Every city has its fans, people who study its history, who explore its nooks and crannies to make new and exciting discoveries, and who have a vision for its future. Athens, a city suffering to a certain extent from a fixation with its ancient past, has had trouble attracting fans of its modern persona. Luckily, in the past few years, more and more residents – and especially among the young and educated – are looking at the city through loving, caring eyes. Irrespective of whether they were born here or not, they seek to improve the city and the joy of knowing what being an Athenian today means.
A group of 30-something architects are responding to this quandary with the development of a new mobile phone app called “City Tales.” Their proposal has made the cut for the second cycle of the “Egg – enter, grow, go” program, an initiative of Eurobank and Corallia to nurture and help young, innovative businesses get off the ground, which is supported by the Hellenic Institute of Architecture.
What is “City Tales”? “It is an attempt to create new narratives about the urban landscape,” say Iosif Dacoronias-Marina and Hercules Papatheodorou, two of the five team members (the other three being Julie Fradelou, Michalis Stoupakis and Dimitris Sagonas). “We decided to take the next step thanks to Egg, an incubator for young entrepreneurs. The good thing is that architects are taught the spirit of collaboration at university by participating in group projects.”
Much of the project has been based on simple observation. “We often complain that Athens is an ugly city. But if we focus on particular buildings or routes, we see that there is so much grace and beauty that is often overlooked. So we thought up an app that would not only recommend certain walks through the urban landscape but would also provide information about the buildings along the way.”
With the app, when a user is standing in front of one of the buildings in the menu they can learn about its history, while the smart device will also give their geographical location. The app further provides a database of noteworthy architectural specimens worth looking out for.
Similar ventures have been created in other cities around the world, telling the stories of buildings and landmarks such as public squares. The best thing about “City Tales” is that it reflects Athens’s current state, a metropolis in crisis, but also casts rays of hope by raising awareness about its architectural legacy.
So what kind of buildings will be included on the menu? The architects answer:
“We initially gave precedence to the downtown area because it brings together so many different historical periods and architectural styles. We are addressing visitors as much as residents who really want to see Athens beyond its ancient legacy. The neighborhood of Exarchia, for example, has a wealth of wonderful buildings from the 1930s. There are small gems to be found in other areas as well,” they say.
The team is now in the phase of locating and recording buildings and gathering as much information as they can about them. The contribution of the Hellenic Institute of Architecture has been instrumental in this task. The next step will be to design different routes through the city, which they estimate will take around 30 minutes to complete and will contain a varied sample of different buildings.
“The great thing about Athens is that everything is on a small scale,” they say. “There are no huge expanses or massive buildings. So everything becomes smaller, and that’s very interesting.”
All five architects studied in Athens and continue to live here.
“It is our city and we want to showcase it, to think about its future, because it is our future too,” say Dacoronias-Marina and Papatheodorou. “Our generation has a different connection to the capital than previous generations who came here during the massive waves of urban gravitation. In this sense I think that we treat it with more kindness.”
To learn more about the app, log on to www.citytales.eu.