For those heading to Athens, the well-known mix of Greek sun, sea and classical antiquity might seem an obvious draw, but don’t let the clichés distract you; there are riches far beyond these in the cultural scene of the Greek capital. After nearly a decade of financial difficulties, supplemented by the challenges posed by the pandemic, Athens is on the rise again. Parts of the city are reimagined through art, including an unexpected corner of Piraeus and the Pedion Areos park; some of the capital’s most iconic heritage of the 20th century is enjoying new life – there’s the ongoing renovation of the Hilton Hotel, one of Athens’ most iconic modernist buildings, as well as the Fix Brewery and the tower of Piraeus; and a host of stylish hotels and restaurants are opening throughout the city. And all this adds to the existing charms and cultural places of the Greek capital. Here, we pick out some of the best Athens architecture, design and artwork currently on offer, and flag some of the exciting projects coming to the Mediterranean metropolis. All you have to do is hop on an Aegean flight.
Architecture of Athens and more
Artistic district of Piraeus
India Mahdavi is currently on display at Carwan Athens. Photography: Giorgos Sfakianakis
The ancient port of Piraeus has turned out to be the capital’s new artistic hub, with a trio of international galleries flocking to the neighborhood of Agios Dionysios (also known as Papastratos, from the eponymous tobacco brand that operates there. had its factory in the last century). Rodeo, Carwan and The Intermission have each recently opened an outpost there, bringing contemporary art and design to the industrial landscape of this part of town. The area has more to come, with modern workspaces and a few residential projects courtesy of local developer Dimand, as well as the Piraeus Tower on its doorstep (more below).
A sister hotel to the established Shila Hotel in Kolonaki, Mona is the newest addition to the central Athens hotel scene. The brainchild of creative director Eftihia Stefanidi and entrepreneur Shai Antebi, Mona isn’t just a hotel. Located in an eight-story 1950s industrial factory in trendy Monastiraki, it has 20 rooms, a cafe concept, lounge and bar, speakeasy in the basement , as well as a rooftop terrace for a members club. The space was designed with immaculate attention to detail, fusing contemporary art and design objects from independent local designers as well as the owner’s own design studio (Shila Maison d’Objets). Every beautiful piece found in the rooms can be purchased, and events make this stay as fun as possible.
The Ellinikon Experience Center
Photography: George Fakaros
When the new Eleftherios Venizelos Airport opened in Athens in time for the 2004 Athens Olympics, its predecessor, Ellinikon Airport, was left derelict and aimless. After a few years spent reflecting on the enhancement of its choice real estate assets (located on the beachfront and on an area larger than the entire city-state of Monaco) and architectural assets (it includes a main building, often called the eastern terminal, by mid-century modernist Eero Saarinen and established in 1959-63), it is now being redesigned by Lamda Development in stages as a mixed-use complex with extensive parkland. The Ellinikon Experience Centre, a reimagined aircraft hangar, serves as a welcome center for the redevelopment of the area, telling the story of what was and what is to come. Included projects feature local and international architecture studios, such as Kengo Kuma, Foster + Partners (see below) and Doxiadis +.
‘Plásmata: bodies, dreams and data’ at Pedion Areos
Cloud DuvetSaya Woolfalk. Photography: Pinelopi Gerasimou
Digital art illuminates Athens central park Pedion Areos, with the exhibition “Plásmata: Bodies, Dreams, and Data”, until July 10, 2022. Curated by key local cultural actor Onassis Stegi alongside l British cultural agency FutureEverything, the show is an immersive outdoor contemporary art exhibition in one of Athens’ largest urban parks. “The initial idea was simple,” explain its creators, “to help restore a civic green space where residents could exercise during lockdown and where culture would be accessible to all diverse local communities, free of charge.” Some 25 new large-scale works by local and international artists are on display, co-curated by Onassis Foundation Culture Director Afroditi Panagiotakou, Onassis Stegi Digital Development Manager Prodromos Tsiavos and FutureEverything Director , Irini Papadimitriou.
