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Endless possibilities >>> an Athenian “Capriccio” shows imagined versions of the city

Could this be a “Capriccio Palladiano” set in Athens (originally an imaginary view of Venice’s Canal Grande by Italian painter Canaletto) ? Or  a contemporary version of Giovanni Battista Piranesi‘s “Campo Marzio” (a ‘collage’ of Rome at various moments in history) ?
Certainly it’s not Venice… or Rome for that matter. But these visualizations of Athens in unlikely, imagined or downright wrong  conditions surely reinterpret the work of the Italian masters.
Greek architects Point Supreme show they are able to blend a strong theoretical and provocative work with beautiful eye-catching images and inspired architectural design.

This gallery of images by Point Supreme was not meant as a coherent collection: most are stand-alone design proposals or provocative studies. However, they all show imagined versions of Athens, which is recognizable from its topography, iconic monuments, building typologies: either the Acropolis, the ever-present Polykatoikia ( i.e. apartment building in Greek) or the unmistakable mix of hills and waterfront are always there to remind us we are in Athens.

Within this context, anything could happen. For instance a vast green corridor might materialize over the built environment, connecting the beach with the Acropolis. The city is an endless hyper-dense urban tissue made entirely of superposed slabs with façace-long balconies. In a way it is a representation of the most visceral elements that make up the Greek capital, with its prominent typologies, its monuments, its natural elements and its needs.

For that matter, a ferry-boat may navigate the city streets or Athens could be the cityscape seen from a painted forest inhabited by lions and all kinds of predators and birds… But what if it were a collage of its two most iconic monuments (the Arcopolis and Mount Lycabetus) and a cycladic town, like Mykonos?

Finally, Mount Fuji might erupt in downtown Athens. It could happen!

Conventional architectural drawings or even sketches would make for great theoretical work, but these lifelike images are there to make us believe what we see, creating the chance for daydreaming and for provocative thinking.

Similarly, in the past, Italian painters Canaletto and Piranesi worked on imagining different versions of their cities, Venice and Rome. Infact, their works show a Venice that never existed – nor will it exist – and the same goes for Rome.

Canaletto’s painting, entitled “Capriccio Palladiano”, depicts three buildings by Italian Architect Palladio as if they were composed in an actual cityscape. They are not. The bridge is an unbuilt project of Palladio and the buildings either side are actually in Vicenza. An imaginary Venice is built on top of the real one, which is only recognizable because of its most topographic elements: the canal and the gondolas.

Capriccio Palladiano - Canaletto

Capriccio Palladiano – Canaletto

Giovanni Battista Piranesi produced a series of etched images depicting ancient Rome. Detailed archaeological surveys formed the basis of Piranesi’s work, which he blended with Giovanni Battista Nolli’s map of Rome as it was in their time (XVI century).

The “Campo Marzio” series depicts the ancient urban artefacts of the city. This reduction of the urban form to fragments of a historic layer can been seen as a proposal in which the new city would be rebuilt around these form-giving elements, as an analogical reconstruction. The representation of the city in the Ichnographia Campo Martii is quasi scientific, while largely imagined, and can be seen as the latent memory of the city form.

Most importantly, Piranesi was able to draw a map and views of Rome that were credible, though they never existed: his work was the basis for Rome’s intention to unfreeze its historical center and welcome architectural change.

Aldo Rossi – Italian architect and theoretician – differentiates his understanding of urban artefacts from the general built fabric of the city, as the fragments with a distinct individuality and rich historical value which are survive its development and contribute to its unique form. The individuality of the city’s artefacts, constitutes its own individual character and form.

“I would define the concept of type as something that is permanent and complex, a logical principle that is prior to form and that constitutes it.”

Aldo Rossi, “The Architecture of the City” – 1966, p. 40.

Aldo Rossi "città analoga" \ Luigi Serlio perspective - collage

Aldo Rossi “città analoga” \ Luigi Serlio perspective – collage

“When you look at the urban form of Athens, you may think about words like informal, spontaneous, unplanned. In fact, the city of Athens is the result of very specific but unspoken political projects.”

Elias Zenghelis

The urban form and its transformations have always been so related to politics. We see how the Kleanthis-Schaubert plan for the new state capital defined the grid orientations in modern Athens, how prime minister Karamanlis’ policies on infrastructure reshaped the city, and how property laws led to the ubiquitous archetype Polykatoikia.

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Born in Athens, Greece. A naturally curious kid and man, the power of innovation and the pleasure of discovery fascinate me.


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