting and the lanterns hanging in the atrium.

As with the rest of the buildings, natural light streams into large, unified spaces that have been designed with an appreciation of moderate and harmonious proportions. One of the impressions that the exhibition puts across is that the buildings that Valsamakis has designed are a pleasure to live in. They are made with a respect for privacy and an attention to ample space and comfort but also an appreciation for Greece’s light and nature.

At the Benaki Museum, 138 Pireos Street, Athens, tel 210 3453111. To February 18.


Contemporary art takes a look at the notion of absence February 7, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Greece, Arts Exhibitions Greece.
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Gray is a neutral but melancholy color. Not dark enough to be black or light enough to approach the hues of white, it is an in-between color without enough strength or weakness to make any clear statement. It may be taken as the color of subtlety or timidity but also as the color of indifference. It is a color of ambivalence and, perhaps for that reason, a rather unsettling one.

In “Here I Disappear”, a contemporary group art exhibition curated by Ghislaine Dantan and held at “the apartment” gallery, one senses a similar, vaguely unsettling feeling. A gray-colored band that runs along the walls sets the background against which the exhibition unfolds. It is an exhibition about the various levels of absence: disappearance, emptiness, self-effacement and isolation.

Interiors that are intended for public use but empty of people, a hotel lobby, a waiting room, are featured in the photographs of Lynne Cohen from the 1970s. The absence of humans creates a sad but enigmatic feeling: Is the absence momentary or does it underline a now bygone presence?

In her meticulous drawings, Maria Finn traces the outlines of people against a rural landscape. Among other concepts, her work considers the relationship between the artificial and nature. It explores the degree to which we are connected to or alienated by and “absent” from our environment.

The blurred, faint shapes and colors in the photographs of Vassilis Balatsos are like fleeting impressions or half-erased traces. They express a presence that is discreet, almost elusive.

Nina Papaconstantinou draws nebulous, abstract landscapes in gray tones. Using landscape photographs as her model, the artist copies every trace and transforms them into something entirely different from what they originally looked like.

In his video, Bojan Sarcevic alludes to the condition of displacement. Tatiana Trouve’s installation evokes memory and the past.

“Here I Disappear” speaks of those “gray zones” in our lives, those nebulous aspects that may seem dull and melancholy but still contain character and strength.

At the apartment, 21 Voulis Street, Athens, tel 201 3215469, to February 10.

Metaphoric, literal worlds apart February 7, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Movies Life Greek.
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Alexandros Voulgaris and Theodoris Atheridis have two very different films coming out this week

Voulgaris balances gracefully between reality and fantasy in ‘Pink.’
‘A Bee in August’ is a string of gags with no cinematic vision.

Film directors Alexandros Voulgaris and Theodoris Atheridis are a world and some 20 years apart. The 25-year-old Voulgaris has composed a story of small, everyday, unnoticeable gestures, balancing gracefully between reality and fantasy. In “Pink” he handles the doubts of his characters and double entendres with a keen eye and cinematographic dexterity.

With “A Bee in August” Atheridis, aged 42, transfers a story to the big screen that has already been successfully tried and tested on the stage. And this surety of success passes from stage to screen without further development, but, alas, these are two very different arts and here there is no room for such certainty. The film has ended up becoming a string of gags, some more amusing than others, with no proper structure and, most importantly, no cinematic vision.

“Pink” Voulgaris’s second feature film, after “Crying?”, confirms the filmmaking qualities that had initially made their appearance in his first film. And most importantly, he has succeeded in turning the imperfection of “Pink” into its most endearing qualities. He addresses a fleeting theme without losing the thread of its authenticity and its fresh feel. He comes in and out of his lead character’s mind, into his reality and his dreams, without compromising the playful feel of the story. The director has cast himself in the lead, where he plays alongside a young actress, Romanna Lobac. A tender relationship of mutual understanding blossoms between the two. In parallel, we see an absent mother, an indifferent stepmother, a depressive teacher, a retired, disinterested father, a stuck-up brother and the family pet dog, Roz (Pink). Voulgaris has reintroduced a fairy-tale world and even gone beyond that, because it is only the colors of the film that slip away from realism. The short narratives are realistic and the unaffected dialogues reveal a sensitive artist with a sense of humor. His artistic language is not an imitation, it just is.