This tower is not only the tallest in Piraeus, but also the second tallest in all of Greece. Now design-savvy local developer Dimand, alongside up-and-coming Athens-based architecture studio Pila (founded by Ilias Papageorgiou, who moved from New York, leaving a partner position at SO-IL in 2019 to stand alone), the 1970s building is being reimagined for the 21st century, bringing together modern workspace, generous retail and dining features, and public green spaces. Combining sustainable principles with clean design, as well as urban gestures in the form of an elevated, green public way that connects the tower to the harbour, creating a welcome promenade, the refreshed tower is due for completion in late 2023.
Albert Oehlen at Gagosian Athens
Albert Oehlen’s first exhibition in Greece will take place at the Gagosian Athens from June 9 to August 20, 2022. Composed of drawings, collages and sculptures, the German artist’s exhibition is titled “Works on Paper and a Sculpture “. For the solitary sculptural piece in the exhibition, Oehlen draws inspiration from the character of Dr. Robert Neville in the dystopian sci-fi action film, The Omega Man, from 1971. The result is a powerful, cast aluminum, abstractly asexual humanoid form set amongst smaller works on paper in ink, pencil and watercolour. It’s all seen in a majestic building masterfully redesigned by Kois Associated Architects.
Hotel and restaurant Milos
The interior of the restaurant. Photography: Dimitris Poupalos
Milos Restaurant (Estiatorio Milos) is well known in culinary circles for serving the best fish in town and now its brand new location by London and Athens based studio Divercity Architects means it too has a beautiful design to look forward to. brag. A sleek, seamless design with swaths of white marble, including a sculptural staircase, and minimalist decor reflect the beauty of simplicity found in the restaurant’s dishes. Additionally, its new location, a stone’s throw from the heart of Athens and Syntagma Square, also includes a chic hotel offering, Xenodocheio Milos, created by the same practice and featuring warm woods and sleek, contemporary interiors.
Marina Tower by Foster + Partners
Foster + Partners are behind one of the first residential projects to be revealed at the redeveloped Ellinikon Airport – while planning the entire estate. The Marina Tower is located on the Athens Riviera, hailing its contemporary residential vision for this new corner of the city. Surrounded by green expanses and blue waters, the project aims to be the first eco-conscious skyscraper in Greece, created according to the principles of sustainable architecture, while offering outdoor planted terraces for residents. The tower is expected to be completed by 2026.
National Museum of Contemporary Art Athens (EMST)
Photography: Spiros Rekounas
The former Fix brewery in central Athens has been a city landmark since its creation in 1963 by Greek modernist Takis Zenetos – for its elegant lines, but also for its scale, dubbed by locals the “scraper- horizontal sky”. After a lengthy redesign process, the building was recently reopened as the National Museum of Contemporary Art Athens (EMST), reimagined by 3SK Stylianidis Architects, in collaboration with Kalliope Kontozoglou, I Mouzakis & Associates-Architects Ltd and Tim Ronalds Architects, ready to lend its vast expanses to art exhibitions. Unfortunately, the museum was launched right at the start of the pandemic, so it had to remain closed to visitors for a while, but it is now reopening with a bang and a rich cultural program, including temporary exhibitions, special projects and dedicated foyer commissions by locals and international artists.
Athens Design Forum 2022
Image from the Fassianos archives
The Athens Design Forum, a festival dedicated to promoting Greek design, art and architecture, is back after a successful first year with buildings such as the Kypseli House by Greek modernist Aristomenis Provelengios. Today, the late Athenian artist Alekos Fassianos takes center stage and the forum opens its island home in Kea, an Aegean retreat just an hour by ferry from Athens. This will be the inaugural opening of Fassianos’ residence and studio, where visitors will be able to appreciate his art as well as the typical architecture of the regional islands of the house with its humble, white and low forms. The public launch takes place on July 10, 2022.
“Brice Marden and Greek Antiquity” at the Museum of Cycladic Art
The work of Brice Marden in Athens. Photography: Paris Tavitian © Museum of Cycladic Art
Part of the Museum of Cycladic Art’s “Divine Dialogues” series, this exhibition, on view until August 29, takes visitors on a journey through Greek landscapes through the eyes of New York-based artist Brice Marden. . Playing with the metaphysics of ancient Greek heritage, the artist presents a selection of paintings, drawings and notebooks, which juxtapose – and dialogue with – pieces from the permanent collection of the Museum of Cycladic Art. Marden, who has drawn inspiration from Greek nature and antiquity for 50 years, is powerful and multi-layered.