Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Design Walking in Athens

Taking the InterCity Express train to Athens last Friday afternoon, I was overwhelmed with the thought of a great weekend approaching: meeting friends that I had not seen for a while, going around the creative design studios in Psyrri and around to see their new ideas, experiencing once again the Athenian nightlife - once more, like last year, I was going to be Design Walking! And as I arrived in Athens a little before midnight, I had to postpone the walk for Saturday. Instead we went out to Grand Dame and Hoxton, the first a major disappointment (Kolonaki crowd transplanted to Gazi with 90s music, expensive drinks and rude service), the second a classic choice for the area with good music and interesting mixed crowd.

So, after a strong coffee to wake me up, I took my host to down town Athens to shop some ribbons (sometimes it feels weird to know more shops in Athens then the locals) and we were ready to start walking! So our "boots" took us first to Designpark and their Lettair concept.

What am I doing in the photo? Trying to design something with light into thin air, so that a camera can capture it and project it onto the wall right next to it. The Designpark team had made four fonts in this way, which they had printed onto black posters and shared them with us, along with others printed with words made with the fonts. Needless to say I picked the "bad" word out of them to take back home!

We then headed off to Design Insane. The name prepared us for something crazy: instead we discovered a cosy office space painted in bold colours and decorated with inspired posters about changing the world, which was their motto. The guys had moved into this space almost less than a month ago and warmly welcomed us into their office. We talked a while about the current situation in design in Greece and they invited us to a party that night with the famous Cast-A-Blast cooperative. We said we might come and left with their beautifully designed leaflet, which opened becomes a poster with their motto.

The mural decorating the main space of the Design Insane offices - impressive.

Do you agree with the quote above? I surely do!!!! This is written on the stair wall going up to 3 In A Box offices - one of the most beautifully designed spaces we visited (and one I had not been able to visit last year). Their concept was Homopictographicus - presenting, through pictograms, the evolution of mankind's history from pictopithecus to homopictographicus sapiens. Fun and simple but it felt like going to a museum.

Then we visited MNP. Under the Observation concept, they had us all sketching in freehand as it is one of the major ways of observing what is around you (one which my friend Richard Haines makes so elegantly in his blog). When we visited, our model was a belly dancer, resplendent in her red embroidered outfit.

Of course, when I see blank paper and pencils, crayons, pens and brushes around, no one can stop me drawing - so that is what I did!

Thankfully our model was very obliging and posed wonderfully, while oriental music filled the air. More people joined me as I was advancing with my work.

Here you can see the almost finished sketch - I decided to let it unfinished as it looked better to me - the guys from MNP posted it on the wall along with the other sketches by their visitors - this is a photo of it I found in Facebook, taken by Michalis Baboussis:

I was eager to visit G's offices: last year, their Cog concept about collaboration was so much fun and I had made my own art there. This time, their "Glows In The Dark" concept transformed their almost white space into a black hole (actually half of their office space was covered in black). With a black light and lots of day-glo markers, they encouraged us to let out our creativity onto their walls, floor, furniture, ourselves - you name it!

It was a bit difficult to find empty space to write, even at the ceiling!

Slowly getting used to normal light again, we headed off to Sereal Designers and their Jukecity. 50 buildings, 2053 inhabitants (all with song lyrics in word balloons), a Godzilla, 300 policemen, a group of aliens, seven dancing queens, numerous records, thousands of notes and cables... a dream scape was painstakingly created into their studio, drawing admiration shouts from everyone visiting - but their impressive eye-aquarium was the piece de resistance!

The buildings had even air conditioning units incorporated! The advertising billboards on the terraces were sometimes very inspired, like the one with Madonna advertising "Magdalena's Sex Shop"!

The guy above is singing (?) Moby...

Where the streets have no name...

The aquarium from the back - you can see the goldfish swimming!

The flock of doves being fed by a granny - how many hours did this take to make?

We then moved right around the corner to see the videos made by the Play team. Their Loop concept had seven people making one single video, each one taking over from the last frame of the previous creator, making an unusual film. The small clips shown on other screens in the studio were very entertaining too!
The gallery SCAN2ER is beside the Π6 studio which was next in our route. Achilleas Fakiolas makes incredible lighting fixtures from Plexiglas, that are more art objects then utilitarian stuff. I could not make up my mind which one was more beautiful, they all were very impressive. Below you can see his work "The Prayer":

This group below is based on various blue artistic interpretations: the films Betty Blue, The Big Blue and Blue Velvet, Claude Debussy's De L'Aube a Midi Sur la Mer.

Our next stop was Π6. And suddenly we found ourselves in a playground: the concept "Ready Or Not, Here I come" or "Ftou Kai Vgaino" in Greek, allowed them to fill their studio with games for us to play: board games, life games, politics games, love games, street games, solitary games, team games, memory games and many more, drawing parallels between actual games and things that we do in reality.

We finally arrive at our friends, Poordesigners, exhausted but also filled with that sense of elation when you meet creative people and see their work displayed for you. We knew their concept beforehand, having seen small previews online some days ago, but the full force of it was overwhelming: the team created a company called NoProb, that makes objects to relieve the stress that engulfs people in their everyday mundane life. The result was a series of hilarious videos as advertisements for the objects they made, all in bright pink of course and the objects themselves displayed on their podiums:

The Internet loss kit displayed below should be a staple in every house!

What is this guy doing to my dear friend? Watch out!!!

