Hansen: AREA Architecture use a bold color scheme in Athens mixed use building. ― 

Using contrasting colors to emulate an architecture model, and introducing a civic dimension to the façade, AREA Architecture rethink the “polykatoikia” building type, ubiquitous in all Greek cities.

This seemingly small project, designed for one of Europe’s most dense urban areas, was nominated at the 2017 Mies van der Rohe Awards: Its intelligent rearrangement of public and private programs, its civic-mindedness in terms of controlled depth and transparency, and its ecological activation of spaces usually left residual, could establish a new example to be emulated. The thoughtful discoveries made within the building code restrictions may have a deep social impact, by the very demonstration of their feasibility.

A simple, L-shaped plan is dictated by site orientation and adjacent building mass, creating a small garden in the back of the lot. The vertical arrangement of different programs, which, in the typical housing block, is integrated behind a uniform façade of duplicate floor levels, is articulated here as a “sectional” façade, whose individual floor levels appear to extend in different lengths along the street, varying the relationship of closed to opens space at each floor. At the sidewalk level, the mass of the building is lifted to provide a broad visual connection between the public space of the street and the private garden and allow room for two vehicles. Accordingly, the office space on the first two floors, the apartment on the third and the “house” on the upper levels, each contribute to a series of open or transparent living spaces that connect the street to the backyard, along the West party line; whereas the most sheltered interior spaces are concentrated along the opposite party line.

The dark color used (Noir 2100 Sable) on the façade and the frames, blends in with the surrounding buildings and highlights the natural material of the wooden shutters. Contrarily, bright turquoise is chosen to demonstrate the permeability between the street and the garden and to lighten up the courtyard; furthermore, it is a reference to the much overlooked local building traditions: it is very common among older apartment buildings in Athens to have the underside of balconies painted in bright colors, and also, to use colorful awnings that liven up the city, everywhere.

The end result is a more horizontal than vertical reading of the city, where dense urban infill coincides with connectivity and permeable movement.


Architects: Area

Location: Athens, Greece

Year of construction: 2017

Powder coating: Noir 2100 Sable, AkzoNobel

Color code: YW359F