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New theater places emphasis on technology March 23, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture Greece, Arts Events Greece, Arts Museums, Stage & Theater.
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23-03-08_theatron1.jpg  The Hellenic Cosmos Cultural Center welcomes the Theatron [Theater]

23-03-08_theatron2.jpg  A digital view of the venue’s main hall, the Antigone, which can be transformed in 12 different ways so as to cater to all kinds of performances as well as conferences.

As of yesterday, the Hellenic Cosmos Cultural Center on Pireos Street can boast a new acquisition. The brand new theater, called the Theatron, makes its debut with a show commemorating the venue’s 10th anniversary, directed by Yiannis Kakleas. Fully equipped with the latest technology, the Theatron promises to become yet another cultural landmark on this fast-developing part of Pireos Street.

23-03-08_ime1.jpg  It comes just a year after the opening of the Tholos, the Hellenic Cosmos’s striking virtual-reality theater.

A guided tour of the theater on Tuesday revealed a highly efficient building with a high degree of functional diversity. Seating that can be re-arranged in various ways, excellent acoustics and sound-proofing and a stage with multiple possibilities are just some of the theater’s many features. “The sound-proofing is so good that theoretically we could have a rock concert downstairs and a poetry reading upstairs,” joked Dimitris Efraimoglou, Managing Director of the Foundation of the Hellenic World, the institution that has founded the Hellenic Cosmos Cultural Center, at the press conference.

23-03-08_theatron3.jpg  The three-level theater has two halls: the main one, Antigone, can be transformed in 12 different ways and can host anything from a theater performance to a large conference. The second, Iphigenia, can be used independently but can also open onto the main hall. Additional features include three foyers that can host exhibitions and other performances, rooms for rehearsals and a garage that will eventually have a 1000-car capacity. “We want to offer a hospitable venue to actors and dancers,” said Efraimoglou. He explained that the theater’s emphasis is on technology and one of the aims is to enable artists to combine live action with digital technology.

According to Thrasyvoulos Giatsios, program director of Hellenic Cosmos, the venue will focus mostly on contemporary spectacles and young artists without, however, excluding more classic-themed repertoires. “With the exception of our first performance, we will not host our own productions. We are interested in working with institutions that bring ensembles from abroad,” he said. Theater and dance shows as well as concerts by local and foreign artists will find a home at the Theatron. Giatsios did not rule out the possibility of booking the theater for an entire season for just one production, although there is a preference for ensembles giving a limited number of shows.

23-03-08_ime2.jpg  The program has yet to be announced, but there will be collaborations with the Attiki Cultural Society, the company that has brought actors such as Charlotte Rampling, Gerard Depardieu and Fanny Ardant to Athens, a concert organized by the Athens College Alumni and a tribute to the work of lyricist Lina Nikolakopoulou.

“The Theatron is ideal for directors who love technology. You can experiment with mixed media on body movement, music and vocals without losing the warm atmosphere of traditional theaters” said director Yiannis Kakleas. “Personally, I love multimedia productions. So many possibilities open up when live action co-exists with different kinds of sets thanks to virtual reality. Within the context of theater or dance you can create a visually beautiful show. Most theaters don’t have the structure for that. But this one does.”

The opening performance, which bears Kakleas’s signature, is a tribute to the past, present and future of the Foundation of the Hellenic World featuring live music by Haris Alexiou, among other things. It premiered yesterday and will be staged again tonight.

Related Links > http://www.ime.gr

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A kaleidoscope of sights and sounds March 19, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture Greece, Greece Athens, Lifestyle.
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Crossing the “border” into one of the oldest districts of Athens is like stepping into the past > Historic Kolonos neighborhood in Athens

18-03-08_kolonos1.jpg  Time stands still in courtyards such as this one on the corner of Kallipoleos and Isminis streets (above center), with its lemon trees and vines. It often appears that many residents of Kolonos simultaneously decided that there was no longer a place for them in the historic neighborhood, packed up and left, abandoning business premises and residences.

