Kyriakos Panagiotakos, the Modernist Architect - Blue Condominium (Ble Polykatoikia)
Kyriakos Panagiotakos - Blue Condominium (Ble Polykatoikia)

Kyriakos Panagiotakos, the Modernist Architect

It is certain that Kyriakos Panagiotakos, the Modernist Architect (1902 – 1982), was one of the most important Greek creators of the Interwar period. For nearly a decade and a half, he has consistently served this movement, delivering studies and works worthy of admiration.

But perhaps the most iconic of all his works, the famous Blue Condominium (Ble Polykatikia – Μπλε Πολυκατοικία) of Exarchia Square in Athens, which built in 1933, remains crippled to this day.

Why?

Because its most remarkable and instantly recognizable aesthetic element – spit in its face the limp, colorless, coward, pompous or overweening architecture – that is, the blue color that covered a considerable area of the building facades, disappears.

The reasons for this are many – all powerless when they are not just ridiculous.

But it also seems to apply here the same as for the artifacts of the classical era of Ancient Greek civilization: the seal of time, traders or all kinds of institutional, obsessive, and natural vandals imposed and enforced the enjoyment of mainly disabled artworks.

The extremely simple, beautiful and functional Elementary Schools buildings on Liosion & Michael Voda streets.

Kyriakos Panagiotakos, the Modernist Architect - Elementary Schools on the streets Liosion and Mich. Voda
Kyriakos Panagiotakos Architect - Elementary Schools on the streets Liosion and Mich. Voda
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Kyriakos Panagiotakos, the Modernist Architect

Photo Portrait of Kyriakos Panagiotakos
Photo Portrait of Kyriakos Panagiotakos

Synoptic Biography of Kyriakos Panagiotakos

Kyriakos Panagiotakos, originally from Mani Peninsula, was born in Athens in 1902. He was the seventh of eight children in the family and grew up in a strict patriarchal environment, where the figure of his father Fotios dominated.

From a very young age he came into contact with the drawing, often to escape the suffocating climate of his father’s house, and he sought the help of his uncle Nikolaos Economou, a Rural and Surveying Engineer and geometrist at the School of the Arts.

Having shown his particular inclination from a young age, he successfully passed the 1919 entrance examination to the National Technical University of Athens’s School of Architecture, which had been established just two years earlier (1917).

During that period within the school, processes are taking place and discussions are underway about the direction that Greek architecture should take to express its place and time authentically. Modernism and traditional – folk architecture belong to the popular themes that Panagiotakos is also concerned with.

In this context, his visit to Aegina in 1922, in particular for the study of local folk and traditional architecture, is included.

He is not alone in that journey but he has gone along with his great architect and professor Dimitris Pikionis, as well as his then-colleague and then important architect Patroklos Karantinos, the main rapporteur on modernism in Greece – who along with Ioannis Despotopoulos, also known as Jan Despo (Graduate of the School of Architecture at the Leibniz University Hannover, 1927) will be the only ones of their generation who will come to know the new architectural stream in its "springs".

In addition to Pikionis and Karantinos, with whom he will be linked in close friendship, he will do the same with the later great modernist architect Nikolaos Mitsakis as well as with Kostas Biris, a leading urban planner, architect and folklorist.

Completing his studies in 1923, he would work for a period of 6 months in a technical office, and soon afterwards open his own, working as a freelance professional.

He will work in this capacity until 1930, the year he is appointed to the Architectural Service at the then Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs, while in the same year he will also start working for the Autonomous Organization of Earthquake Corinth.

In 1936 he will be hired by the Municipality of Athens, namely the Architectural Service, after which he will take over the Directorate.

A decade later, in 1946, he would lead the way in the founding of the Hellenic Architectural Society, together with G. Pantzaris, B. Kassandra, A. Kriezis, Em. Lazaridis and P. Michalea.

He retired in 1967 and towards the end of his life devoted himself to classical music. Kyriakos Panagiotakos died satisfied with days on January 2, 1982, in Athens.

Kyriakos Panagiotakos, the Modernist Architect

Kyriakos Panagiotakos, the Modernist Architect - Spourgiti House in Filopappou, Work of 1933
Kyriakos Panagiotakos Architect - Spourgiti House in Filopappou, Work of 1933

Important Works & Studies by Kyriakos Panagiotakos

Kyriakos Panagiotakos carried out important studies and implemented some major projects, both as a freelancer and as a civil servant, while still participating in numerous architectural competitions.

