Walking along Patission Street (part 2)

Continuing from my previous post, here are some pictures from the buildings one sees along Patission St. (and most of Athens for that matter). Many people who come here for the first time, having some vague, preconceived notion about "Athens" and "Greece" (notice the quotation marks?) are in for a big shock when they see these images.

Planning- and architecture-wise, things can be summarized as follows: Most buildings are about 6-storeys high, due to the zoning / planning regulations and are blocks of flats. This type of multi-storey residence, which to many US visitors may bring back memories of the "projects", is called "polykatiki'a" (meaning 'multi-residence') and has prevailed since after WWII. In central avenues, main streets, etc., like Patission, the ground floor is usually occupied by retail shops or other similar services (accounting offices, banks, gyms, betting shops, dry-cleaners, bakeries, pharmacies, etc.). This pattern of mixed-uses makes Athens and most other Greek cities, built along the same general criteria and perceptions, very lively! I still remember the sound of kids voices, merchant yells and all kinds of conversations when I came back from the States a few years ago. Even though I had only been away for 2 years this whole soundscape was totally fascinating to me! I think it's even more pronounced in (central) Athens than in other towns.

Unfortunately, here's where the good news stop. From your hotel room, mixed with the traffic noise, this can easily be perceived as noise even though outside things can be very interesting. However, there is no one prevalent architectural style, since this whole building frenzy and growth of Athens has taken place only recently, after 1950. Planning regulations have changed a few times (although not dramatically differing from one another), remnants of the old one- or two-storey houses can still be found here and there (some of them as 'preserved', historical buildings) and design guidelines practically don't exist. So, you get a mishmash of images and styles, usually not blending nicely with each other (see below...). On-street parking is free, and therefore a huge problem, as some populist politicians repealed the requirement for parking spots in each building years ago, and when they changed their minds it was too little, too late. Even today, parking spot requirements for buildings are occasionally violated and the current government just recently passed a law that will allow these violations to be settled with a small fine!

An attempt for a modernist office building at Odos Patission, with polykatikies right next to it.

Plateia Amerikis (Amerikis Square) at around Patission 170. A small urban square, recently renovated and fairly good looking, always busy with people, mainly African immigrants who inhabit this area in large numbers.

One of the streets crossing Patission, heading up towards the Ano Kypseli neighborhood and the Tourkovounia hills.

Shops and familiar logos. In some parts of Patission, the polykatikies form an "arcade" above the pavement, which is very welcome when it's raining.

A typical bus stop near Plateia Koliatsou (Koliatsou Square), another small urban square at Patission 241. The yellow sign mentions which trolley-bus lines make a stop here while the blue sign is for the "regular" buses. You have to signal the bus to stop, extending (or half-extending) your hand out, otherwise the driver may just move along. You can see the signs of urban decay throughout Athens these days, exemplified by the graffitti and the ever-present stickers, advertising or otherwise, stuck on every structure imaginable...

An abandoned(?) neoclassical building at a corner, a shack-like furniture shop and a 1980's(?) glass-covered monstrosity of an office-building, with a polykatikia at the edge of the picture.

The University of Athens student dorm, recently re-painted it seems, at Patission 277.

The entrance of an open-air, summer cinema which has closed and is now being offered for rent. The sandwich shop next door may have to change it name!... Oh, and the poster is from the 1953 film "Roman Holiday" with Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn.

A pharmacy at the corner of Patission 300 & Grigoroviou.

More polykatikies at the corner of Patission and Galatsiou. Another Starbucks lies on the opposite corner (not pictured).

The "Fix Park", at the same intersection as above. Its name derives from an old factory that used to stand here.

Chess players. I seemed to have caught a... decisive moment!

An old, worn down but surprisingly still occupied 2-storey, neoclassical residence at the corner of Patission and Laskaratou.

The last part of Odos Patission with the Ano Patissia Metro Station (Metro Line 1) seen far in the background.

A small park / yard of an old mansion called Villa Drakopoulou at Patission 358, currently under renovation.

End of journey. The Aghia Varvara (St. Barbara) church at the end of Patission St., right next to the Ano Patissia Metro Station (Metro Line 1).

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