It must be some time since I last visited Kolonos. In fact I had been once to see an old school that had been converted into the now-well-established Epi Kolono theater on Nafpliou Street. All I had was an image of a quiet neighborhood of low houses, which looked ready to be renovated. I didn’t know much about the neighborhood except that it was one of the city’s oldest, that it used to be a residential area, and is now part of the city’s underbelly.

They told me to start from Petroula Square and radiate out from there, but I decided to do whatever took my fancy. Equipped with map and camera, I felt as if I were crossing a border, a feeling that intensified as I crossed the metal bridge between Larissis and Peloponnisou train stations.

The glare, worsened by the lack of trees, and an otherworldly sense, heightened by the sight of modernization work on the railroad below, made me feel as if I was in a film. On the bridge, I saw a priest who looked Ethiopian, coming in the other direction, his robes fluttering in the breeze. We walked past each other, suspended above the two faces of Athens.

Not knowing what to expect lent the enterprise an element of adventure. It was a holiday morning so the roads were empty and the cafes, one after another, were full, old-fashioned coffee shops named after small towns where men were playing backgammon, on the ground floor of 1970s-80s apartment blocks.

18-03-08_kolonos2.jpg  A tourist in my own city, map in hand, I wandered around streets that seemed mysterious because they were unfamiliar. It may have been because of the holiday, but I was struck by the lack of traffic, entire roads without cars. I photographed a single-story stone house, marked by time but very beautiful against the greenery of nearby Hippeio Hill.

Tall new apartment blocks, some the color of terracotta, others with exaggerated designs on facades painted blue like the provincial houses in the 1960s cast a little shadow on narrow streets. But no matter how aggressive the post-2005 buildings are, they seem better than their predecessors of the 1970s, as if they introduce an air of something new.

There are many sides to Kolonos. I realized this as I went toward Lenorman Street, through narrow lanes and alleyways, where unfamiliar songs and cooking smells wafted out of windows. The suds from cars being washed formed muddy puddles on the ground, children were riding bicycles, families of Gypsies and Pakistanis sat on their stoops. Housewives opened windows, and an elderly gentleman appeared with a hat and cane. Kolonos was proving to be a mosaic.

Many houses have been demolished, many more are sealed up or for sale. I saw lots of pink and yellow walls, all that was left of old houses, at the edge of grassy plots. Some two-story houses still had shiny doors, curtains in the windows, but many 1930s and 1950s houses were vacant.

On the small sidewalk of Distomou Street I stopped in my tracks. On one corner was a newly built two-story house, and opposite was another, almost finished. Both had been designed with architecture and decor magazines in mind. One had incorporated concrete and post-industrial elements into a facade that had something to say. The other was quieter, but with attitude as well, painted salmon with brown windows and a little garden. Might this be the Kolonaki of Kolonos. It didn’t matter, because the rest of the area was living at a different pace.

I found block after block that were purely residential, growing denser toward Lenorman Street. What moved me was encountering entire areas with small houses, 1970s electricity poles, and even older cars parked here and there. It was a journey into the past, as if I was in a 1960s Greek film. The light was so bright and the roads seemed so large because of the low houses and few cars, that it gave me a taste of a past that I never knew.

18-03-08_kolonos3.jpg  On the corner of Kallipoleos and Isminis streets, time had stood still. I glanced into some courtyards surrounded by walls, with their lemon trees and vines. It was all there, the canary in the cage, a plastic basin, walnuts spread out on an oilcloth, In one semi-ruined house on Astrous Street in the heart of Kolonos, I managed to get a rusted gate partially open, squeezed in and entered the living room. Bare of furniture, but with plaster decorations on the ceiling, planks coming away from the floor, a door ajar. Opposite, washing flapped on lines and everywhere brightly colored synthetic blankets were hung out to air on balconies.

A neighborhood is what you choose to see. I noted the endless, colorless blocks of apartment buildings put up by contractors, but I paid more attention to the old sidewalks. In parts of Kolonos the marble sidewalks installed by the City of Athens before the war have survived, elsewhere in Athens they are being ripped out and replaced with concrete. They show that Kolonos has been part of the city for a very long time, though now it looks forgotten beside the railways tracks.