After spending lots of time there drinking the InstantZen shots from test tubes and eating InstanZen cookies and candy (in multicolors of course), and getting an amazing set of coasters (illustrated by T-Drom and printed by Giota - thanks guys!) we made the trip two floors usptairs to Design Shop, one of the three studios that started Design Walk three years back.

At seeing lace doilies hanging on walls and from the ceiling, at first I thought my mother had gone through there the day before - then their concept became more apparent as we saw the banners made with repeating patterns.

Step And Repeat: that was the concept here, everything displayed was made with that process, mathematical patterns and motifs found in nature and repeated in art, architecture, design and music. They even had a computer where one could make his own pattern and see it instantly repeated infinitely onto another screen:

Here is the pattern my friend did, finished:

At that point we decided to call it a day, regarding design walking, and the hour was a bit after the normal closing time for the creative studios - they have to rest too!!! We did not have many places left to go, so we went for diner at Kouti, a lovely restaurant in Adrianou street. Excellent food (I recommend the chicken with orange and sesame seeds and also the orange pie) and very interesting decoration with angels:

We headed for home satiated, rested a while and went out into the night - first stop was the brilliant Pop, where they make amazing cocktails (Zombie is a smash), play great music and one can see many interesting people gather into its minute space. Thanks to my friends for taking me there, I had a blast (and thanks to Vassilis the barman!). The skies starter raining cats and dogs then and I barely made it to Hoxton again, soaking wet...

Sunday started sunny and warm: I went with friends for a coffee at Urban in Glazi, where I had to wait one hour to have a waitress come and take our order and another hour for her to bring it. Of course she made a mistake: instead of a double cappucino, she brought me two cups of cappucino... I then went to visit an architecural show at Benaki Museum at Pireaus street, about the Greek Residence from the 20th to the 21st century - interesting buildings, boring display. After having rakomela and dakos at Pseirra in Psyrri (of course) we headed to Typical Mutations and their Origami project: in three seperate videos they taught us how to make three different origami objects. The visitors then were videotaped and made part of a digital video to be uploaded online after the end of Design Walk. Their project of last year was much more creative and intriguing, but the guys are so likeable you forgive them everything - and the origami stuff rocks!

That was the end of our Design Walk this year. My opinion is that apart from a few teams, the overall inspiration was not as good as last year's, an opinion shared by many others that I talked to these days. Not all projects made people actively participate and some seemed hastily made to justify their participation. Of course all of them have their day to day projects to work on also, but I think that if they all had made the effort they had last year, everything would have been that much better. The feeling of camaraderie and friendship that permeated everyone was there this year too, we saw lots of friends, met others for the first time and promise to come back next year for more!!!

P.S. I did not have the time to see The Switch Design Agency and their OFF.ICE project as well as the collective exhibition in Bios from studios not situated in the Design Walk area - what I heard from other people who did visit was very positive. I hope I can see everyone next year!


  1. Μα δεν έβαλες το έργο τέχνης μου με τους σταυρούς (τελικά το χάλασα;)

  2. Δεν φωτογράφησα το έργο τέχνης σου... ούτε τόλμησα ακόμα να ρωτήσω το Διονύση αν δούλεψε ξανά το πρόγραμμα... χεχε

  3. Χάλια πέρασες τελικά :-P

  4. Άστα να πάνε λέμε!

  5. thanx for the report! mia xara dld! ante, na katevaineis pio sixna :)

  6. Να κατεβαίνω αλλά να σας βλέπουμε κιόλας! Άντε ανέβα πάνω με τους άλλους το επόμενο Σ/Κ!

  7. Πότε τα πρόλαβες όλα αυτά??? για να μη σχολιάσω ότι δε μου είπες τίποτα για όλα αυτά το βράδυ που τα πίναμε! γιακ!

  8. Είδες? Δε σου είπατίποτε επειδή έιχες εσύ να πεις πολλά!

  9. Καλό ήτο το Σ/Κ σου, αλλά εμείς δεν σε είδαμε γρουμφ, που λέει και το νατασσάκι;-)

  10. Τι να σας κάνω που είστε στα προάστια!

  11. sto kouti fagame kai emeis tin kiriaki :D hohoho...

    thanx gia to afieroma strato! kai tou xronou!

  12. Αμα λέω εγώ ότι είσαι αστέρι, δεν με πιστεύεις.....

  13. @T-drom: hohoho - ελπίζω να φάγατε πορτοκαλόπιτα!
    Εγώ ευχαριστώ για τη φιλοξενία και τα δώρα!!!

    @ritsmas: τέτοια λές και με κάνεις και κοκκινίζω...

  14. Anonymous2:23 pm

    strato kalispera.eimai o ahilleas fakiolas apo to scan2er.tyhaia mpika sto site sou kai eida to afieroma sto horo mou apo to design walk.ena megalo eyharisto gia ola.na eisai kala.

  15. Μεγάλη μου χαρά Αχιλλέα! Η δουλειά σου είναι καταπληκτική και αξίζει μεγαλύτερη προβολή! Όταν ξανακατέβω Αθήνα θα περάσω να τα πούμε από κοντά!

  16. Anonymous3:56 am

    Your blog is great - wonderful photos and excellent commentary, too - more, please! Thank you. Sorry - I don't speak Greek!

    DC Fan

  17. Thanks DC Fan! So glad you like the article - hope you enjoy the rest of the blog!