Friday, June 17, 2011

Dream Neighborhood: Kite

The architectural character of modern Athens is a phenomenon of the 1960s. Intense urbanization after the German occupation and the Civil War, lax regulation, cheap labor, and a national industry of concrete brought about the city of apartment buildings that we know and love today. In the absence of monetary investment (national banks, no interest rates), modern Athenians invested in real estate. Greek prosperity was reflected predominantly in the ownership of one or more apartments and summer homes. The flip-side of this upward mobility was an architectural demarcating of classes. Lack of ownership and dependence on rents signified poverty (the typical scenario outlined by Engels as early as 1872 in "The Housing Question.")

The 1961 film Dream Neighborhood that I've been thinking about this last week offers a clear expression of the conflicts inherent in modernization (the concrete house), poverty (shanty towns), and the movement into the middle class (in the case of the film unsuccessful). The film is dramatized in the neighborhood of Asyrmaton, Plaka. The film ends with a suicide and a funeral procession (discussed here). Resurrection occurs at the last minutes, when a boy flies a kite over the Acropolis. The kite itself was designed to look like a child's image of reality. It features a couple in love (signified by hearts) and images of daily life. The upper right portion of the kite represents the process of construction. Although undoubtedly drawn by the set designer Tasos Zographos, it reflects the iconic aspirations of class.

The kite shows a crane building a concrete apartment building. Workers and material stand on the scaffolding. The image is particularly powerful because the construction of the kite is visible as a shadow behind the paper. The triangles of the kite's construction intersect the triangles of the projected architectural construction.

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Kostis Kourelis

Philadelphia, PA, United States