Some of his most important work are:

  • Study of Hotel and Cinema Theater on Panepistimiou Street, in collaboration with Nikolaos Mitsakis
  • Study on the Church of Panagia Evaggelistria of Tinos (Our Lady of Tinos), again in collaboration with N. Mitsakis
  • Antonopoulou Apartment Building (Blue Condominium)
  • Pandermali House
  • Spourgiti House
  • Sotiriou holiday residence
  • Elementary Schools on Michael Voda and Liosion Streets
  • Sparta High School
  • Patras High School
  • Gouva Elementary School

Most of them will be mentioned in the following tributes to Kyriakos Panagiotakos and his work.

Kyriakos Panagiotakos, the Modernist Architect

The Blue Condominium in Exarchia
The Blue Condominium in Exarchia

Modern Architecture in Greece

At the sunset of the second decade of the 20th century and at the beginning of the third, the new landscape that had emerged in Europe after the end of World War I, it would affect at an almost Ecumenical level and test many different fields of people, institutions, traditions and ideas.

At the same time in Greece, the venture of Megali Idea delirium would end in a sea of destruction, since in 1922 – 23 a huge Greek refugee wave from the Ionian coast to the Black Sea would primarily overwhelm the big cities, demanding restoration, affecting almost all of Greek society.

Both in Greece and the rest of Old Continent, these historical events, along with the observed technological developments and the expansion of mass production of goods, would also touch on Architecture.

The Neoclassicism would begin to give initially at Central and Northern Europe space and works in the fresh and dynamic movement of Modernism, and in the Soviet Union it seemed that it could be overcome by Constructivism.

With a lot of reservations – if not suspicion and open hostility – the new movement has entered Greece.

Its reception did not surprise – on the contrary – as it was analogous to every movement, stream and idea, which contradicted Ancient Greek aesthetics and other ideals, such as the freshly planted ropey aristocracy sensed, such as the half taught bourgeois regurgitated, and such as they were reproduced by the petty bourgeoisie of the time.

Of course, the happiness of Modernism in Greece was that it had against him an except of the Modern Greek tradition architectural Neoclassicism, which was breathing its last, and the maintaining of its corpse, in market terms, was expensive.

Thus little space was given to modernist architects such as Kyriakos Panagiotakos and Patroklos Karantinos to contribute a morphologically simple, perfectly functional and economically advantageous architecture to a Greece that was in dire need of housing and other problems.

Kyriakos Panagiotakos, the Modernist Architect

Participants of the 4th CIAM in the Acropolis of Athens
Participants of the 4th CIAM in the Acropolis of Athens

The 4th CIAM Anabasis & Kyriakos Panagiotakos

The Greek Architecture of the 20th Century boasts – and rightly so – that it was embraced and socialized in 1933 of a planetary event: the reason is of course the historic 4th CIAM (Congrès Internationaux d’Architecture Moderne, as the French speakers call it), and declaration of the controversial Athens Charter or Charte d’Athènes.

The congress had been scheduled to take place in Moscow since 1930, but Hitler’s rise to power and the prospect of refusing to grant passports to left-wing architects and artists anyway necessitated a change of venue.

And Athens may have qualified for Moscow, but most of the German conventioneers failed to take part because of the Nazi regime.

The theme of the 4th CIAM was – always relevant – The Functional City. Both the subject and the composition on the part of the participants explain to a certain extent a surrealistic dimension of the congress, for example, at least in composition, while along with Swiss-born Jewish historian Siegfried Giedion, would also be joined the Italian fascist architect Giuseppe Terragni, as well as the Hungarian communist painter, photographer and professor at the Bauhaus School, László Moholy-Nagy.

Of course, the icing on the surrealistic cake would stem from the fact that a significant portion of the conference would be conducted from Marseilles to Piraeus aboard the ship Patris, which belonged to the family of the great Greek surrealist poet Andreas Embirikos.

Apparently, the rest of the conference would proceed smoothly enough – at least in a literary level – since it would simply continue and be completed at the National Technical University of Athens, on the patio of the Averof building of School of Architecture.

The conduct of the 4th CIAM in Greece enabled the Greek architects concerned to come into direct contact with many of the main speakers of Modernism, as well as with the issues of the movement at that time.

And Panagiotakos?

Although he did not belong to the Greek CIAM team, he was present in yet another essential way: during the tour of the delegates to Athens and their visits to various representative works of Greek Modernism, they expressed admiration and complimented him for both Elementary Schools he designed on the streets of Liossia and Michael Voda as well as the Blue Condominium.

Kyriakos Panagiotakos, the Modernist Architect

References

The References to the utterly modern article titled Kyriakos Panagiotakos, the Modernist Architect, are presented by the Greek composer and architect Iannis Xenakis with its concrete creation Concret PH.

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