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Urban planning for children at the Athens Megaron February 5, 2008

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An interactive project by artist Miquel Navarro > ‘Under the Moon II,’ in which youngsters are encouraged to design a city, aims to familiarize children with the complexity of urban life. Miquel Navarro’s installation is currently being showcased at the Athens Concert Hall. The exhibitions will run to March 23.

“What don’t you like about Athens?” Little hands rise into the air. A class of junior high school pupils sit cross-legged along with two trained professionals discussing architecture and city planning in their own youthful manner.

In the foyer of Athens Concert Hall, currently hosting Miquel Navarro’s “Under the Moon II”, the room quickly fills up with children’s voices. A little boy stands up – boisterously: “Traffic exhaust,” he exclaims. The rest of the class follows, expressing modern-day truths in from an endless list. “Extremely ugly blocks of flats,” “Narrow sidewalks,” “No space for cycling,” “Not enough gardens.”

Right next to the restless group, a 50-square-meter surface holding 500 metal objects (cubes, cylinders and pyramids of various sizes) awaits the children’s attention. Following interactive presentations of works by Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso and Constantin Brancusi, the Megaron Plus is again collaborating with the Pompidou Center in Paris, showcasing a traveling exhibition by Navarro. Urged by the French museum, the Spanish artist developed a toy sculpture in 1994, based on a previous work of his, “Under the Moon”, a ceramic view of the city of Valencia.

The installation’s aim is to familiarize children with the complexity of urban life. Navarro’s artwork-exhibition-game is a work in progress. It is the intervention by the children themselves that defines it and its temporary state, highlighting the countless shapes it may acquire, depending on the age, background, curiosity and interests of those who handle it.

Divided into groups, the children take over the urban planning of Navarro’s dream city. Naturally, swimming pools, playgrounds and amusement parks become the neighborhood’s most popular elements. At the same time, trees, parks and rivers acquire an equally popular status in this imaginary city. According to Vincent Poussou, head of the Pompidou Center’s educational programs, the installation is an example of a contemporary work of art in search of the public’s active participation. Besides bringing children closer to the notion of shape, structure and perspective, Navarro’s work places them at the center of a creative, artistic process.

“The best way to sensitize children to art is not to teach them what good art is but to allow them to take part in its creation,” said Poussou at a recent press conference at the Athens Concert Hall.

Athens Concert Hall, 1 Kokkali Street and Vasilissis Sofias Avenue, Athens, tel 210 7282333. “Under the Moon II,” runs to March 23. Admission is free of charge. School groups and individual visits can be arranged by telephone at 210 7282733.

Related Links > www.megaron.gr

Homage to lighthouses October 25, 2007

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Exhibition in Thessaloniki’s port on aspect of maritime heritage

The Megalo Emvolo lighthouse in Angelohori, Thessaloniki and the Cape Tenaro lighthouse, which sits atop the southernmost cape on mainland Greece, are displayed in pictures. An exhibition in the city’s port shows their history and technology. Very few of the country’s lighthouses are still manned by keepers.

They have always been a part of a maritime nation’s history and architecture, identified with the most inaccessible coastlines and complete isolation, and sometimes viewed with nostalgia and romanticism. Lighthouses are part and parcel of the history of shipping as well as of Greece’s cultural heritage.

A survey by Thessaloniki University’s building materials laboratory has highlighted aspects of that tradition, from the first fires that were lit to show ships the way around the most dangerous capes on historic European sea routes and, later, their transformation into signposts for shipping from the 17th century right up until the establishment of the lighthouse network.

In Greek waters, lighthouses have dotted the Aegean archipelago and Crete since 1650. The first to be built under the modern Greek state was at the entrance to the port of Aegina in 1829, when Ioannis Capodistrias declared Aegina the capital of the Greek state. In 1887, the Lighthouse Service was established.

Today about 1,399 of them are dotted around the country’s 15,000-kilometer coastline. Most of them are now automatically illuminated, but 57 are still monitored by lighthouse keepers. Of the 116 that are stone structures, 25 have been listed by the Culture Ministry.

