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Athens Matters; Yorgos Tzirtzilakis

creative workaholic shares his Athens as part of ongoing series of insiders' guides...

Athens Matters; Yorgos Tzirtzilakis

The mystic of the ancient monument of Acropolis and the darker charm of abandoned buildings, closed shops and deserted zones in the downtown; the mixture of all these makes Athens maybe the next destination for contemporary, bold thinkers...

Photo, Tassos Vrettos

Yorgos Tzirtzilakis is a busy chappie, in fact it seems that the majority of art, design and architecture happenings in Athens have met with his touch at some point or another. Coming up with the Campana workshop concept, that helped the Campana Brothers realise the outrageous design of YES! Hotels‘ New Hotel, it’s fitting that he gives us an insight into his Athens for our ongoing partnership with the forward-thinking hotel group.

When he’s not helping to inspire young designers, Tzirtzilakis can be found working with the DESTE Foundation for Contemporary Art, curating all manner of exhibitions, teaching and even working with Greek TV – amongst all of this creative thinking and doing, the inspirational professor finds time to enjoy the best of what Athens has to offer; here he shares some of his top tips with us…

Athens Matters; Yorgos Tzirtzilakis

Kelley Walker, Andy Warhol and Sonny Liston Fly on Braniff
(When You Got It – Flaunt It), 2005
Digital print on archival paper with collage
Courtesy: DESTE Foundation

Athens Matters; Yorgos Tzirtzilakis

New Hotel, Athens

Hello Yorgos, can you tell us a little about yourself?

I am an Ass. Professor in the University of Thessaly and Artistic Consultant to the DESTE Foundation for Contemporary Art. Curated the Greek Participation at the 52nd International Art Exhibition Biennale di Venezia, and edited a series of documentaries on modern and contemporary architecture in Greece for Greek television.

Have you lived in Athens your whole life?

No, I have spent some interesting moments in Volos and in Venice…

Architect, professor at university of Thessaly, curator at DESTE… you’re a busy man, can you give us a little insight into what you’re working on at the moment?

I’m collaborating at Hell As, a major contemporary Greek art exhibition in Paris which will take place at Palais de Tokyo from 25th February.

I understand that the Campana workshop in New Hotel, Athens was your idea – can you tell us a little about that?

From the very first meeting with the hotel owner Dakis Joannou, and designers Fernando and Humberto Campana, on the renovation of the building on Filellinon St., the question of how two designers based in Sao Paolo would go about realising a project in Athens naturally came up. The first option seemed to be the purely professional one, that is, through collaboration with a local partner office. But this appeared a little too confined and conventional to all. It seemed to promise no dynamic interaction, to lack in vitality and to leave little room for research.

So, we began discussing the prospect of a workshop involving Greek postgraduate students of architecture, with an interest in the culture of the object. It is a special kind of workshop that involves two areas of interest, one that is experimental/investigative and one that is concerned with the professional/realisable, moving at once along these two directions.

Athens Matters; Yorgos Tzirtzilakis

National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens

Athens Matters; Yorgos Tzirtzilakis

Souzy Tros

Athens Matters; Yorgos Tzirtzilakis

Drog A Tek

A few quick-fire questions on your favourite spots: to listen to new bands… The “historic” Galaxy bar at Stadiou 10 Street, the Transistor bar at Psirri and mostly the hidden places where people meet to listen independent bands (Drog A Tek, The Callas etc). Usually the invitations are sent via e-mails, or by a twitter account. The alternative cultural events at Empros Theater, 2 Riga Palamidi Street, Psirri also …to find the city’s best art… The National Museum of Contemporary Art (ΕΜΣΤ as we call it), the hall with the treasures from Mycenean Ages at the National Archaelogical Museum, The Temple of Artemis Brauron in Vravrona on the eastern coast of Attica …your favourite shops… pies at Athinaikon at Voulis street, Café Clemente at Syndagma square for its Italian desserts and special green tea or capuccino

…restaurants… Kouti (The Box) at Thission , where you can see the outline of Acropolis up in the clear sky, and Philippou Restaurant at Xenokratous Street …to party… Souzy Tros, it’s an artsy place, situated in Elaionas district that has been transformed by the artist Maria Papadimitriou. In the past the building was a car service shop, situated in the industrial zone of late 19th – early 20th – century …and to relax… go to Piraeus port and buy a Flying Dolphin ticket for Hydra island (or Aegina), it’s about a one and a half hour trip. The uniqueness of the island is that there are no cars, just water taxis and some inspiring flat rocks where you can let yourself go – and meet with your emotional thinking.

Athens Matters; Yorgos Tzirtzilakis

Empros Theater,
courtesy of Thanasis Trompoukis

Athens Matters; Yorgos Tzirtzilakis

Café Clemente,
courtesy of Mariani Affreschi

Athens Matters; Yorgos Tzirtzilakis

Aegina, courtesy of Shutterstock

What do you think sets Athens apart from the likes of London, New York and Paris?

It is the cohabitation with the ruins of the past. Speaking of ruins, I distinguish the mystic of the ancient monument of Acropolis from the darker charm of abandoned buildings, closed shops and deserted zones in the downtown. The mixture of all these makes Athens maybe the next destination for contemporary “bold thinkers”.

Finally, could you tell us in one sentence why people should come to Athens?

To get an irrational delirium of the human relations.

Athens Matters; YES! Hotels x We Heart