Platon Issaias – Beyond the Informal City: ‘The Lump City’ of Athens and the possibility of an urban common


Introduction: Athens as a paradigm: A City of Conflict
1 The absence of Plan as a Project: Notes on the Planning Development of Athens, 1830-2010
2 Planning through the Unit: Taxonomies of the ‘Polykatoikia’ Type
3 War within Four Walls: A City in Crisis and the Collapse of the Domestic Archetypes
4 Beyond the Informal: Premises of an Urban Common and the Concept of the ‘Lump’ City

Platon Issaias graduated in 2007 from the Faculty of Architecture of the Aristotle University, Thessaloniki-Greece. He holds a Master Of Science in Advanced Architectural Design (MS AAD) from the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation-GSAPP, Columbia University (2008).

The central argument of the thesis is that the ‘informal’ urbanization that characterizes the contemporary Greek cities is an immediate derivative of a complex political project with numerous branches, displayed accordingly and primarily by architectural and urban typologies and protocols. As a case-study, the Greek cities and particularly Athens, offer a valid critique on the recent conceptions regarding the distinction between ‘informal’ and ‘formal’ urbanism. These two dialectically opposite categories wish to distinguish two types of planning, which supposedly represent equally opposing political processes in the establishment and in the formation of cities. Nevertheless, in the Greek case, what appears to be a spontaneous and un-planned urban typology is the result of a precise institutional and regulatory apparatus.
The consecutive failures or absence of conventional planning mechanisms, like zoning regulations, or the lack of large scale planning proposals, marked what could be seen as a gradual retreat of the public institutions from a comprehensive project for the city. Instead, the state progressively produced an abstract legislative frame, consisting of complex laws and decrees of various exceptions and particularities, which addressed instant and immediate issues. These were meant to control the small scale of the urban environment, i.e. the architecture and the building construction rather than the physical and urban form of the city in a larger scale, eventually promoting and formulating distinctive building practices.
The ambition of the thesis is to trace the genealogy of this distinctive pattern of urban development, within various historic events and political decisions. All of the above promoted architecture, in its barest and most abstract form, to replace ‘conventional’ planning in the bio-political control of the city. The thesis focuses on the characteristics of this peculiar architecture, as this evolved through time.
The originally urban and bourgeois archetype of the ‘polykatoikia’and the self-built housing for both the high classes and the poor represented initially alternative methods to fulfill the housing needs of the different social classes. Eventually, these two patterns merged and established a common architectural language, a unified and unifying building knowledge and technique. In the case of Athens, the result of the above is a rather continuous urban carpet, a homogeneous lava of urbanization, where the monad, the pixel of the city prevails and which spreads throughout the landscape, overcoming occasionally the historic, physical and administrative boundaries of the city.
The research traces the birth of the particular architectural/urban patterns and archetypes (‘polykatoikia’, self-built housing), and the appearance of distinctive social phenomena with significant spatial results. The thesis aims to speculate and to research on the problematic structure of the contemporary Greek Metropolis, especially within this era of economic and social collapse.

Posts by Platon Issaias

An overview on the first year series of seminars and discussions within “The City as a Project” PhD Program The series of seminars and discussions, entitled ‘Whatever Happened to the Twentieth Century: Modernity and Its Discontents,’ were proposed in order to reconsider the character and the content of the modern urban project. The main goal [...]