A European Union program titled “EC Pharos: Holistic Strategy for the Preservation, Restoration and Integration in the Life of Modern Societies of Old European Masonry Lighthouses (2004-2007)” included case studies by four European member states of a lighthouse in each of their countries, the Utsira lighthouse in Norway, Happisburgh in Britain, Cervia and Rimini in Italy and Paphos in Cyprus. Thessaloniki University studied the Megalo Emvolo lighthouse at Angelohori, Thessaloniki.

“This survey produced a wealth of valuable material on the lighthouses, the part they have played in shipping, the problems faced today and the potential for developing them as monuments of cultural heritage within the current environment, without losing sight of their symbolic value,” said Professor Ioanna Papayianni, head of the laboratory and coordinator of the project.

Part of that material is included in an exhibition titled “Masonry Lighthouses: From Yesterday to Today” at Thessaloniki harbor’s Warehouse 3. The exhibition looks at historic lighthouses, their development through history, various types of structures, lighthouse systems, tales told by lighthouse keepers and efforts to preserve these buildings.

Landmarks of New York City October 25, 2007

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Exhibition at the Hellenic American Union highlights the metropolis’s innovative construction history

If buildings reflect a city’s wealth and ambition, New York’s construction record shows solid and grand vision. What defines the city and all that it stands for? The Statue of Liberty was constructed between 1875 and 1886; spanning the East River, the Brooklyn Bridge was erected from 1867 to 1883, and became an ideal setting for Woody Allen’s “Manhattan”; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, opened in 1880, has been in constant development ever since; St Patrick’s Cathedral is the largest Catholic cathedral in the United States; New York state’s oldest building is the Pieter Claesen Wyckoff House, a wooden construction from before 1641.

“Landmarks of New York,” an exhibition currently on display at the Hellenic American Union in Athens, showcases 81 black-and-white photographs of well- and lesser-known buildings, all designated landmarks. Displayed in chronological order, the show demonstrates the sensational city’s development from farming community to high-energy metropolis. Complementing the Athens exhibition is a series of short documentaries from the archives of the Library of Congress and an educational program for children.

“Every building has been constructed for some purpose, to house a business, a product, an idea, express one’s vanity, house one’s family,” said Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel, the curator of the exhibition. “Every building does have a story, commercial or residential.”

Diamonstein-Spielvogel is intrinsically linked to the city’s construction history. The longest-term commissioner to have served on the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (from 1972 to 1987), after that (to 1995) she served as chair of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Foundation. She is also the author of 19 books, as well as a reporter and a producer.

With the New York City Landmark Preservation Law, passed in 1965, as of September 27 of this year New York counts 1,110 individually designated landmarks and 110 designated interior landmarks in the city’s 84 historic districts, figures representing 2 percent of properties in all of the city’s five boroughs.

Strict rules apply to buildings to qualify, to begin with, the construction under question must be at least 30 years old. There are landmark commissioners and, often heated, public hearings. While designated buildings receive no financial support from the state, there are increasing requests for some kind of tax benefits.

At the Hellenic American Union, the photographs highlight architectural silhouettes as well as the whimsical atmosphere of New York and its merry insomnia. There’s life in the city: A building at 151 Avenue B where Charlie Parker took over the ground floor in 1950 for four years; the 19th (formerly the 25th) Precinct Police Station House, standing between Lexington Avenue and Third during 1886-87 and a rare example of the work of architect Nathaniel D. Bush; the elegance in the townhouse belonging to James Hampden and Cornelia Van Rensselaer Robb, designed by Stanford White; the public utility of the Croton Aqueduct, West 119th Street Gatehouse, an example of the first major municipal water system in the country; the legacy of great Americans: Scotland-born Andrew Carnegie, the self-made industrialist and philanthropist whose Carnegie Hall (constructed beginning in 1889) hosts the world’s top musicians, starting with Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, its first official guest in 1891; the luxury and high art of living at the Plaza Hotel, which was inspired by the French Renaissance chateau and erected in 1907.

From the Empire State Building, which defined the city’s new heights as the tallest building in 1931, it was overtaken by the World Trade Center’s North Tower in 1970, until 2001, and other jewels such as the art deco Chrysler Building, designed by William Van Alen, and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Seagram Building, the only building designed in New York by the celebrated architect in collaboration with Philip Johnson, New York continues its pioneering journey.

“I think it’s the golden age of New York right now. More internationally known architects are building there now than they ever have,” said Diamonstein-Spielvogel. Thanks to the prosperity of the last two decades, the dominance of the financial markets and the diversity of the population, New York she said, “is an international university on a daily basis.”