Hania in Crete making strides into the new century March 4, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Archaeology Greece, Architecture Greece, Arts Museums.
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The new Archaeological Museum in the Halepa quarter is a stunning modern building designed by architect Theofanis Bobotis

04-03-08_hania_museum.jpg  Construction work on the new Archaeological Museum of Hania in Crete will start this year. Designed by architect Theofanis Bobotis, the new building is a dynamic expression of the contemporary era, with discreet references to the ancient past.

Housed for the past 46 years in a Franciscan monastery on Halidon Street in Hania, the vast archaeological collection there represents part of Cretan history. Eventually the works will be transferred to the new Archaeological Museum of Hania, to be built in the historic Halepa quarter, overlooking the sea and not far from the old port.

04-03-08_hania_museum_new.jpg  A modern building in tune with the times, the new museum will have a discreet but distinctive exterior. The design is by Theofanis Bobotis, who also designed the recently built Patras Museum. Bobotis and his team are now competing to build the Polykentriko Museum in Vergina.

Museums are not the only constructions he has worked on in recent years. His Observatory building on Solonos Street, with its wood and glass facade, is a head turner, and won the FX International Interior Design award for a retail space in 2007. Bobotis is also working on the extension to the Eleftherios Venizelos Airport, a complex 10,000-square-meter project, the new Panionios soccer ground, a freight station in northern Italy and has submitted a study for the Greek railway management company ERGOSE. His team has created a bookbinding factory in Italy and mixed-use tower buildings in Dubai and has been invited by the government of South Korea to draw up a master plan for a city. The team’s work is familiar to Athenians from the KAT and Tavros stations on the electric railway line.

04-03-08_hania_bobotis.jpg  The Bobotis team won the competition to build the Hania Museum three years ago. Now, as the study is in its final stages, the ephorate has decided that more space is needed in order to display the large number of exhibits. The architects made use of vertical space to create a 14-square-meter loft, which the Central Archaeological Council approved at its last meeting.

“When designing museums, you have to keep an eye on the future, since new finds may come to light and you may have to change the ways things are displayed. With that in mind, the museum was designed to allow for added space or different uses of space,” says the architect.

Now the architects are waiting for the study phase to end so that the competition for the construction work can be announced. Construction could start in 2008 and be finished within two years. The museum is to cover 6,500 square meters, which includes 1,800 square meters for exhibition halls, 140 square meters for the gallery and a 140-seat amphitheater.

“We were asked to design the museum according to a specific plan determined by the Culture Ministry, which stipulated the purposes of the spaces we had to incorporate,” said Bobotis.

What matters most, with both the Hania museum and the Patras museum, is that the initial goal has been achieved: making museums that are accessible to the public.

The building, explained the architect, comprises “two discrete linear monolithic masses rising from the earth, a symbolic reference to vestiges of civilization beneath the ground and also a bioclimatic choice. One section has two wings and is set on a corner; the other has one wing, and is positioned like a barrier in front of the opening framed by the other, so as to create an atrium. Around the atrium will be the exhibition space and the entrance, which ensures the continuity of the museum’s corridors.”

“The austere geometry of the buildings will be softened by the earthy look of the ceramic material used in the interior,” explained Bobotis. The atrium, also a reference to traditional Greek buildings, will allow natural light into the museum.

The administrative offices, storerooms and workshops will go in the space between the two sections, along with a cafe and sales point which will operate independently.

Deal signed for Panathinaikos’ new stadium February 27, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture Greece.
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Panathinaikos and City of Athens reach agreement on sports complex in Votanikos

A deal was signed yesterday between Panathinaikos and the Athens City Council that is expected to lead to the construction very shortly of a new sports complex in central Athens that will house the historic sports club’s soccer, basketball and volleyball stadiums.

In comments following the signing ceremony with Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis, Yiannis Vardinoyiannis, owner of Panathinaikos soccer club, one of the country’s two biggest, said Panathinaikos would soon have “the best stadium in Greece, and one of the best in Europe.”

The agreement for the complex, to be located in the Votanikos district, approximately 1 kilometer from Omonia Square in downtown Athens, had been in the pipeline for the past couple of years. Prior to the delays, Panathinaikos was hoping to celebrate its centennial year, this year, at its new home. The project, currently budgeted at around 90 million euros, is expected to take 19 months to complete once bulldozers begin work, which could be next month.

