2011-01-23

Pikionis retrospective at Benaki Museum: my impressions + a tour of Pikionis' works in Athens

I made a mention of this exhibition in a previous post, so I feel obliged to come back. We went to visit the exhibition at Benaki Museum (138, Pireos St., till 13 March 2011) on Greek civil engineer, landscape architect and painter Dimitris Pikionis (1887-1968). He is mostly credited with constructing the landscaping work (paths and corridors) around the Acropolis and for finding inspiration in the traditional, Greek building norms and materials and nature and incorporating them into his own work, even though he lived in an era that the modernist architectural movement was at its peak. He even constructed a couple of modernist-inspired works himself. We both thought that the exhibit was of interest mainly to architects and other specialists in the field. A documentary film was only in Greek (no subtitles). If you are not an architect / landscape architect I think we can safely say that you won't be impressed with what you'll see, although there are several paintings / mostly sketches or water-colour paintings that some might find of interest. Painting was Pikionis' true love as he himself had confided to people, but he couldn't make a living out of painting so he chose architecture instead. It seems to me he almost intentionally downplayed his painting, by sketching only in small pieces of paper (max. 60x70cm) and keeping his painting works hidden for most of his life.

Anyway, you’ll be better off walking around Athens and trying to discover Pikionis’ works themselves, instead of spending time in the exhibit. Here is a list of his works in Metro Athens, with info on how to get there (few other works of him are to be found anyway as he made a living as a university professor):
1)   Paths leading up to the Acropolis Hill and the adjacent Filopappou Hill. His most famous work for which he received, post mortem, in 2003, the International Carlo Scarpa Prize for Gardens. This was created in 1954-57.
Path up to Filopappou Hill (aka Muses Hill)
Path up to Filopappou Hill - Detail



2)   Aghios Dimitrios Loumbardiaris church, on Filopappou Hill, and the "Filopappou kiosk" (1954-58) next to it, facing the Acropolis. The kiosk -which operated as a cafe / snack restaurant has been closed since 2005. 

3)   Block of flats at 27 Ηeyden St. (central Athens), created in 1938. Unimpressive at first glance, from the outside, but the documentary at the Benaki museum made us appreciate it more. A rather seedy area nowadays but very close to the Victoria Metro Station.
Polykatoikia (block of flats) by Pikionis, at 27, Heyden St., Athens
4)  Stamatopoulos house, at the corner of Laskaratou St. & Aghias Lavras St., Ano Patissia neighborhood, Athens (near Metro Aghios Eleftherios and Metro Ano Patissia). Constructed in 1961.
Stamatopoulos house, by Dimitris Pikionis, Athens, Greece


5)  Efthymiadi-Menegaki house - workshop at 10, Grypari St., Ano Patissia neighborhood, Athens (near Metro Ano Patissia). Frosso Efthymiadi-Menegaki was a sculptor and her house (created in 1949),  has now passed to her heirs and is undergoing restoration. It's supposed to be used as a museum-exhibition space, under the auspices of the National Gallery.

 















6)  Children's playground at the suburb of Filothei, 17, El. Venizelou St. (1961-64). It is here that you will see most evident his inspiration not only from Greek but also from Japanese art and garden art. Still operational and much loved by locals and their kids.
Filothei playground
Filothei playground
Filothei playground, by Dimitris Pikionis
                    
7) Potamianos Residence at Filothei (1, Niovis St. & 14, Diadochou Pavlou St., Filothei) (1953-55). There's a big, ugly power tower in front of it right now but if you walk by you'll see what an amazing house this is. I was of course discreet enough to take pictures from afar in all cases (without a zoom), as most of these houses are occupied and I'm sure nobody wants a stranger peeking inside their house. The end stop of Bus 610 (from Ampelokipi) is 100m from the house.

Potamianos Residence, by Pikionis 
Potamianos Residence, Filothei

8) Grammar school at "Pefkakia"-Lykavittos Hill, Athens (1933). This was a building difficult to study and construct (on the slopes of a hill) but Pikionis was quick to renounce it as soon as he had it finished. The modernist-inspired work was not what he was striving for and he soon turned to Greek (and Japanese) tradition for inspiration. Here's a few pictures of the building in its current form, from the outside. It now houses 2 grammar schools and 1 junior-high school.

Lower entrance of schools, Leontos Sgourou St.


School entrance-you can see how the building is constructed at several levels to adjust to the hills steep slope. Each classroom has its own small yard (can't see from this angle)

View from the upper side, Doxapatri St.

Here is a map with all the above mentioned works of Pikionis:


View OMIG-Pikionis in a larger map

Click here for books refering to Pikionis' work, in Amazon.com.

P.S. In case you're wondering there are 2 other works of Pikionis still in existence, outside Athens. The Xenia Hotel at Delphi and the Peiramatiko School at Thessaloniki.


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