June 24 2014

Odysseus Elytis’ Poetry Finds a Home in Plaka, Athens, Greece


Odysseus Elytis, Plaka, Athens, Greece

The files of the poet Odysseus Elytis have finally found their home. Last Tuesday, the deputy Minister for the Environment, Mr. Nikos Tagaras, signed an agreement, which opens the way to create the “Elytis Home.” This home will be within a listed building at the intersection of Dioskouron and Polignotou Streets in the Plaka area of Athens, Greece.

There was a problem with this case, since this specific use is not allowed in the Plaka area, according to the current presidential decree. Special conditions, building restrictions and land use policies had to be redefined in order to create this exhibition and stocking premises for the great Greek poet’s work.

The building that will host the Nobel prizewinner’s files has two floors and was built in the 19th century.  In derogation, only a few interventions were allowed in order to make the building accessible for everyone, and so that people will utilize it according to vital safety regulations. An elevator will be added, which is indispensable for people with special needs. Also, a fire escape will be inset with a fire safety metallic ladder in the west side of the building.

The Authentic Furniture

Some alterations to the interior of the house will be allowed so that the space is more functional. On the ground floor, the poet’s furniture will be used in order to make the space look like the one in which the poet spent hours of his literary life.

The architectural design that was required to make all these changes happen was undertaken by the architectural office of Mr. Alexandros Samaras (the Prime Minister, Mr. Antonis Samaras’s, brother) without any payment. The other two people who participated in this project were Mr. Panagiotis Panagiotopoulos, who is a civil engineer, and Mr. Alexandros Kamarinos, who is an electrical engineer.

“We really wanted to do this. The work of our great poet must be protected. It seems implicit to me,” says Mr. Alexandros Samaras. According to what he recounts, Elytis didn’t know him. He knew only his brother, and once he asked for a favor, knowing that his brother was an architect. “The poet had asked from his companion Ioulita Iliopoulou and my brother, to build a small church in Sikinos that would be constructed by local builders. We chose a place that is between the monastery and the capital of the island. The church was dedicated to the Holy Mother “Pantohara” (meaning everybody’s joy). Unfortunately, the church was completed after the poet died.”

Elytis had never visited the island of Sikinos, but as Mr. Alexandros Samaras says, this island “was in the poet’s mind a pure, unadulterated place and this is why he chose it.”

The project concerning “Elytis’ home” was Mr. Samaras’ next move. “I wanted to contribute in order to protect the poet’s work,” the architect highlights.

Elytis new 'Home' in Plaka, Athens, Greece

Athen’s Classicism

The building, situated in Plaka, is an outstanding example of the typical two-story buildings which used to be built in Athens. On every floor there is a separate apartment that has its own entrance. The building was taken into public ownership after an expropriation in 1972. In the early 1980’s the building housed the Antiques Preservation Service of the Ministry of Culture, but after the earthquake in 1999 it was declared unfit and was evacuated. Its restoration project was completed in 2006 and since then, it has housed a social multi-centre. The building is constructed of stones with an area of 367 square meters. In the courtyard there are two outbuildings both with clay roofing.

As stated in the report that the Traditional Communities Department sent to the Central Board of Architecture (of the Ministry of Environment Energy and Climate Change), the central elevation presents several elements of Athens’ classicism. “The secondary elevation is not aesthetically equivalent. It presents a more unconfined and asymmetrical organization.”

The project is organized by AERTON- Elytis Archives, which is an urban non-profit company. The company’s target is to present the work and life of the Nobel prizewinning poet. In the basement a library and study-room will be created, where one will find Elytis’ books, videos and sound materials, magazines, notebooks, newspaper scraps and posters. The visitors will be able to listen to audio documents and watch films associated with the poet’s life.

On the ground floor, besides the representation of the poet’s office, a space will be created where one will find the poets’ first editions, several handwritten pieces and paintings that were created either by him or by artists that he loved.

Elytis' Poems, Plaka, Athens, Greece

On the first floor there will be a room for events and lectures, an information point for the visitors and last but not least, a café that will have a view of the Acropolis. One of the two outbuildings will be converted into a gift shop. In the “Elytis’ home,” exhibitions of other artists will be organized with works that are related to the poetry of the Nobel prizewinning poet.

Elytis' Poems find a home in Plaka, Athens, Greece

Have there been any similar projects in the city you live, where buildings are converted into museums dedicated to important people of your country?

The original article, published in Greek, can be found here.

Credits: Images and data linked to sources.

Dafni Dimitriadi

Dafni Dimitriadi is a student of Architecture at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece. Her numerous experiences in participating in architectural competitions have helped her understand the importance of research and design. She is interested in building and urban design restoration and aims to continue her studies in order to gain more knowledge related to these fields. She is an active volunteer and has participated in many interesting projects, including Open House Thessaloniki. She currently lives in Thessaloniki and through her blogs aims to explore developments associated with architecture and urban design.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, June 24th, 2014 at 9:38 am and is filed under Architecture, History/Preservation, Housing. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


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