The overall plan involves converting the Athens club’s traditional base, the Apostolos Nikolaidis Stadium in the densely populated Ambelokipi district, where the Panathinaikos soccer team is currently based, into a much-needed park.

Kaklamanis yesterday reiterated an earlier pledge to convert the old stadium into a park with some space set aside for a club museum. “For Athens, this means that a vast green lung will be created within the city’s urban fabric, in the Ambelokipi area,” he said.

The City of Athens will partly fund Panathinaikos’s new sports complex and, in return, will take possession of the plot of land on which the old stadium stands.

The outdated Apostolos Nikolaidis Stadium no longer meets international soccer requirements, as set by UEFA, the sport’s governing body in Europe. Not long ago, UEFA removed the Athens stadium from its list of venues eligible to host games for the Champions League, Europe’s premier club-level competition.

Vardinoyiannis took the opportunity yesterday to lash out at club detractors and parties interested in buying into the soccer club, who have suggested that he could be performing better as top administrator. “Many people are upset that Panathinaikos is top of the league. It is a common phenomenon for artificial crises to be created and that’s what is happening now,” he said. “Panathinaikos is top, whether some people like it or not.”

Renzo Piano to design new National Greek Opera February 27, 2008

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Renzo Piano has been chosen as the architect for a new National Opera house and cultural park in Athens, Agence France-Presse reported.

The Niarchos Foundation, financing the project, said on Thursday that Mr. Piano, co-designer of the Pompidou Center in Paris and designer of The New York Times building, will also create a cultural complex, including a new National Library, surrounding the opera house on the site of a former racetrack that was leveled and used as a bus depot for the 2004 Athens Olympics. The estimated cost of the project is $441 million.

UPDATE >>> Renzo Piano Chosen to Design New Greek Opera, Library Complex

Renzo Piano, the architect who designed the New York Times Building, was chosen to build a cultural center in Athens, Greece that will house the country’s new National Opera house and new National Library.

Piano will develop a 42-acre (17 hectare) property on the coast near the center of Athens, the capital, according to a statement from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, which commissioned the project. The site will house the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center with new opera and library facilities within an educational and cultural park.

The foundation has budgeted 300 million euros ($442 million) for the center and will hand over the project to the Greek state on completion.

Piano, 70, a native of Genoa, Italy, won the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1998 and has designed the Zentrum Paul Klee in Bern, Switzerland, and the Kansai International Airport Terminal in Osaka, Japan. The Stavros Niarchos Foundation funds activities in education, social welfare, health and medicine and arts and culture and has disbursed more than $318 million since its inception in 1996.

The foundation was created by Stavros Niarchos, one of the most successful Greek shipowners. Niarchos, who died in 1996, bought his first six freighters during the 1930s to import wheat from Argentina and the Soviet Union. He leased vessels to the Allied Forces during World War II and used the insurance funds after they were destroyed to buy oil tankers. At its peak, his company operated more than 80 tankers.

An unusual architectural presentation February 8, 2008

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The grandson of Alexandros Tombazis recently asked his mother, “Was Grandpa ever young?” That was how Tombazis, for many the most acclaimed modern Greek architect, opened his lecture at the Athens Concert Hall earlier his week.

It may seem like an unusual start to a lecture but Tombazis wanted to give an unusual lecture, divided into two parts. In the first, he addressed the “new generation” of architects, many of whom were present. In the second part, he gave a detailed presentation of the Catholic Church of the Holy Trinity in Fatima, Portugal, which is considered of great importance and was inaugurated last October in the presence of 200,000 people. Tombazis conveyed the philosophy behind his career, which spans half a century, in an original way. A pioneer of bioclimatic architecture, he talked a lot about climate change and architects’ responsibilities as well as the era of narcissism and concluded that “there is no architecture without restrictions.”

08-02-08_church_in_fatima.jpg  In the part of the presentation on the church, Tombazis pointed out the difficulties brought about by the square in front of the church, which is eerily quiet during the day but abuzz when half a million worshippers show up.

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

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture Exhibitions, Architecture Greece.
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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