Access to the Acropolis of Athens by Dimitris Pikionis

There are so many important projects that mark the growth path of a designer and I don't think there is anyone in particular that is more important than the others. Each reference takes on a specific meaning when it is related to the questions posed in the problem to be solved. Often, however, it is not so much the outcome that the reference produces that is important, as the reasoning that underlies it, the process that generates it. So every reference (as such) is directly linked to the reasons that recall it, it would be really difficult to indicate one without having to bring it back to a reasoning that distinguishes it among the many others.

If I were to talk about a design reference of interest today, I would try, for example, to indicate someone related to the theme of the quality of public space, of which memory has been lost today.

The project of the public space today is now reduced to the commodification of street furniture, to the design of textures, of living room textures that no longer indicate any form of use, no longer determine any idea of the development of the city and, above all, do not they establish no relationship with its inhabitants. Public space is no longer the collective representation of urban relations, but the trivialization of a design at the zero altitude of the city, which does not involve its body, does not penetrate its flesh, does not translate its thickness. A flat dimension, which slides on the surface of the flooring without interacting with the dynamics of living.

One of the projects (and of the designers) that I find very appropriate in this direction (and in this difficult historical moment in which Greece is located) is that for the arrangement of the access to the Acropolis of Athens. A project on which Dimitris Pikionis worked for a long time in the mid-1950s, recovering materials from some demolition of houses in the 1900s. A meticulous work of re-composition of the floors and embankments that the architect personally took care of "pietra on stone ”, checking daily the installation of the materials starting from a drawing of two main paths that are arranged at the base of the Acropolis hill.

An almost obsessive attention (in the positive sense of the term) that engaged the designer for over four years in arranging the entire area. A difficult topic to solve if you think about the importance of the site (the Acropolis of Athens), both for the historical sedimentation of the place and for the need to return a modern interpretation, capable of reconstructing a dialogue with a past so strongly marked by historical events. The result, still visible today, is highly effective, due to the ability to have been able to control both conditions; that character with strong references to permanence and the need to restore its contemporary dimension.

What you can admire, visiting the site, is the dimension of a new landscape, a "new story", a story transcribed two thousand years after its original text and yet so strongly linked to it, not in terms of mimetic reconstruction, but for the great capacity for reinvention (giving new life to the materials forgotten in the deposits of the Acropolis).

The idea of a transformed, completely reconstructed place which, however, has not interrupted my continuity with its spirit. The project as an expression of a wise dialogue with history, that refined obstinacy of those who do not want to change their way of thinking but try to enrich their way of listening. Listen to the spirit of the place that continually destroys itself without ever stopping (as Marguerite Yourcenar would say).

If I had to choose a drawing, I would choose from his many hand sketches, many of which were produced directly on site during the construction management for which he sometimes drew the elements to be installed on the ground. They are mostly pencil drawings with which Pikionis explored the solutions of the project, prefiguring the final outcome. A sort of accurate "relief" of a mental image translated immediately on the white sheet, capable of holding together the idea of the project and its constructive dimension, to restore the effectiveness of its future realization. I like these sketches because they are able to strongly translate the measure of the continuous research of the dialogue between materials and their forms, a very close relationship that assigns each material a role in the expression of the forms of the project.

Today we have partially altered this relationship, the new tools of representation have progressively expropriated not so much the hand, but above all the mind, of the ability to put an idea into shape; that something that is not yet but could actually be. In this sense, the drawing becomes a tool for concrete exploration of the outcome of the project and its construction methods and it is precisely through the drawing that the technical devices for its future realization are also investigated. Dimitris Pikionis's drawings, under a certain aspect, remind me of those of Carlo Scarpa, precisely because of this continuous method of deepening the technical-constructive data of the project and of the more properly material one. In some of these sketches, one almost has the impression of being able to touch the rough surface of those stones with the hand, to be able to step on it to feel the texture of its workings and the joints of each single piece under one's feet.

Pikionis, like Scarpa on the other hand, are designers who have never shied away from confrontation with the history of the projects and the designers who preceded them, on the contrary, they have built the meaning of their work on this continuous relationship. An operation starting from a given primary text, on which to affect the sign of one's transformations. A typical condition of European architecture in general and Italian in particular that often leads us to intervene on the existing, to transform something that has already been built but which is no longer able to satisfy the functions for which it was built. A theme on which we must necessarily reflect at all scales, from the city to the territory, a typically Italian dimension of architecture seen as a palimpsest of the stratification of time that continually destroys and reconstructs, preserving that wealth of knowledge and knowledge in which the our story.