View of a Blue Condominium Part
View of a Blue Condominium Part

The Blue Condominium by K. Panagiotakos

The legendary Blue Condominium by K. Panagiotakos, its description and virtues, the social and space-time context through which the work sprang, as well as the disputes over its color are – under normal conditions – the main topics of this article.

This is the third – and last – of the series, which is dedicated to the promotion of the work of Kyriakoulis Panagiotakos, and it also promises great emotions for the (unfortunately) systematic reader of "Kalliergeia".

Because it may not be seems clear here, however, it will be stated clear that today’s outrage in the Athenian city is not historically the fault of the Aliens which living among us, but the fault those of the Athenians who are both themselves and with or through their rulers, on the one hand, and on the other hand, with and through their flexible intelligentsia, they achieved the impossible:

To build an ugly and dysfunctional city, which forced Hippodamus, along with Ictinus and Kallikrates, to seek urban and architectural asylum in North Korea.

The color of the washtub at the bottom right shows what is left of the original blue.

The Stairwell of the Building - © Αγγελος Χριστοφιλόπουλος - FOSPHOTOS
The Stairwell of the Building - © Αγγελος Χριστοφιλόπουλος - FOSPHOTOS
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The Blue Condominium by K. Panagiotakos

Side View & Perspective Plan of the Building
Side View & Perspective Plan of the Building

The Location of the Project & the Area of Exarchia

The Blue Condominium is located in Exarchia square, at the corner of Arachovis and Themistokleous streets. It was built over a period of two years, in 1932 to 1933, on behalf of the family of the businessman Kostis Antonopoulos.

The cost of construction amounted to the not insignificant amount for that time, of 44 million drachmas.

Exarchia

The area of Exarcheia owes its name to a merchant named Exarchos, who in the middle of the 19th century maintained a large general store for the time, on Themistokleous Street.

The inhabitants of the area at that time were mostly Cycladic craftsmen and builders, a population and social composition that would change drastically due to two important events:

  1. The first was the inclusion of the area of Exarcheia in the plan of the city of Athens in 1865
  2. The second was the creation of departments of the University and the Polytechnic, which would attract students and intellectuals in the area

Then laid the foundations of the strong tradition, which wants the Exarcheia to be at the center of the intellectual and artistic life of the city of Athens, but at the same time to be often the core of radical social and political protest.

The Blue Condominium by K. Panagiotakos

Perspective Plan of the Building
Perspective Plan of the Building

The Blue Condominium

The architecture of Panagiotakos is a complex of two six-storey apartment buildings, which have separate entrances, but which are connected to each other, both in the basement and on the roof.

The initial design provided for 32 apartments (later became 39 after 7 more apartments were added to the roof), as well as 4 ground floor shops, all on the side adjacent to the square.

The views, the apartments, as well as the communal areas became objects of thorough study and were formed on the basis of inspired design.

What was not designed by Panagiotakos himself (special electromechanical equipment, wooden shutters, sanitary ware, and locks) was imported from abroad, specifically from Italy and Germany.

The Virtues of the Project

The facades of the building are characterized by orderly variety, harmony and plasticity, which are due to the creative utilization of the openings, recesses and protrudes, as well as the folds that are observed only on the top floor.

The apartments are worked to the last detail by Koulis Panagiotakos. The organization of their spaces aims at the optimal functionality and the widest possible provision of amenities to the residents. The natural light is exploited to the fullest extent.

The communal areas serve a vision: the creation of a "neighborhood in height" aimed at developing social relations between tenants and undermining isolation. The crowning achievement of this is the spacious meeting room of the roof, with the exquisite and everywhere unobstructed view.

However, the element that positively seals the work and its architectural history, is not its successful design or exemplary functionality, but the primary, the most insightful exterior color of the building.

The Blue Condominium by K. Panagiotakos

Bruno Taut - Carl Legien Residency
Bruno Taut - Carl Legien Residency

The "Scandalous" Blue of the Blue Condominium

The painting was undertaken by Spyros Papaloukas (1892 – 1957), the neo-impressionist painter from Desfina of Fokida and a friend of Panagiotakos. Before coming to the choice of colors, Papaloukas has carried out:

  • A series of discussions between himself, Panagiotakos and the latter’s teacher, Dimitris Pikionis
  • The acquaintance through Panagiotakos with the work of the great Anarcho-socializing architect Bruno Taut, who had already created buildings with bright colors
  • An important journey – an apprenticeship in Lesbos island, in 1925, where during his stay he had also worked with bright colors

Finally, Papaloukas chooses Cobalt Blue as the dominant one, with which he will cover the main surfaces, the White for the frames, and the warm Siennes for the inner side of the parapets as well as for the bases.

And opens a can of Worms.

Cobalt Blue

This color was chosen as dominant by the painter Spyros Papaloukas

The Blue Condominium by K. Panagiotakos

Bruno Taut - Winter View of Carl Legien Residency
Bruno Taut - Winter View of Carl Legien Residency

The "Venerable" White & the Ochre

However, before the opening of a can of worms, and long before the discovery of the laundry and the "whiter white" of the advertisements, White was part of the ideological and aesthetic armory of the Romantics. Because classical art was White – beautiful White statues surrounded or erected in front of beautiful White buildings.

