On the Polykatoikia and its Discontents with Platon Issaias & Ioanna Theocharopoulou / TPOD, ACHT, THEMA, HITAM


Event details

Date 15.05.2024
Hour 17:3019:00
Speaker Ioanna Theocharopoulou and Platon Issaias.
Category Conferences - Seminars
Event Language English

The polykatoikia, a multifamily apartment building, is one of the most important and paradigmatic housing types of modernity. It emerged in the post-war Athenian landscape to provide shelter for the bourgeoisie amidst a critical housing shortage. Its generic form encouraged the right to private ownership, independent of welfare programs. Developers and landowners collaborated through a financial mechanism, known as antiparochi, where the latter received housing stock in exchange for providing land for development. From the 1930s onwards, the proliferation of this building type was supported by abstract, state-initiated building regulations and property laws, introducing the polykatoikia, a multistorey apartment building, as a way to house all classes, while integrating local building techniques and knowledge. During the symposium "On the Polykatoikia and its Discontents," organized by the laboratory Theory and Project of Domestic Space (TPOD, EPFL), Ioanna Theocharopoulou (Columbia University) and Platon Issaias (A.A, AUTH) will challenge the historical relevance of this building type within the reconstruction of modern Athens.

“Social Infrastructures and Imaginaries: A Reading of Postwar Athens” – Ioanna Theocharopoulou (Columbia University)
To this day, Athens is considered by many, as an ugly city, a “city of cement boxes,” and a disappointment to historians as well as to its citizens. Evidence of this discontent, if not letdown, is everywhere both in the popular and the academic press, throughout its modern history. Clearly, the reality of this relatively young city has consistently elicited unfavorable comparisons to the majesty of its Classical past. Ioanna Theocharopoulou will try to unravel the source of this comparison and offer an alternative reading of Athens using the concept of social infrastructures and imaginaries. Who were those who built this city, and what might the history of Athens look like if we tried to see it from their point of view? What was the story of their encounter with the project of modernity, and what “lessons” might we draw for how we think of architectural history and the growth of cities from this example?

“The Domino Effect” – Platon Issaias (A.A, AUTH)
Platon Issaias will reflect upon the history of the Greek city and its distinct domestic architecture, the polykatoikia. Using this as a device, it aims to critique the popular category of ‘informal urbanism’ by interrogating the underlying relation between urban management and architectural form. What is at stake is to establish and theorize the strategic link between domestic space, production, conflict, and debt. How forms of domestic ethos, habits, and practices of domestic life could be related to administrative and managerial projects? How this way of thinking about the city could be used to confront the distinction between ‘formal’ and ‘informal’? What makes a diagram of space and social relations, such as the Greek apartment building, a successful territorial, biopolitical machine? What is the role of construction in the formation of the Greek economy and how do architects and engineers formalize this relation?

Ioanna Theocharopoulou (she/her), is an architect, architectural historian, and author of Builders, Housewives and the Construction of Modern Athens (2017 and 2022). She teaches at Columbia University.

Platon Issaias (he/him), is an architect, co-founder of Fatura Collaborative. He teaches architecture and urban design at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and the Architectural Association.

Neighbours Lecture Series Vol. 3

13/3 - Pier Vittorio Aureli (EPFL). Architecture and Abstraction: Book Launch with Sarah Nichols, Christophe van Gerrewey, and Alfredo Thiermann
20/3 - Tatiana Efrussi (L’atelier des artistes en exil). Hannes Meyer’s Kinderheim Mümliswil: From Utopian 'Home' to National Memorial
27/3 - Sarah Gainsforth (Journalist). Challenging the New Housing Question
10/4 - Claire Zimmerman (University of Toronto). Industrial Architecture, Situated in the Twentieth Century
24/4 - Álvaro Sevilla-Buitrago (Universidad Politécnica de Madrid). Against the Commons: Elements for a Radical Planning Theory
1/5 - Spyros Papapetros (Princeton University). Pre/Architecture
8/5 - Anna-Maria Meister (Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz: Max Planck Institute, KIT and saai archive Karlsruhe). Fragile Objects, Coded Knowledge
15/5 - Platon Issaias (Architectural Association) & Ioanna Theocharopoulou (Columbia University). On the Polykatoikia and its Discontents


Practical information

  • General public
  • Free


  • The presentation is part of the Neighbours Vol. 3 lecture series on the History and Theory of Architecture. It is organized jointly by Pier Vittorio Aureli (TPOD), Christophe van Gerrewey (ACHT), Sarah Nichols (THEMA), Alfredo Thiermann (HITAM) of the EDAR School.