The Urban Hall represents an idea about treating the city's function in a theatrical way. Its platform suggests that there is always a necessity to fill with new functions empty parts of the city. In a way it shows a possibility to operate with a political agenda through filling empty urban spaces. In the same time it introduces an urban device.
The project concerns a place with the most critical criminal character of the city center of Athens, a drugs distribution square and public drugs consumption place. The proposal consists in the construction of a grid roof equipped with a number of fans that emphasizes an empty urban space under it.
According to Aldo Rossi the urban scene in front of which human acts take place is always stronger than the city's life itself. A scena fisca organizes this stability of the city that may be compared to a stable theater scene on which theater acts take place. The question of an intervention in this particular area of Athens (particularly in this moment) treats a total inversion of this rationale. We cannot easily grasp this idea of a stable scene when the everyday life events that take place in this—now named—urban room do characterize the whole area. Plateia Theatrou is one of the most difficult places in Athens today, concreting in an emblematic way the controlled bankruptcy of Greece and the most terrible conditions of living in the worst part of the city's center.
The project proposes a systematic urban intervention that interprets under a new light traditional urban methodologies. Its interpretation follow the vague strategies of the situationists and a different understanding of theatricality in the city. The Urban Hall project is divided in two distinct moves that would form a type of intervention that would be named “urban curating”. The first move of such a double urban curatorial work has to do with the choice and installation of an empty urban field in the city; the second would have to do with a system of replacing different actions in this selected and constructed field. The adaptation of the proposal to the conditions of the city is crucial for its understanding together with a will of transformation of the city's life. An interest for the everyday life of this city part would have to interpret the conditions and form a strategy that would concretize the interest for the people that live there. The strategy that may occur through the direction of an architect, an urbanist but also a group of citizens or another plural civic figure may form the character and be responsible for the political consequences of such a move. We propose here an urban apparatus that may be treated in many different ways, it may construct functional, neoliberal, subversive, communal, communist or even revolutionary interpretations depending to its use; it is an open platform defined by a city’s discontinuities. It is dangerous to name this apparatus and stabilize a function for it, I have full consciousness of this danger; the Urban Hall shows an unpredictable way of schematizing a future for the cities. It shows the way of understanding occupations of the city as functions of its normal life. In the same time the Urban Hall can also be transformed to a mere trivial tool for reproducing the existing values of this civilization. The creation of such a field transforms a particular problematic area of a city to a named space of a shifting character. It reminds a constructed journalistic urban newspaper page or an acting theoretical field introduced in the city’s active terrain. The Urban Hall is proposed as a system of controlled occupancies of the city’s parts.
What can be declared as the political basis of the urban apparatus described here may be formulated through a specific answering to some questions concerning the function of the mechanism.
Who will curate this field? How open a procedure of changing the curatorial mechanism can be? Who would be in charge for proposing or naming the curatorial mechanism? What are the rules for this urban curatorial platform? What type of events can this platform host? Does the platform operate 24 hours a day or will it propose a limited timezone of action? Can the private sector intervene in the function of the platform? In which terms? Can the public sector include functions of its own in the platform’s field and in what terms? In which terms citizens can take action in the platform as free individuals and with which limitations? Who controls the limitations? And the most important one: under which circumstances a curatorial strategy can form an autonomous urban field, even in a theatrical perspective view of autonomy?
The condensation of an urban problem into a single area would also have a prospect of expansion. Neighboring areas can soon be included in this zone of prepared actions. In this frame of a systematic elaboration of theatricality in the city, we would use performativity in order to work towards the clarification of a political agenda in a practical manner. Its content would include the elaboration of theoretical models in a systematically observed participatory urban room. The project would function as a benevolent virus which does not expel what is conceived as a problematic part of the city life but it incorporates it by consecrating to it its energy for a certain amount of time.
Two conditions can validate this project today as a particular function of a different era. The first concerns a need to invent local solutions to global problems as Zygmunt Bauman proposes through his reading of the existing situation in 2010: we no longer seek for global solutions to local problems. Athens poses its own platform of proposing its problems. The second one deals with the transformation of the people to populations observed by Paolo Virno. Those two conditions determine a shift of urban strategies and specifically in the city of Athens.
The proposal includes some first emblematic installations for the Athens Urban Hall. It could function as an open hospital for the drug users, as a theater place or as an open air Working Hall. It may expand to neighbouring parts of the city while transforming the space of the urban tissue.
Architect: Aristide Antonas
Civil engineer: Christos Kaklamanis
Consultant: Aris Tsagrasoulis
Collaborators: Katerina Koutsogianni, Kristy Garikou