Open Air Office
The Open Air Office shows a strategic use of a sponsored urban intervention that is done in order to provide a space of a common character for a public use. The intervention consists on a systematic transformation of a series of small scale objects to a prescribed urban condition. It challenges the idea of using the power of sponsorship (in this case the use of a series of tables, bookshelves and reading lights) in order to create a public space with a new functionality. The Open Air Office is organized as an open urban space where online works can take place in an abandoned, open air city space of Athens. It challenges the possibilities of urban interventions in the nowadays condition of a city in decline, through additions of small scale furniture in selected venues and the introduction of urban programs for the city of Athens in a critical moment of its life.
The Open Air Office balances between the refusal of any specific concept of locality (linked to the “neutral”, contemporary culture of immaterial labor) and a reverse emphasis on the local element, through the illumination of a particular area of an idiosyncratic, decadent city center: the particular local scene welcomes a neutral, global program which in the first place is seen as "inappropriate". The office area can be used from those who do not use stable working spaces or from people who are interested in unplanned or organized meetings for cooperation. It welcomes a number of people who find its provisions useful.
The Open Air Office implements (with deliberate casualness) some thoughts about the contemporary city from the point of view of nowadays Athens. The nowadays city’s structure is linked to the infrastructure of the Internet, the social networks and some net platforms on which collaborations can be deployed. The project’s strategy, operating in the derelict, emptied city center proposed small scale transformations of a place related to the urban fabric in mediated ways. Furthermore: in the present condition we cannot invent other type of effective interventions, possible transformations of the texture in unpredictable ways using elementary resources. The problem is how to organize large fields with the minimum of means, in the smallest scale, through a multiplication of isolated space solutions. The Open Air Office proposed one such urban function that could organize anew abandoned places in the center of the city.
The rules of a future immaterial labor are unknown; its main architectonic character however is now linked to the concept of a vanishing community. The materiality of the common working meetings becomes less important in the conditions of immaterial labor, not because of the “nature” of an immaterial work but because of the possibility of work done in distance, without the “real” material presence of the community; a common working space can in many cases even be excluded from the agenda of a working station; the working condition includes a sole screen and a keyboard orienting the intrusion to a live archive. The concept of immaterial labor is realized through a disappearance of common spaces and re-elaborations of them via archival organizational prototypes. The modern city of Athens (before the proposal was articulated) was understood in this project as a ruin. Modern Athens was not constructed for a life in the conditions of immaterial labor. Choosing an Athenian derelict uncovered space for such an urban program reminds some sort of "urban recycling". A selected unused space re-enters the city life through an architectural decision, concerning a new unexpected function that re-organizes decisively an urban field. The setting of the functions seems more important than the proposed "architecture". No intention of beautification changes the image of the city; the bare existing urban scene is sufficient: a lateral lighting of the site will change its significance while maintaining its image "as is". In the same stable scene (the “scena fissa” of Aldo Rossi) another type of temporary project is performed. However the work produces a mere inversion of Rossi’s concept: it is not anymore the scene that is glorified by showing its stability while a theatrical city play is performed in front of it; it is the performance and its rules that reorder and change the scene that is here conceived as unimportant. Light tables and stools install functions; gathering around a free wi-fi connection serves as an open call for undetermined immaterial works. A hidden functionality is proposed as a displacement to the city's decadence.
The Open Air Office functions more as a question to this direction than as a specific answer. The costless change of the area's lighting can temporarily change its meaning. A strategic reversal of the Charter of Athens rationale is a challenge for today's architecture. Architects are now invited to consider the existing scenes of the city as transformable without changing much of their present form. They are called to provide different built readings, not different buildings.
The urban deformations that are at stake here run a project of an archeology addressed to the modern city. The dead scenes organize programmatic deviations, new live situations, fields for circumstances leading to different systemic ensembles for the urban center. The city center conditions, conceived as empty theatrical scenes, can lead to "versions of programs”. The first notes for tomorrow's architecture are undertaken as a practical call for installations on existing city scenes.
The materialization of the Open Air Office used a framework (the art organization Remap 3) and a strategic sponsorship (of IKEA) to raise questions about the present urban fabric of Athens and the collapse of the architecture in the form that we knew it in the past. In this context the weighting between the old and the upcoming, between the designed and the non designed is decisive. Bernard Tchumi as a member of the jury for the 2012 DOMES Awards characterized the Open Air Office as “the most programmatically inventive” project of the last year in Greece.
The installation of the Open Air Office included 48 tables, 100 stools, 48 reading lamps, 9 meters of bookshelves, a printer and a water cooler.
Architect: Aristide Antonas
Collaborators: Katerina Koutsogianni, Kristy Garikou, Alexis Georgiadis