Andreas speaks perfect English and has a black beard and two eyes as blue as the waters that lap the Greek capital. Angelidakis has a long and prestigious CV and knows his own mind. He has recently worked on several projects, including the exhibition design for the fledgling Athens Biennale three years ago; a few months ago he also completed the refurbishment of the city's Breeder Feeder restaurant, a contemporary gastronomic gem that best reflects his concept of architecture and design, not far removed from what Athens shows him every day. Duplicity is, after all, typical of all his thought—he loves mountains and clouds but also websites and interactive communication (social media, blogs, forums); it is his preference to work with art and architecture, real and virtual, and he is torn between building and nature, construction and ruins (memories) of the past. Athens is a split city, divided between a glorious past made of severe proportion and strict rules and a present peppered with architecture that is wild, added-in, incomplete, interrupted and non-designed, as is so obviously visible in its crowded streets.
People often forget that this country is actually a very young republic, a young country. Europe went through the Renaissance but we fell under the Ottoman Empire and so Greece as it was defined after that period is a relatively new country. This makes it a dynamic and remarkable place despite a few unusual and strange traits.
These are contemporary ruins, as Angelidakis calls them. "But what hope has contemporary architecture in a country with such a strong heritage?" I ask. He continues, "The heritage of Ancient Greece weighs heavy and people often forget that this country is actually a very young republic, a young country. Europe went through the Renaissance but we fell under the Ottoman Empire and so Greece as it was defined after that period is a relatively new country. This makes it a dynamic and remarkable place despite a few unusual and strange traits; it has a significant history behind it but it is still being built. Architecturally speaking, it had a short modern period with fewer results than other countries but with some strong examples. But the State stopped backing architecture in the 1970s and embarked on the path of buildings based on money. The result is what we see today, all a bit higgledy-piggledy but with a charm of its own. Certainly distinctive."
He continues, "It is true that Greece is having a tough time but that of 2009 was the first and only near-bankruptcy in its history; we have lived through other negative periods but always tried to pull ourselves up. I have the impression that it will take a very long time and, more importantly, a great deal of willpower to put things right this time. The ancient/modern duality is so obvious, it's like a slap in the face. You see it and you feel it; you realise there is no research, there are no ideas behind the construction and there is no design process, just approximation and sloppiness." This is a contemporary Greece that has little in common with the glory of Phidias if it goes after the first financially acceptable offer. Angelidakis believes there is no guiding vision, and without it the city has become and will remain chaotic.
Maria Cristina Didero