In this vibrating financial and cultural capital, where the tragedy of 9/11 gave new impetus to the idea of community unity, the landmark factor has also played its own role in the transformation of neighborhoods.

“We are each of us only temporary custodians of all we possess,” said Diamonstein-Spielvogel. “We have inherited the past and we hold it in trust for those who will come in the future. It is a public trust that we are honored to protect.”

Hellenic American Union, 22 Massalias Street, Kolonaki, Athens, tel 210 3680000. To November 3. Nearest metro station “Panepistimio”.

What’s On in Greece > Exhibitions on Show September 25, 2007

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THESSALONIKI > National Bank Cultural Foundation, 108 Vasilissis Olgas Avenue, tel 2310 295149.
Paintings by Giorgos Hadzimichalis, inspired by the work of surrealist poet Andreas Embeirikos. At the New Bookstore. To October 27.

CRETE > Center for Metiterranean Architecture, Katehaki Square, Hania, tel 28210 40101-201.
Exhibition of publications with Orestis Doumanis’s architectural work from 1967 to this day. To October 7.

POROS > Citronne Gallery, Poros Beach, tel 22980 22401.
Exhibition of works by Mark Hadjipateras. To Sunday.

SANTORINI > Loukas and Evangelos Bellonias Foundation, Fira, tel 22860 23077.
Exhibition of works, paintings, a video and five columns by Opy Zouni. To Sunday.

What’s On in Athens > exhibitions, seminars and auditions September 25, 2007

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GothicMed > Athens > Opens tonight
An exhibition recording how the Gothic architectural style spread and influenced monuments across the Mediterranean, with photographs and other material, will go on display at the Byzantine and Christian Museum tonight. The exhibition is part of the European program “Mediterranean Gothic Architecture” and will run to October 21. It will be open 8 a.m. to 7.30 p.m. Tuesdays to Sundays.
Byzantine and Christian Museum, 22 Vasilissis Sofias Avenue, Kolonaki, Athens, tel 210 7211027.

Mikis Theodorakis Tribute > Athens > Opens tonight
An exhibition-tribute to the childhood and early years of much-loved composer Mikis Theodorakis, with works by Nikolas Klironomos, will open at the Ekfrasi – Yianna Grammatopoulou Gallery tonight and run to October 6. The gallery will be open 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesdays to Fridays as well as 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays.
Ekfrasi Gallery, 9A Valaoritou Street, Kolonaki, Athens, tel 210 3607598.

Photography Seminars > Athens > Starts October 4
Platon Rivellis will conduct a series of two-hour seminars exploring the similarities and differences between the visual approaches to photography and cinema for five consecutive weeks at the Hellenic American Union, starting October 4. There will be weekly sessions starting at 8.30 p.m. and the cost is 15 euros for the entire series or 5 euros per individual seminar. Registration is already under way. The seminars will delve into photography and cinema in the 1920s and examine the work of acclaimed filmmakers such as Buster Keaton, Fritz Lang and others.
Hellenic American Union, 22 Massalias Street, Athens, tel 210 3680052.

Greek National Opera > Athens > Saturday
The Greek National Opera will hold auditions to hire five permanent choir members, in the positions of soprano, mezzo, tenor and basso, on Saturday at 10 a.m. Contestants will be asked to perform an aria of Mozart as well as an aria of Donizetti, Bellini, Verdi or Puccini, an aria by a Greek composer in Greek, prima vista choral extracts and another aria in a different language. The deadline for applications is 2 p.m. on Friday.
For information > National Opera Offices, 18A Harilaou Trikoupi Street, 5th Floor, Athens, tel 210 3614433.

This week in Greece > 24 to 30 September September 24, 2007

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Monday

  • Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis to address the UN General Assembly in New York.
  • His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios visits the prefecture of Viotia. To Wednesday.
  • The 42nd Pan-European Congress of the International Association for Dental Research begins at the Ioannis Vellidis Congress Center in Thessaloniki. To Saturday. Tel 2310 997158 or visit > www.adrthessaloniki2007.gr
  • The first workshop on “IP Multimedia Subsystems: Present and Future,” begins at 9 a.m. at the University of Patras. To Tuesday. For details visit >  www.www.converged-networks.eu.