The film, as noted during its premiere at the Thessaloniki International Film Festival last November, flows with a welcome ease that is reminiscent of a children’s narrative. There are no great truths revealed in it nor does it try to underscore any special tensions. The emotions conveyed don’t spurt out; they are in the background and are expressed directly and simply, at times with melancholy and at others with sarcastic tenderness. The great relationship between the young man who doesn’t want to grow up and the adolescent girl who fantasizes of a great teenage love affair is built on small, almost imperceptible actions.

Atheridis, a very popular television actor, circles a good idea in “A Bee in August”, a bee stings the hero on a deserted beach and the allergic shock brings out his alter ego. The wonderful coincidences that arise and the clashing personalities of the characters and their relationships form an interesting interplay that worked well in the theater. It does not, however, a film make, unless we consider a video recording of a stage performance a movie.

‘Cinema and Reality’ doc fest in 20th year February 7, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Movies Life Greek.
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Acclaimed Greek filmmaker Pantelis Voulgaris attended the opening of the French Institute’s Documentary Festival on Monday evening and spoke to the audience about the first two films that will be featured in a tribute. 

Now in its 20th year, the festival, which is titled “Cinema and Reality” and is organized jointly with the Greek Secretariat for Adult Education, also features tributes to Werner Herzog, the famed German director who has turned his lens to documentary films in the past few years.

The theme of globalization is the central theme of this year’s festival and brings together eight films addressing the issue from different perspectives. There is also a section dedicated to the environment and water, organized with the collaboration of the Goethe Institute and the Medwet environmental program.

Today’s screening program comprises “Paysage des eaux douces” by Anna Christina Henriquez and “Rhodes et les iles sans eau” by Nikos Koutsikas and Gilles Ragris at 5 p.m., followed at 6 p.m. by “Vers un commerce equitable” and “Chronique d’une catastrophe annoncee,” at 8 p.m. by three documentaries by Voulgaris, and then at 9.15 p.m. by Herzog’s “My Best Fiend – Klaus Kinski.”

Admission to all screenings are free of charge and there will be Greek supertitles with all films. The festival runs to Saturday at the French Institute, 31 Sina Street, Kolonaki, Athens, tel 210 3398600.

Greek PM addresses tourism forum February 7, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Tourism.
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Government eyes ‘grand esplanade’ in coastal Athens

Tourism is exclusively a developmental industry and comprises a powerful tool for eliminating regional inequalities, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said Monday, addressing the inaugural Forum on Tourism at the Athens Concert Hall.

The forum also serves as the venue where the government’s comprehensive policy for the expanded tourism sector will be detailed.

In opening the Forum, which is organised by the tourism development ministry, Karamanlis spoke of a model of tourism development revolving around the individual and aiming at generating prosperity.

“It is necessary for Greece to become competitive in the tourism sector as well, so that it can develop even further,” the premier stressed.

Outlining the government’s accomplishments in the tourism sector, Karamanlis said that Greece, for the first time, was acquiring a goal-oriented advertising campaign and specialised planning that ensured transparency in its tourism policy.

On her part, Tourism Development Minister Fani Palli-Petralia announced that the government would accelerate work to transform coastal Athens’ seafront, from the Peace and Friendship indoor stadium of Faliro southeast to the upscale resort of Varkiza, into a single 35-kilometer bike and pedestrian way next to the sea, what planners hope will turn into the congested Greek capital’s “grand esplanade” and a magnet for out-of-town tourists.

