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15 Maggio 2006

English Ri_editazioni

Dimitris Pikionis in Athens*:
paths of stone, enclosures of dreams

“Convinced that Greece is a bridge between East and West, Dimitris Pikionis, the modern architect born in Athens, cultivated for his entire life, in his soul, the seeds of a hybrid culture focused on hidden relationships, overlapping borders, recurring similarities in apparently distant fields. He was not alone in these pursuits, in the time when his country was struggling to rebound after centuries of decline and occupation.
Around 1930, in fact, artists, writers and poets in Greece were chasing the dream of creating a new culture, expression of a modernity that would not exclude the past, a different past from the falsifications of cliches and the pallid past of academics, a past like a physical and spiritual territory, dense with interconnections and paths. A fundamental figure in this intellectual community, Pikionis was attracted by the pluralism of traditions that contributed to construct a culture of exceptional importance like that of Greece, and to shape a shared Mediterranean territory, to the point of making it the cradle and the backdrop of universal myths. He combined knowledge of these traditions with a passion for modern art. He was an architect by chance, a painter and poet within, having studied fine arts in Munich and later in Paris. Cèzanne, Klee, Kandinsky, avantgarde painters contributed to his background, along with the metaphysical neoclassicism of De Chirico, a friend since his college days. In the forge of his spirit cubism melded with archaeology, the construction techniques of the Greek inland with those of Japan, shaping an already deformed landscape like that of Greece in his time, with a Zen-like capacity to evoke deeper meanings. A cultural influence with the magazine “The Third Eye”, an importer through the publication of European avantgarde art in Greece, and a highly esteemed mentor for entire generations of Greek architects, Dimitris Pikionis ceaselessly explored the ramified paths his visionary gaze led him to trace in the culture of his time, generously offering students and readers the results of his research. From this point of view his work of cultural reconstruction was even more important than his work in the field of architecture. Above all, his writings and his exceptional drawings clearly transmit the geography of his thought and the dimension of his efforts. He had few opportunities to translate the complexity of his vision into architectonic reality. A neorationalist school in Athens, another more traditional school at Salonika, some refined houses for friends, a few fragments of communities imagined and designed with poets and artists constitute nearly all his architectural output, before the two great opportunities of his life: the park of the Acropolis and the playground of Filothei. But even these were marginal projects, at least in the intentions of the clients, entrusted to an architect already in the later part of his life, as a sort of belated recognition. Works apparently without great impact: in the first case, the remaking of pavings, in the second the recycling of a residual space on the outskirts of Athens. But here, between the Acropolis and the Filothei quarter, in the final years of his career, Pikionis created two absolute masterpieces in that discipline which, in the end, had never been his favorite. Actually these works are not specifically architecture, but art in the wider sense of the term. Art that foresees themes and relationships that European artists were to notice only
much later. A premise for Land Art, on a terrain from which he knows how to draw meanings and symbols. A brilliant manipulator of space and time, and the concrete representation of thoughts, at the age of 70 the Greek architect was finally able to put those thoughts into practice precisely in the territory that was their source.
Below the Acropolis, along paths that seem like mosaics or engravings, the essential beauty of Japanese rock gardens is joined with the lines of Klee or Mondrian, and amidst the trees of the park dozens of signs evoke, remember, interpret a complex past, using the fragments of the present. The trajectories traced by the signs on the ground lead the gaze toward the monuments and the mind toward that ramified history for which they provide lofty expression. Archaeological fragments are mixed, in the flooring of the church of St. Dimitris Loumbardiaris or the walls of the past, with pieces of rubble, plaques of marble and concrete, rocks with quarry debris. The Attic landscape, having long lost its integrity, rediscovers life in the micro-compositions scattered along the way, in narrow spaces where the sense of place is renewed and the original meanings that issue from the stones mingle with one another, centuries apart in real time, but close in the game of analogies that governs the sequence of forms and ideas in history.
At Filothei the dreams of children, interwoven with the myths of Greece, become construction and, once again, landscape. No drawings exist to bear witness to the compositional logic, because here, even more than at the Acropolis, the pencil and the drawing table are replaced by steps, observations, memories. Japanese houses, tukuls, ship planking, interrupted bridges, rapidly abandoned camps form a sequence on the small piece of land after one enters a wooden gate that clearly separates two worlds: the common world of a residential neighborhood on the outskirts of the city, and the fantasy world of an enclosure where space-time perceptions are dilated thanks to the poetic talents of an old master.
Stone paths and an enclosure of dreams, therefore, are the greatest legacy of the architect, who like the great artists of the past cultivated and shaped the capacity lo give meaning and depth even to the lightest of signs&raquo.

* Text by Alberto Ferlenga, photographs by Daniele De Lonti,
Published by Interni n.3 in march 2004.

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