Tuesday

  • Doctors of the World holds a press conference to present the results of a survey, carried out by the European Observatory, on access by undocumented migrants to healthcare services. At 12.30 p.m. at the Athens Bar Association, 60 Academias Street, Athens.
  • The second anti-nuclear festival begins on the island of Rhodes and will run through Saturday.
  • An international exhibition on Gothic architecture, “GothicMed” opens at 8 p.m. at the Byzantine and Christian Museum, Athens, and will run through October 21. For details visit > www.gothicmed.com

Wednesday

  • New Parliament members to be sworn in.
  • The consular section of the US Embassy in Athens will remain closed to the public today for internal administrative reasons.
  • University of Patras hosts an international conference on “Emerging Technologies and Factory Automation,” at 9 a.m. at the University. To Friday. For details visit > www.ece.upatras.gr
  • The Technical Chamber of Greece (TEE) is hosting a conference on “Alternative Raw Materials and Fuels in the Cement Industry,” at 5.30 p.m. at its premises. Tel 210 3226015 or visit > www.tee.gr

Thursday

  • Parliament to elect its new speaker.
  • The third Pan-Peloponnesian medical symposium on the role of the general practitioner, begins at 5 p.m. at the Poseidon Resort in Loutraki. To Sunday. For details visit > www.elegeia.gr
  • The National Technical University of Athens hosts the 5th Interdisciplinary Conference on “Education, Research and Technology: Past and Perspectives,” at 6 p.m. at the Pindos Conference Center in Metsovo city. To Sunday. Tel 26560 29040 or visit > www.ntua.gr/MIRC

Friday

  • Thessaloniki’s Aristotle University hosts the 5th International Congress on “Forensic Medicine and Toxicology” at the Auction House of Kastoria city. To Sunday. Tel 2310 999257 or visit > www.gfss.gr
  • The Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki hosts a three-day event titled “European Days of Cutural Heritage 2007” and dedicated to the history of residences in ancient Macedonia. Tel 2310 830538. To Sunday.

Saturday

  • The Technical Chamber of Greece (TEE) in cooperation with the local authorities of Chios island host a conference on “National and Regional Road Network: Traffic Problems and the Safety of the Citizens,” in Chios. Tel 22510 40847 or visit > www.tee.gr
  • The Hellenic Center for the Promotion of Volunteerism, anthropos.gr, hosts an event promoting volunteerism, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. at the pedestrian street of Apostolou Pavlou in Thisseion, Athens. For further information, tel 210 8838914 or visit > www.anthropos.gr

EASA meets in Elefsina July 22, 2007

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Some 400 architecture students from 46 countries, in the company of artists and architects, will gather in Elefsina from July 22 to August 5 for 15 days of workshops, exhibitions, lectures and inspiration.

Elefsina was chosen to host this year’s EASA – European Architecture Students Assembly, founded 27 years ago as a European network of young architects with the aim of investigating contemporary architecture, urbanism and technology.

At EASA 2005, held in Brighton in the UK, Elefsina was the Greek choice for this year’s Assembly and the city which attracted the greatest interest among rival proposals from 40 countries. This year Elefsina will be the Europe-wide meeting place for participants, as well as city residents and members of the public interested in taking part. The meeting will be held with the support of the National Technical University of Athens and the Municipality of Elefsina.

In the rich variety of events centered around the theme put forth by the host city, Elefsina will be discussed as a city in transition and in search of a new identity, with a rich industrial heritage. The theme is in itself a platform for ideas for the meetings which have “city-index” as a theme. EASA 2007’s specific goal will be to explore the complexity of the urban environment and decode Elefsina’s contemporary image.

The events begin on July 23 with lectures and debates around the theme ‘Elefsina: 3-layered city,’ a topic focusing on both the historical and contemporary identity of the city.

An exhibit is planned for July 24 that will concentrate on the problems and solutions of young Greek architects. The exhibit aims “to serve as a map which will connect and provide a synopsis for the different trends and conceptions of contemporary Greek architecture.” Lectures on the “city-index” theme will follow later in the day. On July 28 the events will focus on “the city and new technologies.” Support for the events comes from the Greek Architecture Institute and the Architectural Union.

For more information visit > www.easa007.gr