Of course, neither the statues of classical antiquity nor the buildings were White.

However, this did not prevent the ideological constructs of the Greek intelligentsia of the 19th century, which originated from the aesthetic principle of the immaculate whiteness of Ancient Art, from claiming the establishment of White and therefore its imposition.

And the imposition of White meant, at least for the Greek Neoclassicists, the proof of the uninterrupted continuity of the "race" and the "nation".

Thus was established the White for the monumental character works (Panathenaic Stadium or Kallimarmaro – Anastasios Metaxas, 1862-1937), while for the other academic architecture buildings, the Neoclassicists made a small concession to the Architecture, allowing the addition to the facades of the different versions of Ochre.

And after that not to speak for other colors.

The Blue Condominium by K. Panagiotakos

The Blue Condominium from Exarcheia Square
The Blue Condominium from Exarcheia Square

The Opponents of the Blue & the Defense

In this context – which, of course, fit and many other things but the space of the article does not – it is not surprising that the choice of the Blue color became the target of quite a few opponents.

And anyway, if anyone is wondering, it is that even today the opponents are not missing.

The absurdly criticism that Panagiotakos and Papaloukas received and continue to receive is based on the allegations that:

  • The intense Blue color does not tie in with the famous Attic light
  • The intense Blue color is not consistent with the Attica Landscape
  • The intense Blue color breaks and ages fast
  • The intense Blue color creates overheating

The Answers

A first answer that could be given is:

If someone take a prism and place it on the monumental fiasco of Bernard Tschumi, i.e. New Acropolis Museum, will see that the analysis of the beam of white light – miracle of miracles – includes Blue. Consequently, no optical law banishes Blue from Attica.

A second answer that could be given is:

If the above experimenter happens to raise his head to the sky and the day is cloudless, he can only repeat the words of the poet Odysseas Elytis from its poem Maria Nefeli "Oh God you spend so much blue so that we cannot see you!", confirming that Blue and aesthetically – not to say and metaphysical – has its own place in the Attic Landscape.

What has no place is the immaculate White.

The Blue Condominium by K. Panagiotakos

Bo Kaap, a Part of the Cape Town
Bo Kaap, a Part of the Cape Town

Against the White

Apart from any other counter-arguments, the claims of the Blue opponents have a very serious opponent, who is none other than the Attic light itself.

And what the Neoclassical worshipers of the dead ocher and the healthcare competence of White did not say then, and their descendants do not say now either, was and is that:

Under the harsh and unrelenting summer Attic light, forms and mases cannot stand because they are crushed by its "weight", and of course much more when they have been painted with medium tonality or with light colors which are almost vanished.

And the painter knew this well.

The ancestors lover thickheaded intelligentsia did not.

The Blue Condominium by K. Panagiotakos

The Blue Condominium in the Period that Completed
The Blue Condominium in the Period that Completed

The Requiem

The expected wear and aging of the Blue color, finally gave the opponents of this groundbreaking choice, the opportunity to triumph, on a colorless repainted, but also largely disabled condominium, once again devaluing the real producers of aesthetics.

And although the Blue Condominium has been considered a protected monument by the Greek State, there is – as far as we know – the slightest provision for its complete restoration, ie for the return of the authentic Blue color to its facades.

The Blue Condominium by K. Panagiotakos

Kyriakos Panagiotakos, a Photo Portrait in Color
Kyriakos Panagiotakos, a Photo Portrait in Color

References

The References of the restored modern article that bears the colored title The Blue Condominium by K. Panagiotakos, are presented by Them with the monumental Van Morrison in the Bob Dylan’s song It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue.

Play Video
  1. Wang, W., & Κονταράτος, Σ. (2000). Αρχιτεκτονική του 20ου αιώνα στην Ελλάδα [20th Century Architecture in Greece]. Αθήνα: Ελληνικό Ινστιτούτο Αρχιτεκτονικής.
  2. Frampton, K. (1999). Μοντέρνα Αρχιτεκτονική, Ιστορία και Κριτική [Modern Architecture, a Critical History]. Αθήνα: Θεμέλιο.
  3. Καρδαμίτση – Αδάμη, Μ. (2006). Η Μπλε Πολυκατοικία [The Blue Condominium]. Αθήνα: Libro.
  4. Φεσσά-Εμμανουήλ, Ε., & Μαρμαράς, Ε. Β. (2005). Δώδεκα Έλληνες Αρχιτέκτονες του Μεσοπολέμου: 12 Greek Architects of the Interwar Period. Ηράκλειο: Πανεπιστημιακές Εκδόσεις Κρήτης.
  5. Φιλιππίδης, Δ. (1984). Νεοελληνική Αρχιτεκτονική [Modern Greek Architecture]. Αθήνα: Μέλισσα.

 

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