BEGINNINGS is the annual meeting of Greek architects under 45 at the Benaki Museum in Athens, organized by ΔΟΜΕΣ / DOMES International Review of Architecture. During a whole day, young Greek architects present buildings that had an impact on their own work and their own way of thinking. The 2015 event, on Saturday, October 24, is the third one to take place. Archisearch spoke with the event curator, Georgios Panetsos, on the importance of such an exchange.
The architects who conceal their influences fall under the spell of Modernism. Within the framework of Modernism, innovation was perceived as a radical break with the past; in that sense, there was a programmatic requirement that influences from the past should be suppressed, in favor of an almost deterministic architectural production, stemming from functionality. Architects were required to be data processors, rather than creators.
Older Greek architects, aged 55-60 or more, are still imbued in this idea to a very large extent: They seem not to realize – and not to methodically profit from – influences. However, influences are always there, and they are always transfigured into something new.
On the other hand, the younger generations, formulated recently – when it had already become an established fact that historical avant-gardes never appeared ex nihilo or as simple disruptions – know very well that influences do exist: They inspire works, they breathe through works, they spill over works and – most importantly – they are nothing to be ashamed of. In other fields of creativity, such as literature, we speak of intertextuality. This is exactly what intertextuality suggests: The play of influences from exterior factors, the continuation of patterns, of themes. This also happens in architecture, regardless of whether we kept concealing such evidence of apprenticeships during the times when Modernism was ideologically prevailing.
We should not feel bad about ourselves: We continue the work undertaken by others, we improve it, we elaborate on it, we modify it, we change it – but never, ever, do we create in the void.
This is what “Beginnings” are meant to make us to realize.
How are the participants chosen every year?
First of all, age is a basic requirement; all participants have to be younger than 45: This is what is conventionally meant by “young architects”. From that point on, the selection is made from within a community actively engaged in architecture`s “public affairs”, so to speak – from various standing points: I, for instance, teach at the University, I am editor of ΔΟΜΕΣ architecture magazine, I have founded the annual ΔΟΜΕΣ awards for architecture… I see that many young people – thankfully, there are many of them – are doing very interesting work in one way or another: Either in theory, or in applied design, or at competitions and other proposals made public. In all fields where architectural creativity may unfold, we see people doing interesting things. Some of them – last year, this year, or the next one if all goes well – are chosen by me, as curator, because I am interested in learning more about their work. I believe that their way of thinking is interesting, and I want that way of thinking to be made public: I am interested in seeing them positioned in the discourse. Furthermore, I would like for those people to get a chance to meet with each other, as well as with participants from previous or later years. Moreover, I would like this meeting to provide a platform for networking with the audience at large, that wants to better understand the way the built environment is produced – arguably, at the highest level of quality. Their work is valuable; this valuable work is the outcome of a way of thinking, of a certain methodology, that I find desirable to be made common knowledge.
Have you drawn any conclusions all these years? Specifically, have you spotted any discernible tendencies or clusterings within that body of very different people referred to as “young Greek architects”? Such an inclusive event as the “Beginnings” must have been very convenient for observations of that kind.
Obviously, there are distinct areas of interest.
We could say that some appear to be closer to “tradition” (regardless of how references of that sort may have now decreased), or to phenomenology. Some others are more interested in urbanity. Some concentrate on fields such as design in very large or very small scales, eventually introducing innovative themes. Some others are focused on designing an atmosphere from the outset and they manipulate programs and tectonics accordingly. Others are less interested in a permanent, unchanging architecture and draw their attention instead towards ephemeral, temporary or virtual things; possibly, they may be expanding the limits of what is conventionally understood as architecture.
Besides such individual temperaments, though, I would not say differences are huge.
Such remarks could be made on any group of young architects, beyond any local associations. In what sense could we speak of “young Greek architects”, if such a thing is meaningful at all? Is there anything that collects them into a body?
I wouldn`t say they are collected into a body. But then again, why should we be interested in assembling a concrete body of that sort?
Many of those who have participated, or will participate in the event, are doing really interesting work in collaboration with colleagues from many different nationalities, coming from very different backgrounds and carrying very different credentials. Some are based in Greece and collaborate with people based elsewhere: The present condition of communications allows for such partnerships, that would have been impossible, even in the very recent past. This situation, de facto, dissolves any such grouping and its very results demonstrate just how irrelevant the question is.
So, I am not interested at all in discerning “schools”. On the contrary, I am interested in seeing the variations of one, two or three design methodologies that may lead into interesting conclusions – which, as a matter fact, are very different from each other. The same beginnings, the same references may lead to very different results.
Furthermore, I am interested in juxtaposing how people who have gone through successive cycles of architectural studies (or of design studies in general, since I consider design to be a unified discipline) express themselves in comparison with architects who continue their research in other fields or who came into architecture from other disciplines. Some study philosophy, some others take up design in larger scales, some are more interested in matters of theory… I find very stimulating how those people express themselves after their intellectual shift: I mean, how the succesive “lenses” worn upon somebody mediate the image of things and, without any doubt, eventually change the outcome of arguments and actions.
The third annual meeting of young Greek architects, “Beginnings”, will take place at the Benaki Museum on Saturday, October 24th, from 10.30 AM until 18.00 PM. The premises will remain open until 21.00.
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