27 Μαΐου 2012

CAPITAL ILLUSIONS

We seem to think that Greece and Athens can hardly be saved unless we all cluster round the Acropolis. The most convenient way in which we seek to give expression to the continuity of the Greek cultural heritage is by trying to put up our buildings around the Sacred Rock and to imitate what we like to think was ancient Greek architecture. In a most primitive fashion we rally around a symbol instead of endeavoring to study this symbol, to grasp its inner meaning and to use it as a source of inspiration. The net effect of this is that we smother the Acropolis with the cement and steel structures of blocks of flats and that we attempt to build balconies in mock ancient style from concrete plaster. We then pretend that this is an ancient city and try to put a false mask on it in the name of antiquity. We must however resign ourselves to the fact that our Capital, i.e. Athens, Piraeus and the surrounding area, is a new city, newer than analogous cities in the American continent or even in Australia, the last continent to be settled. A hundred years ago the population of Athens barely numbered 50,000, while at the beginning of its modern history, when the country gained its freedom, it was just a village with no more than 4000 inhabitants [...] Even in the golden age Athens and Piraeus together with the district of Long Walls covered no more than 1/40 of the present area and their population was barely 1/10 of what it is now. The modern Capital boasts about 280,000 buildings, whilst down the ages and down to 1830 it had no more than a few hundred. In these circumstances how can we venture to speak of the Capital as being an ancient city? We should be nearer the truth if we described it as a very modern city built as compactly as possible; so much so that it has pressed hard round ancient ruins, small in area but rich in meaning, completely covering up some and threatening to stifle others in its embrace.


Constantinos A. Doxiadis, “Our Capital and its Future”, Document R-GA; 202, 1961.