thanks again for the intensive studio visit yesterday! I think it really helped me to get a better grasp of your project. The images of the vacant Rea Shopping Centre in Athens still reverberate, which, scrupulously cleaned and sun-drenched, looks like the idea of an icon of modernistic architecture. Not only because this ideality of a showpiece is rooted in Greece’s precarious economical circumstances, but perhaps also because of the romantic-tragic figure, which is the architect. Possibly, we don’t know that much about Yiannis Kontodimas. His furnishing of the building emulates Frank Lloyd Wright and the other big men of architecture of a certain time, with every single piece of furniture, fixture and door handle being made for the building. The fact that he took up this understanding of an autonomous architecture in the early 1990s, of course, resulted in it completely falling out of time. Especially with the dark woods, which he used as a nod in agreement with Wright again and again, but when used in a shopping centre seem strangely abstruse and out of place. For someone to indulge so much, inadvertently producing so much vacancy by overlooking the necessities of a situation—you mentioned that even in the block of flats he built, all the apartments except for the one he inhabits are unoccupied—is rather superfluous. You probably know Ferdinand Cheval’s Palais idéal. The shopping centre reminds me a bit of it, not formally or anything, but because of the devotion of the autodidact, which makes it incredibly difficult to take up a critical stance on his exaltation. Admittedly, he didn’t build completely without a purpose, after all he lives and works in the buildings and keeps the centre open to the public…
I think yesterday’s visit was also important because I could see how living and studio are one in your and Sam’s apartment. Work, life and your off-space Drop City don’t occupy different functional rooms, even though there is the possibility to segment the space using the space-dividing curtains when needed. The more I think about it, it seems to be this utopian echo of a spatial conjunction of work and life that interests you at the Rea shopping centre. And its spatial openness! Because what makes the centre relevant is the problematic dominance of the planning personality, which in the pursuit of an artistic ideal makes too many stipulations, making the building completely unattractive to deviating functions and aesthetics. And if you can not bring yourself, you will hardly feel at home, even with a shop. The resulting emptiness of a building that is accessible to the public – and, moreover, a very beautiful one – holds the possibility of appropriation, of a public use that is not subject to any planning regulations. Such places of assembly, of unexploited existence are ultimately missing in every nook and cranny. Most likely, our societies are crumbling, because there are hardly any spaces in which something like community comes about – the filter bubble has long been a city planning dogma. That’s why I think your idea of making Petra’s gallery, with only a few installations, into such a place for gathering and staying for your show is pretty good. Most of all, because it imitates one of those planning statements that architects are constantly making. Mostly with the best intentions for the community, but still risking to build past the reality. I look forward to it!
with best regards,