July 25 2014

Glass Buildings, A Past Perfect Trend in Athens, Greece

From rural to urban, and from marble to glass, the history of the contemporary city of Athens has been vigorous, exciting and sometimes contradictory. While the last marbles of the Acropolis are looking at Athens from above, few other things have managed to distinguish themselves from the cityscape. The tall glass building, known as the Tower of Athens, by architect Ioannis Vikelas, is regarded as the second most recognizable structure in the city, after the Parthenon.

Tower of Athens, Athens, Greece

Reflecting the sky and exposing their interiors, glass buildings provoked and inspired city dwellers during the 1950s and 60s. Modern Architecture granted buildings the mirror facade and took glass materials to a new construction frontier.

glass buildings, Athens, Greece

Many glass building can be found in the city of Athens, fortifying its position towards the modern aesthetics. Most of them constructed during the late 60s and 70s showing the social advancement and economic growth of the city at that time. Since the highly criticized work of Vikelas, only a few glass buildings have been spotted out as landmarks or of architectural value. Among them the Fix Brewery, by T.Zenetos, the first glass offices building at Kapnikarea, by N.Valsamakis and the AVAX headquarters, by A.Tombazis. The above constituted the forerunners of the new architectural trend but “failed to be established as design models” A.Tobazis mentioned.

Approaching present time, architectural styles changed and overlapped. The glass that once inspired awe is considered a controversial aesthetic, and often met with distrust and disgust. New build criteria emerge from new economic circumstances like the recent global energy crisis. The energy optimization and the significance of sustainability started the circle of green design and energy efficient design, even though bioclimatic architecture had already been a well-known concept. Energy consumption became of major importance putting aside other factors, and competing with architectural designs.

glass building vovos, Athens, Greece

The Greek climate seems forbidding for glass architecture. Plenty of sunshine and high temperatures could turn these buildings to greenhouses. Was it the sunny weather of Athens that diminished the glass buildings, or was it something else that went completely wrong from the beginning?

Highly dependent on technology to create habitable environments, the majority of glass buildings in Athens lack the appropriate architectural planning. The modern material added as a decorative exterior surface to buildings, and the novelty elements of the design were lost. Glass buildings’ transparency and openness are principles of design that bring harmony with the surrounding urban environment; seeking ways to bring closer and not isolate urban life. On the contrary, glass skin on concrete buildings fails to achieve new architectural feats, and creates alienating mirror masks and energy over consuming glass cages.

glass building athens downtown, Athens, Greece

Far from what Mies van de Rohe and Le Corbusier have described, Athens’ glass buildings look more like old ideas wrapped in a glossy paper.

Do you know any cases of wrongly applied architectural designs in your city? Considering architecture as an art form, should build criteria and limitations be allowed?

Credits: Images by Valia Stavrianidi, or linked to sources. Data linked to sources.

Chris Christou

Chris has a Master's degree in Water Resources Science and Technology from the National Technical University of Athens. He started studying Mining Engineering and Metallurgy, but later on he concentrated his bachelor studies on Environmental Engineering, Waste and Water Management. During his late academic years he participated in environmental technology research projects. He is from Athens, Greece. His family, which consists mostly of civil engineers and architects, descends from the well-known stonemasons of the island of Santorini. Today he divides his time between Varkiza, a south-coast suburb of Athens, and Pagrati, downtown Athens, which he considers his home. Growing up in this central neighborhood he was able to witness the various changes in the city throughout the years. Observing his urban surroundings and influenced by his family, from an early age he became concerned about the urban environment. An inquisitive and creative person, he enjoys walking around the centre of Athens on quests for new or hidden details. Blogging for The Global Grid will be an opportunity to discover, highlight, and study the present state of environmental design in Athens, including potential outlets to improve the Athenian urban life.

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This entry was posted on Friday, July 25th, 2014 at 9:07 am and is filed under Architecture, Chris Christou, Energy, Environment, Environmental Design, Housing, Urban Planning and Design. 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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