Moreover, Palli-Petralia said the Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO) approved of plans for 22 conference centres, two golf courses, a ski resort and eight thalassotherapy spas over the past two years.

Finally, Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas called on local hoteliers to treat domestic and foreign tourists in the same manner, warning that discounts extended to foreign tour agencies and out-of-country holiday-makers should apply to Greek tourists.

“The Internet, in fact, now allows Greeks to book reservations via foreign countries, so that they can now enjoy the same prices as, say, a German tourist,” Sioufas added.

S.Korea beats 2004 European Football Champion Greece February 7, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Football.
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Lee Chun-soo scored a late goal Tuesday to help South Korea beat Greece 1-0 in an international friendly in London, UK.

Both teams created solid second-half chances, with Seol Ki-hyeon just missing a minute after Lee’s goal, and Greece substitute Stelios Giannakopoulos hitting the crossbar with a header in the 59th. Giorgos Karagounis had a shot from close range in the 90th that went wide, and Giannakopoulos had a goal disallowed for offsides deep into injury time.

Both teams also created credible chances in the first half, with Park coming closest for South Korea in the 38th off a cross from the right corner. Greece’s best chance of the half came two minutes earlier when a slew of players in front of goal tried to knock the ball past goalkeeper Kim Young-dae.

Greece forward Giorgios Samaras also was in position several times in the first half, but his shots from the left in the fourth and 35th minutes went wide.

“It was like an away game for us,” Greece coach Otto Rehhagel said. “(But) we had chances to win the game.”

Greece was playing with most of the team that helped it win the European Championship in 2004. In qualifying for Euro 2008, Greece is tied with Turkey for first place in Group C with a nine points from three games.

Greece’s Team: Antonis Nikopolidis (Costas Halkias, 46), Yiourkas Seitaridis, Takis Fyssas (Loukas Vyntra, 46), Sotiris Kyrgiakos (Vangelis Mantzios, 83), Giorgios Anatolakis (Yannis Goumas, 46), Angelos Basinas, Kostas Katsouranis, Giorgios Karagounis, Fanis Gekas (Ioannis Amanatidis, 46), Giorgios Samaras (Stelios Giannakopoulos, 46), Angelos Charisteas.

Greece, Bulgaria and Russia sign oil-pipeline agreement February 7, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Energy.
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Greece, Bulgaria and Russia signed an agreement today for the construction of a long-awaited oil pipeline that will funnel Russian oil directly to south-eastern Europe, bypassing Turkey’s busy Bosporus strait.

Greece, Bulgaria and Russia endorsed the Bourgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline agreement in the Bulgarian coastal city of Bourgas. Senior government officials of the three countries hailed the “positive economic impact of the deal on the wider region.”

Bulgarian Deputy Regional Development Minister Kalin Rogachev, Russian deputy industry and economy minister Andrey Dementiev and Greek secretary general of the development ministry Nikos Stefanou signed the document.

The pipeline project would strengthen Bulgaria’s positions on the European energy market, Rogachev said. Stefanou said that the project is an alternative way of the Bosporus Straight for transportation of oil from Russia and the Black Sea to EU countries. The route is safe and offers opportunities for high economic effectiveness.

The agreement between the three governments will be signed in Athens after which an international project company will have to be set up. No immediate details about the cost of the privately funded project that includes the construction of a 280-kilometre (175-mile) pipeline were announced, but experts had estimated it at €984 million.

The pipeline will bring Russian oil from Bulgaria’s Black Sea port of Burgas to Alexandroupolis in north-eastern Greece, bypassing the environmentally vulnerable Bosporus. Russia is expected to have a 51% share in the deal, with Bulgaria and Greece splitting the remaining 49%.

Construction works will start in the beginning of 2008 and have to finish within shortest terms, Stefanou said. Initially Bourgas- Alexandroupolis will carry 35 million tons of petroleum annually. The quantity can increase to 50 million tons.